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How CEOs Get Their Employees on Slack

By Praveen Tipirneni, CEO of Morphic Therapeutic Inc. Originally published on Quora.

My team at Morphic Therapeutic started using Slack from the moment the company was founded — and we’ve never looked back.

When you open Slack first thing in the morning, you’re greeted with an encouraging little quote. When you want to react to a team member’s remark, you have an arsenal of emojis at your disposal. Slack does its best to be fun.

This fun is initially a turnoff to many professionals, especially in the biotech field. They don’t want to use emojis. An app that initially looks and feels like a toy seems like an unnecessary distraction.

But something interesting happens after those people begin using Slack. Slowly, but surely, they rethink their initial impression. Yes, Slack lacks the businesslike austerity of email, but there are a growing number of converts — even in biotech.

So, what is it about Slack that’s so helpful?

Here’s what I tell CEOs asking for demos and advice on implementation:

1. Encourages Collaboration

Slack eliminates many of the traditional barriers to transparency and collaboration.

The project channels allow leaders to see the thought process of their team, while letting them operate autonomously.

That creates a more collaborative and efficient environment. One where information isn’t siloed, and everyone knows who’s working on what.

In most companies, you have core projects — and people are assigned to them based on their knowledge, skills, and abilities. But you also have other items that come up. What should the website look like? What are our corporate values? How do we set a social media policy?

Slack creates a truly collaborative environment where the people who are interested in smaller projects can create a channel and begin working together. They can self-select because it’s easy to see who is really engaged with a certain issue.

You do get a pulse of the collective consciousness of the organization that intersects through many layers of hierarchy, from junior level employees and functional heads to senior management.

2. Cuts Email Traffic

When other biotech CEOs ask me about using Slack, email traffic is by far their number one concern.

The amount of emails you wake up to every day at a biotech company is astounding. Over the course of a year, your inbox becomes a sea of old communications and email threads. It’s inefficient and difficult to search through when you want to find information from a few months ago.

Email is great for some communications. But what if you just want to have a quick back and forth? Slack is set up for that in a way that email isn’t. You can share documents, have a quick chat, type out an essay, or jump on a call — all in one platform.

The fragmented nature of email is not ideal for many situations. For example, I asked our recruiter to use one of our Slack channels for individual communications. It is so much easier when everything you need is in one spot.

3. Simplifies One-On-Ones

Slack provides you with a historical record of any conversation you have.

It helps to organize your one-on-one meetings in a way that’s nearly impossible with email.

You can dig deep and go all the way back to the very beginning of your conversations. When someone says, “Yeah, let me take care of this,” or “Sure, why don’t I look into that,” that conversation is relatively easy to find. To replicate this functionality with email, you would have to search through your inbox and find that one email chain from six months ago. Slack enables you to look back in a very intuitive manner by simply scrolling through or searching for the conversations, similar to a rolling time machine.

This really simplifies employee evaluations. You can just cut and paste what you talked about and determine if they followed through or not.

4. Replaces Some Meetings

We aren’t a very meeting-centric company at Morphic Therapeutic.

We want to give people plenty of uninterrupted time to do their jobs.

Slack helps free up time. We’ve been able to move many conversations that happen in meetings to Slack. For instance, the first part of most meetings is the status update, right? Everyone tells each other what’s happening.

Updates don’t need to be in-person. Those conversations happen on Slack. Everyone’s already aware of a project’s status.

And as people begin to utilize the platform more and more, the benefits accelerate. Now, we have fewer meetings but just as much communication.

5. Creates A Meritocracy

One of the most intriguing things about Slack is its ability to help create a meritocracy.

Everyone can collaborate, contribute, and provide feedback — which greatly flattens the company hierarchy.

Employees have the opportunity to gain stature, independent of their place in an org chart. On Slack, your contribution is not constrained by your position. Your ideas are always seen, and they may be discussed by people in the company that you’ve never even met. That’s how true meritocracies are made.

The truth is, implementing Slack is easy. It isn’t a high-maintenance system. The barriers to entry are low. The challenge really comes from getting people to break old habits and switch their communications to Slack.

It may be difficult at first, but if our experience is any indication, the benefits quickly overcome any resistance to change.

By Praveen Tipirneni, CEO of Morphic Therapeutic Inc. Originally published on Quora.
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