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Slack collaboration helps Ford, Wayfair build employee trust

Executives looking to build employee trust and support collaboration across the organization should embrace Slack team collaboration, according to business leaders.

Slack, the popular workplace messaging and collaboration tool, lets organizations set up online chats for specific groups, between groups and even between a company and its suppliers or partners. But while Slack collaboration can help teams discuss product strategy and other issues informally, CEOs and other executives are sometimes hesitant to join the conversation. 

Last month, at Slack's Frontiers conference, business leaders from Ford Motor Co. and Wayfair LLC discussed the challenges of getting executives to overcome their reluctance to use Slack and how to use Slack collaboration effectively.

At Ford, the deployment of Slack has helped create a more vibrant workplace, according to Rahul Singh, Ford's executive mobility director.

"People are connecting in ways they didn't before across different geographies and teams," Singh said. "I have peers who say, 'How did you get that info?' It's because I'm on the Slack channel, and I see things the team is struggling with. When you don't have access to that, you're missing out on something, and now others are seeing the value."

That includes the executive team that Singh said is getting more comfortable using Slack. "It's still a work in progress, but we're getting there," he said.

Panel moderator Sherry Rosenkrantz, senior customer success manager at Slack, noted that when an executive first starts using Slack it can be overwhelming.

"If I join a channel and see a message, do I respond? What do I do? And when should I use the dancing penguin emoji?" Rosenkrantz said. Similar to other messaging platforms, emojis have become popular in Slack channels.

Building executive trust with Slack collaboration features

One of Slack's popular features is running an AMA, or ask me anything, session. This can be set up in a dedicated Slack channel for all employees, or specific parts of the organization, and can be available for a set amount of time where staff members are encouraged to tune in or join.

Kristin Geyer, internal communications strategy manager at home furnishings site Wayfair, said AMAs are a great way for executives to communicate with employees in real time. She and her team created talking point questions for company executives to get discussions rolling.

AMAs with other executives are now being planned on a monthly basis. Geyer said after a recent AMA with the head of merchandising, one of the newer employees sent her a direct message to say how cool and funny the merchandising executive was.

"We have a lot of Gen Z folks at the company, and it's so hard to be cool with those guys, so it was a great win for me," Geyer said.

Geyer emphasized the value of open and informal communication and how it can establish trust and bring teams together. At Ford, Singh is using Slack collaboration to speed up feedback on projects.

"It's been one of my goals in the workplace to make feedback loops shorter. Whether it's a standup meeting or quick code review, we want to reduce the wait time," he said. "Instead of waiting months for a letter-perfect progress report, we can get immediate feedback using Slack. I think the trust we've established using Slack helps the conversations be more transparent."

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