Is Slack a useful communication tool?

Blythe, Lauer, and Curran’s article “Professional and Technical Communication in a Web 2.0 World” is seeking to understand professionals who have graduated with a degree in professional and technical communication and understand what it means to be a “Professional and Technical Communicator” in today’s digital world given how the landscape of the disciple has changed. They highlight, for example, the fact that the job title “Social Media Manager” didn’t exist 10 years ago. In their results, participants were asked to rank the most comment and (separately rank) the most valued types of writing they do.

Most Often and Valued communication types

Image from Blythe, Lauer, and Curran’s article.

Beyond this, they also surveyed participants on what types of technologies they used to produce the texts.

Types of Technology used to Write

Image from Blythe, Lauer, and Curran’s article.

These findings were particularly interesting to me as I’m finishing up my MSTPC program and working on completing my field project. For my field project, I’m examining the effects Slack (see image below) has on workplace communication. There is a team I am a part of that recently implemented the communication technology Slack into our workplace, and I will be examining how implementing this technology has impacted the team in terms of team dynamic, communication style, productivity and efficiency. The team I am examining consists of members from across generations, so part of my research has to do with generational communication and how technological literacy influences the adaptation of communication technologies like Slack.

Slack

Slack screenshot.

I am still early in the stages of writing and will begin surveying team members soon, but in preparing for this research I found this study really relevant. Across the profession there are many different types of writing, and clearly different technologies used to produce each writing. In the team I am surveying for my research, we are all Communication Specialists in the UW-Madison College of Engineering, which means we fit into this group that Blythe, Lauer, and Curran studied. In the types of technologies used to produce texts portion of the study, Slack or any type of instant message technology wasn’t a technology that was included. The article is from 2014, so perhaps these types of technologies weren’t as common in the workplace as they are now, but it makes me wonder what the results would say today.

So I pose this question, have any of you used Slack in your workplace? If so, how has it affected your communication styles with your colleagues?

Posted on September 28, 2018, in Digital, Social Media, Technology, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi Brittney,

    I have never used Slack, but I have heard my friends talk about it. Until now, I never really understood what it is. My company uses Teamwork, but it looks Slack has a lot more functionality. I checked out Slack’s website, and the software has a lot of uses. Slack features include channels, search, integrations, and security, and, according to Slack, it is built for every team: Sales, marketing, customer support, engineering, IT, and HR. Your research project has many areas it could cover!

    The Slack site says, “When your team needs to kick off a project, hire a new employee, deploy some code, review a sales contract, finalize next year’s budget, measure an A/B test, plan your next office opening, and more, Slack has you covered. Slack is a place where your team comes together to collaborate, important information can be found by the right people, and your tools pipe in information when and where you need it.”

    You mentioned that in Blythe, Lauer, Curran’s 2014 article the authors write that the title “Social Media Manager” did not even exist 10 years ago. I decided to look up other jobs that have not existed very long. I also accounted for the 4 years since the article was published and found a 2017 article by Glassdoor that lists 15 jobs that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Social Media Manager is at the top of the list. Below are the other 14. Two of them I would consider part of my current job: Podcast Producer and Content Marketer. I also do some work with social media, content moderation, SEO, and data.

    1) Social Media Manager
    2) Data Scientist
    3) Podcast Producer
    4) Mobile App Developer
    5) Lyft Driver
    6) Anything to do with Artificial Intelligence
    7) Employment Brand Manager
    8) Cloud Architect
    9) SEO Analyst
    10) Developer Evangelist
    11) Content Moderator
    12) Virtual Assistant
    13) Telemedicine Physician
    14) Anything in the field of Automated Driving
    15) Content Marketer

    Source Glassdoor: https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/jobs-that-didnt-exist-15-years-ago/

    Thanks for your post,

    Angie

  2. Angie – thanks for looking up those other job titles that didn’t exist 15 years ago! It’s so interesting to see how technology is shaping our workplace both through the tools we use and the positions that exist. One of my favorites on that list is “telemedicine physician,” my insurance just added telephysician’s to our plan and the feature will be active starting in January 2019. The way I see it, if I can complete a Master’s degree completely online, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to Skype with a Physician and have them evaluate my health. My insurance providers already hold on-site health screening at my job where they run blood tests and check blood pressure/height/weight and various other health “numbers” so having that paired with a telephysician could totally change the healthcare landscape. It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves!

    Brittney

  3. Hi Brittney,

    This is so exciting to hear that you are beginning to integrate Slack into your workplace setting. This is definitely a platform I have some experience with, but would like to use more. I see the value programs like Slack can provide for a workplace, interpersonal communication and the sharing and storing of documents. However, one area that seems to be a big risk for some organizations to take is the task of implementing a newer interface into a setting where users are already accustomed to using other platforms.

    I am curious to hear your feedback on if you found any challenges or items to address in greater detail when presenting the option to colleagues to begin using Slack? I am very interested to see how this system works for you and your place of work.

    I’ve began using a similar software management tool that I would compare to a combination of slack and Google Drive. This platform is called Asana and the founder is actually a former Facebook high ranking official. It seems that much of the work place especially the younger and younger generations will require or need some type of system to keep everything better organized. I do find that I spend a lot of time at work sending back and forth documents that everyone has access too, but simply can’t find or locate. I know even when I am in the process of sending documents or storing documents I will even add an extra folder on to my desktop instead of using a shared drive to access the items I need more regularly. I’m wondering if a platform like Slack could help solve this everyday issue I commonly run into?

    I will be curious as to the progress of Slack in your place of work and what comes of it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    – Kim

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