Why a Company Switched from Slack to Workplace by Facebook to Improve Its Company Culture
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Earlier this month, I met Ray Taaeb from Casalova, a Toronto real estate startup. As we started geeking out about business tools, he quickly mentioned, “Actually, our team stopped using Slack. We found something better.”
"Really?", I thought, "Slack, the beloved chat tool that had reached the hearts of so many founders, wasn’t “good enough” anymore?"
He got my attention.
Ray is the co-founder of Casalova, a company that is revolutionizing the real estate market. This year, Casalova closed a round of funding of $2.5 million. Thanks to this new investment, the company will be able to fill in its ongoing staffing need. In the past 12 months, Casalova grew from a team of two (just Ray and his co-founder, Curtis) to now having a team of 27. But this growth also brought a new challenge: how do you preserve company culture when your team is growing so quickly?
To add to the complexity, Casalova has agents on the road, doing viewings with clients. Some of these remote workers don’t come to the office for weeks at a time so finding a way to have them bound with the rest of the team was a challenge.
“We used Slack. All our teams were on it and that was great. But when Workplace came up, I signed up for their trial. I just had to try it.”
What is Workplace?
Workplace by Facebook is a collaboration tool that is relatively new on the market but has already gained notorious users such a Starbucks, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Danone. The easiest way to describe it is that it’s incredibly similar to Facebook. If you’re already a Facebook user, you’ll feel at home even on your first visit. The first differences you'll notice are how it showcases your company logo and how users need to create their own profiles on Workplace –their existing Facebook profile doesn’t come along, keeping business and personal separate.
Workplace’s core features allow you to do similar things as on Facebook such as:
- Create groups, either private or public, in which a similar audience can unite around topics.
- Check your News Feed to see what's happening across all the groups and people you follow.
- Save posts that interest you so that you can come back to helpful references.
- Create "Live Videos" to give company updates or even train employees remotely.
Another main component is Work Chat, Workplace's equivalent of Messenger, where users can chat one-to-one or in group conversations. It comes with an app for Android and iOS, and again, because it looks like Messenger, the onboarding is easy.
For now, Workplace is completely free (including its premium plan). Starting September 2017, there will be a free plan as well as a paid one, starting at $3/users.
The Starbucks use case
Starbucks has been vocal about how using Workplace allowed for a new level of collaboration. Their senior managers now have monthly live streaming events while store managers use it to create their own discussions and communities.
At Starbucks' annual shareholder meeting, CEO Kevin Johnson shared a story on how Workplace enabled teamwork:
One of the store managers posted that a special drink, not listed on the menu, was being sold over 20 times per day. As soon as he published this, over 40 other store managers chimed in saying they also had the same drink request. Seeing all the activity on this post, the category team took the decision, that same day, to add this new beverage on Starbucks' menu.
“Something that could have taken weeks, if not months, to happen before Workplace, happened in one day”
- Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO
Ray: “I wouldn’t go back to Slack”
Fair enough, Workplace can give visibility into large companies, but does it still work for startups?
Ray was one of Workplace’s early adopters. He tried it, tested it, and then moved his whole team onto it.
But if Slack was working fine, why change?
“Everyone knows how to use Facebook so it makes Workplace really easy to use. And that’s important. The key thing for us is the learning curve. There’s a lot to learn when you join our team. We’re small so we move fast and use lots of tools to get things done. If [our staff] can’t use our tools, it’s a deal breaker. We need these tools and we need people who use them to function as a company,” Ray explains. Slack is not complicated but not as intuitive as Workplace. For Casalova, that made it worth switching.
"It's not just a matter of knowing how to use it but it's a matter of how comfortable people are using this. Especially for communication, the easier it is, the more people use it. And the more they use it, the better the relationships. People become friends, they bond together. Facebook has been training us to us its platform for years so it is easy."
Facebook has been training us to us its platform for years so it is easy.
- Ray Taaeb, Casalova CEO
Maybe also because people associate Facebook with being fun and entertaining, Ray noticed how his team engages more cheerfully on it than on Slack. More updates are shared, more often. Jokes, pictures, and even a Workplace book club are now part of the Casalova culture. “It’s really made the whole team so much more connected. It’s very powerful. I wouldn’t go back to Slack”.
As Ray showed me how his team uses Workplace, browsing through their various groups, it became obvious that Facebook was doing something right. In this era of hard working yet smartly hip and laidback companies, Workplace is filling a gap. Posts such as polls to get everyone's feedback, social events, company updates, and reference materials are published and people know to like, react, share, and comment on them. Somehow, by bringing in the most stereotypically social tool to work, it seems like the division between formal and informal is being reviewed as it encourages users to be more genuine at work.
Finally, Ray shared how Casalova needs to update SaaS tools regularly to fit the growth of the company. “Lots of the tools we started with don’t work for us anymore.” Yet seeing how Workplace has proved itself amongst large players and is built by a behemoth like Facebook, he’s confident that it will stay relevant as they keep on growing.
In a nutshell: Slack vs Workplace
Despite Workplace shaking up our business tools ecosystem, Slack is still the champion chat tools to many. As an example, Max Sather recently shared in a Medium article why his team is resisting the change from Slack to Workplace.
Looking like a popular social network can play in Workplace's favor but can also deter by association. Like me, you might know people who purposefully stay away from Facebook. Quora users who answered the question "Why do some people refuse to have a Facebook account" share how Facebook can induce narcissism, waste of time (mindless scrolling) and ultimately, depression.
In contrast to Facebook (or Workplace), mindless scrolling is not as interesting on Slack. It's harder to react, pictures aren't as big, and because you don't have a whole section centered on you (i.e. your own page) people don't post updates as on Facebook. Personally, most of my time on Slack is transactional, actually spent chatting with others, not scrolling through. It's always on in the background but I come and go on it with a mission, not for entertainment.
So ultimately, it boils down to what you need for your startup.
If the goal of the tool is quick and efficient communication, Slack is doing a great job. It is a great chatting app, where users can easily exchange messages and get answers from one another.
It was built with work in mind and despite Facebook's recent updates on new integration to third party tools, Slack is still leading with an incredible number of tools it integrates with. Adoption might be slightly harder but no so hard that it would prevent people to use it; just hard enough that some might only be on it when they really need to.
However, if the goal is to breed culture as for Casalova's team, Workplace has unique features that can help you do so. It allows people to know each other better by posting about themselves, it is more inviting to spend time browsing and, again, has one of the easiest adoptions a tool can hope for, a luxury due to the fact that 1.86 billion people already use Facebook. It also has Live Video and events, which Slack doesn’t have.
Thinking about the future
Now that adoption is simplified to a minimum, it's worth looking back at these answers from Quora and wonder how "work networks" such as Workplace will affect us in the long-run. If one can refuse to engage on "personal" social media, they might not have the flexibility to refuse social media at work. What will this involve? Will employees feel ongoing competition to posts their most popular updates? Will the humble and quieter employees be obviated compared to their active and boasting counterparts? Will it create addiction?
As a startup owner with employees, you are also a decision-maker and an influencer.
Tools can entice behaviors but how you position these tools and invite your team to use them has a tremendous impact and is not to be underrated. It might be wise to encourage healthy behaviors from the start so that social media at work are a long-term business enabler -rather than disabler.
What do you think?
If you've used Workplace and/or Slack, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
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