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There's a Time for Email and a Time for Slack. How to Know the Difference.

With too many tools, your staff can get confused.
There's a Time for Email and a Time for Slack. How to Know the Difference.
Image credit: Paul Wearing
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This story appears in the November 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

So you’ve adopted Slack, Flowdock, HipChat, or some of the myriad other collaboration apps. Plus you’ve still got email. Now how do you make them work for your team?

Related: 5 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Employees

It’s a scene happening in offices around the world: The boss installs a tool like Slack and asks all employees to use it. Some do. Some resist. Email threads and chat-room conversations happen concurrently. Confusion reigns. And eventually everyone asks: When am I supposed to use this stuff? Steve Goldsmith, GM of Austin-based HipChat, has an answer: You need to identify how each tool can make your team efficient and then get everyone onboard. 

When to use email

Internal email remains best for messages that don’t require an employee to respond -- for example, notifications of workplace policy updates, leadership changes and major business shifts. Also use email when you need to BCC someone or when required by law, as is the case with announcements about open-enrollment periods for health insurance.

When to use team messaging

Cloud-based collaboration tools are ideal for high-speed, in-the-moment collaboration among your team members, like sharing files that need to be updated in real time. Use team messaging when soliciting feedback from the entire distribution chain or asking a question whose answer would benefit everyone in the company.

Related: 6 Rules for Effective Peer-to-Peer Communication

Dealing with holdouts

What about a stuck-in-their-ways employee who insists on using email for rapid decision making? When that happens, create a new chat room and invite every colleague on the email thread into the room. This move ought to show the email sender that questions get answered and issues resolved more quickly on collaboration platforms.

Managing 'chatty Cathies'

If your team messages become so filled with office jokes and GIFs that it’s difficult to see actual work-related conversation, set up separate chat rooms where employees can share industry news, update local commuting conditions, learn about social events and just chew the fat. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to make project-oriented chat rooms available only to team members who need to be there. 

Edition: December 2016

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