3 reasons why Slack can't solve all internal communication problems

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Slack has been heralded as the saviour of business communication, moving entire teams to a centralised platform and out of the dreaded email inbox.

While this has proven to be immensely powerful in certain organisations, there are still large portions of the workforce that aren’t seeing the benefits and probably never will.

In industries such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, mining and healthcare communicating with staff is a great challenge. Employees are dispersed and hard to reach and rarely have regular access to a computer, let alone a work email address. As businesses in these industries are moving to digital communication, they find themselves in need of a platform that creates a simple channel between the company and its workforce to share news, updates and information.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “why don’t they just use Slack?” That’s the response I often receive when having this discussion and it’s fair enough because on the surface it does seem the perfect platform to enable this style of internal communication.

But as someone who works to solve business communication issues across a range of industries, it has become pretty clear to me that Slack does not offer the basic solutions these businesses need and, more importantly, it’s not trying to.

Here are three reasons why: 

1. Slack isn't a great platform for clear, mission-critical announcements

As Slack is geared towards conversation and collaboration it’s not always the best channel to communicate crucial information that solves an immediate business problem.

In industries with large, dispersed workforces who work casual hours or shift work, communication often needs to focus on solving key business issues such as filling shifts, broadcasting safety updates and sharing relevant company news that directly affects workers. Workers need simple, one-off messages that tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it and Slack is not the platform that fulfils that need.

While Slack’s direct messages exist outside of multi-user channels, these are still a conversation between users, rather than a one-way line from the business to a single employee. These types of businesses need a ‘right message, right time’ approach, not the ‘all messages, all the time’ style that Slack is so well known for.

2. Slack only works when everyone is engaged and actually wants to be there

In order for a Slack team to work successfully you need to make the basic assumption that every user is actually engaged with the platform. Unfortunately in any large organisation that spans a wide range of business functions and industries this is simply not going to be the case.

Once a Slack team is up and running there can be a lot going on. It’s not uncommon to have a general discussion channel, several project-specific channels, a random ‘other stuff’ channel as well as multiple personal conversations, all on the go at the same time. When your workforce spans from finance professionals to retail workers, you’re going to see some very different levels of motivation for people to check in on the platform. These employees need a channel that cuts through the noise, not one that adds to it.

Given the high levels of engagement Slack requires from its users to ensure on-going conversations there’s no real way for users to stop others from reaching them other than disengaging from the platform entirely.

3. You wouldn't let every employee hit 'reply all' to every email

This one speaks for itself. To expect all employees to have the ability to effectively hit ‘reply all’ on every email is a big ask. It’s a simple process for anyone to message the whole company and for any large organisation, simply moderating your Slack channels would require a small team in itself.

For any company trying to engage a large dispersed workforce, going digital will be the key. The ability to create a direct line from head office to every onsite worker will change the way entire workforces receive important information about their jobs every day. It’s easy for Slack to jump to mind as the perfect platform to facilitate this but in reality it will actually never be able to meet these communication needs.

What these companies do need however, is a platform that specifically solves their problems and facilitates the exact type of communication they need. They need a solution that is built for their type of workforce.