Flex your company’s empathy muscles in Slack

Share feedback, ask questions, and remind everyone to be good to each other

Empathy hero image
Image Credit: Pete Ryan

While good communication is key to any well-run business, for companies looking to go the extra mile, it’s important to practice empathy. Forbes claims it’s your biggest business advantage, and Money magazine once declared it the hottest trend in leadership, but regardless of what the business press says, having empathetic relationships between employees and management is vital to employee happiness and retention.

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Empathy doesn’t come easily in many environments and requires constant vigilance and practice. To help foster it in Slack, here are a handful of ways to gather and facilitate feedback, let employees ask questions of executives as well as their own peers, and make your teammates smile every day.

 

Gather open, honest feedback in Slack

Asking for feedback is a great way to help give everyone a voice in your company and let them know they are being heard. It can take the form of polls and employee surveys, peer forums, as well as channels dedicated to new product or feature feedback. Lots of this feedback can be given anonymously, too. Let’s look at some of the options.

Peer help and product feedback
Technology companies tend to organize their Slack channels around disciplines within the company and teams that work on shared projects, but they also have a few open channels available to anyone in the company where they can ask basic questions about technical subjects without judgment. These general-subject peer channels are great for anyone in other areas of the company looking for help launching their first technical project.

At Slack, every time we start testing a new feature, we include a channel name in the announcement message where the team behind it accepts feedback and bug reports about the new capabilities. This can work equally well for non-technical companies. For example, if employees switch to a new health insurance provider, a #feedback-healthplan channel can be used to collect any issues that might spring up in the transition.

Polls and surveys
The popular apps Simple Poll and Polly offer easy ways to survey your team. Figure out the best day to hold the team offsite meeting; which team member wants to tackle which project amid a list of options; or whether your team’s regular status meetings should be daily, weekly, monthly, or held in Slack instead. Both Simple Poll and Polly have the ability to answer anonymously built in, keeping those decisions confidential to the team when necessary.

 

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Likewise, apps like Leo and SurveyMonkey can be used to send regular surveys to gauge employee satisfaction that managers can track over time.

Questions for an all-hands
Apps like Slido are perfect for companies that hold regular all-hands meetings with the goal of transparency. Slido lets people ask questions for the Q&A days in advance rather than live and in-person, and it gives employees the opportunity to ask them anonymously if they’d prefer. Solutions like this are key for global companies, since not everyone can be in the same time zone to attend a live Q&A session with company leaders.

By the way: Anonymity is a powerful tool for companies open enough to let employees ask difficult questions, but like anything, it can be abused or used to hide from the consequences of bad behavior. Every company should determine if offering anonymous questions, answers, or polls serves a greater purpose, and it’s quite alright if that’s too big of a leap for your own firm.

 

Ask an executive anything

One of the best ways to keep a company’s communication transparent is to extend policies a CEO might have in physical space, like an open-door policy or office hours, into Slack with an #exec-ama channel. “AMA” stands for “ask me anything” and can serve as a companywide public forum for anyone to ask questions of the executive team.

We’ve heard from at least a dozen different companies that have implemented their own #exec-ama channel and found it valuable at giving every employee a chance to be heard. It breaks down corporate organizational hierarchy that might otherwise prevent good questions and ideas from bubbling up from junior members to the top of the company.

 

Craft courteous and useful loading messages

When people fire up their Slack client each morning, there’s a brief moment where loading messages appear, and it’s an opportunity to share something inspirational along with a sense of whimsy. You can use this space to post helpful reminders that everyone in the company is valued, point them to important or new resources, or encourage them to connect with one another in fun channels like #weekend or #movies.  

For any company, empathy is a muscle, and it requires regular exercise to stay strong. Adopt some of these ideas to let every employee feel heard, help connect them with management, and let them support one another.

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Matt Haughey has seen the power of #exec-ama channels to share a company’s vision and thinking behind the most difficult decisions, but also relishes the lighter side, like when the CEO shares a summer reading list.

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.