5 innovative companies breaking free from the inbox with Slack

For Target, Lyft Business and others, Slack is a soothing balm for common email pain points

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For project updates, client management or casual banter with coworkers, an email inbox can be a useful switchboard for workers. But when it comes to collaborating across multiple teams, getting lightning-fast replies to queries, or sharing companywide announcements, email can fall short.

We recently explored email’s role in the modern workplace with our “Inbox zero and other productivity myths” report and found that heavy email users are more likely to struggle with workplace challenges like:

  • Finding the latest information and data needed
  • Communicating with different teams, departments or offices
  • Meeting performance goals
  • Effectively using IT/technology
  • Aligning with other teams

There is hope, however, for workers looking to overcome these challenges. From Target’s 3,000-strong engineering force to the chefs, foragers and beekeepers of SingleThread restaurant, here’s how five companies are breaking out of the inbox and embracing innovative modern workplaces—with a little help from Slack.

Target

Empowering engineers to be nimble and responsive, with Slack

Target, one of America’s 10 largest retailers, has solidified its standing as a household brand. After all, it delivers products consumers want, thanks in no small part to its network of more than 3,000 engineers.

“We’ve minimized communication but not minimized information. To be nimble in what we’re doing and to be able to adapt quickly, we needed a tool like Slack.”

– Jay Kline, Target’s director of technology
Jay Kline
Target’s director of technology

These engineers share a lot of nonverbal information, such as URLs, IP addresses and code. While it’s easy to ping this information back and forth over messaging apps, many messaging tools fail to provide a central hub for organizing and archiving past conversations (without lots of scrolling through message history). Sharing this kind of communication over email isn’t efficient either, because the email format creates long chains that few people read and respond to.

Slack offers a quick way to share and keep essential nonverbal information, with the right people tagged into the right conversations. The emoji reaction feature further cuts back the communication clutter. With reacji, teammates can respond to messages with a quick thumbs-up, check mark, question mark, +1 symbol and much more.

“We’ve minimized communication but not minimized information,” says Jay Kline, Target’s director of technology. “To be nimble in what we’re doing and to be able to adapt quickly, we needed a tool like Slack.”

SingleThread

Creating seamless communication between the kitchen, farm and inn

As one of the world’s top dining destinations, it’s no surprise that SingleThread restaurant is on the extended World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Husband-and-wife founders and owners Kyle and Katina Connaughton say that Slack facilitates a streamlined communication process between the farm, kitchen and restaurant staff.

“Say our first shoots of asparagus are coming up and I really want the kitchen to know,” says Katina Connaughton, who is also the head farmer. “[I can say,] here are your first shoots of asparagus and this is the quantity that I’m able to bring in today. [Slack] allows me to update availability in real time and send photos so that the kitchen can get a sense of what’s coming in just a few hours.”

Candice Koseba, SingleThread’s culinary liaison, forager and beekeeper, says this kind of speedy communication has an added benefit of reducing product waste. “I help to bring product from the wild to the kitchen and all across the dining room,” she explains. “[With Slack,] there’s no wasted time or wasted product because you’re able to communicate things right away.”

Because Slack keeps pace with all of SingleThread’s interconnected communication needs, it’s this restaurant, farm and inn’s communication tool of choice.

Lyft Business

Keeping leadership in the loop without lengthy email threads

Lyft offers more than rides to individual customers. Meet Lyft Business, a wing of the ridesharing service that partners with organizations across various industries seeking transportation needs, from aviation to health care.

“When managing three hubs nationally, you can’t have a good conversation over email—it’s not quick enough. Coming together in Slack channels allows us to easily discuss day-to-day management topics.”

– Benjamin Sternsmith, Lyft’s area vice president of sales
Benjamin Sternsmith
Lyft’s area vice president of sales

The Lyft Business division has employees distributed across offices in Denver, New York and San Francisco. Benjamin Sternsmith, Lyft’s area vice president of sales, says Slack facilitates speedy exchanges between division leaders across the different time zones.

“When managing three hubs nationally, you can’t have a good conversation over email—it’s not quick enough,” says Sternsmith. “Coming together in Slack channels allows us to easily discuss day-to-day management topics. That’s invaluable.”

Additionally, he says, “When you have collaboration happening in one spot, leadership doesn’t need to be copied on an email. You can hop into a Slack channel, cruise along with the project, and jump in where needed.”

DevaCurl

Rapidly connecting stylists inside and outside the salon

So long, straightening irons and products—DevaCurl wants its customers to celebrate their naturally curly hair. And as a modern beauty brand with its finger on the pulse of the latest innovations, DevaCurl relies on Slack to support its internal communications process.

In addition to creating products for curly and wavy hair, the company operates two New York salons. That means more than half of its workers spend their days interacting with clients rather than computer screens.

Slack offers a quick way to connect these employees who work primarily with their hands. Instead of sifting through emails, DevaCurl employees can readily locate the message or information they need on Slack. This gives stylists more time to focus on their clients.

DevaCurl CEO Robert Schaeffler says, “The salon is a completely different space, with mostly creative folks who are not sitting in front of a laptop. All they have is their phone. With Slack, we were finally able to connect people in an office, people that are remote, and people that are on their feet all day long in a salon environment.”

iRobot

Cleaning up companywide email clutter by using Slack for internal comms

iRobot, the creator of the Roomba smart vacuum cleaner, is on a mission to give people back precious time—not only its customers but its employees too. For the iRobot teams, that means freeing employees from the time they spend digging for messages in their inboxes.

Steve Drzewiczewski, the director of iRobot’s Collaborative Applications team, shared how adopting Slack companywide improved internal communications manifold during Slack’s Super Powered Collaboration event in Boston earlier this year.

iRobot once had an internal email distribution list that employees used for sending non-work-related messages across the entire company. Emails covered everything from where to find leftover food after a meeting to whether there was an item for sale in one of the offices.

“Every time someone sent something to that alias, about 600 people would receive the note,” Drzewiczewski says. “We quickly organized Slack channels, and people saw that they can communicate and collaborate on those initiatives in a much less disruptive and more efficient way.”

iRobot also uses Slack channels to catch up new hires. Drzewiczewski describes his experience onboarding a new employee shortly after the company adopted Slack.

“Traditionally, I would’ve had to scroll through my inbox and find 15 to 400 emails that were all important pieces of an informational, conversational puzzle for a project,” he says. “Instead I just added [the new hire] to the project channel. He spent the first few days reading through that, seeing what things were pinned, and was very quickly able to get up to speed on the project.”

Choose a better way to collaborate

Often our day-to-day workplace exchanges don’t require us to draft a full email dispatch. Sometimes all we need is a simple yes, no, or thumbs-up emoji. That’s where Slack can help.

By enabling cross-functional collaboration, file sharing and message searching, companies are exploring innovative ways to make their daily communication more efficient with Slack—giving workers back precious time they may have otherwise spent needlessly sifting through inboxes.

break out of the inbox
Break out of the inbox

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Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.