retail businesses, don’t bother to provide training
for Workplace by Facebook, which the company
started using last year, because the platform is built
into Facebook, which most people already know
how to use. Workplace includes enterprise-level features to satisfy the needs of the organization, says
Michelle Donnelly, manager of employee communications at Canadian Tire.
The program has helped unify the organization, which has offices scattered across Canada,
and increase employee engagement, she says. Participation is voluntary, but some 75 percent of the
company’s 10,000 employees have registered to use
the platform; 4,500 use it at least weekly.
Before group chat, employees in the company’s different busi-
nesses communicated with each other primarily through e-mail.
Now, the communications group can share news corporation-
wide on Workplace. And it has helped that team, whose members
are in five different locations, to collaborate more effectively.
“We have our own group on Workplace that allows us to com-
municate in real time,” she says. “It has allowed us to eliminate
a weekly meeting.”
There are no specific rules in place on how to use chat, Don-
nelly says. When the Canadian company launched Workplace,
HR reminded employees of the organization’s social media
guidelines. No one regularly monitors the content, instead
relying on employees’ understanding of appropriate behavior.
“We’ve created a system where we trust people,” Donnelly says.
Other employers take a more cautious approach. Ambalavanan, for instance, has worked in HR at law firms that tracked
group chat. Even when workers are told their communications
will be captured, “employees can think that no one is monitoring them and so they can say anything they want,” he says. That
might range from off-color jokes to sharing sensitive information.
This is why HR should counsel employees that the company’s
electronic communications and social media policies apply to
chat. Most organizations save group chat transcripts just like
any other electronic communications, which means they can be
subpoenaed, Ambalavanan says.
Problems with Chat
Paradoxically, chat can also limit communication rather than
encourage it. When one group of employees creates a private
chat room, for instance, others might feel excluded, says Daisy
Hernandez, global vice president of enterprise collaboration at
SAP Labs LLC in the San Francisco area, which is a subsidiary of
German software company SAP. That can lead to hurt feelings
and inhibited work performance.
Indeed, a May article in New York magazine documented
instances of employees using Slack chat rooms to gossip and denigrate other workers. For example, one employee found a chat
room of account managers bad-mouthing salespeople.
Such incidences are good reminders to pay attention to what
people are doing and offer guidance on how to use chat. But HR
must strike a careful balance between exerting control to protect
the company and allowing employees enough freedom to find
the best way to use the tool for themselves. “That’s the real challenge,” Boese says. And that’s where it becomes important to be
in tune with your organization and managers.
“Before, HR might immediately jump to ‘How do I block
this?’ ” Hernandez says. “Now it’s ‘How do I get engaged in the
Tam Harbert is a freelance technology and business journalist based
in the Washington, D.C., area.
Make sure employees understand chat
nuances. Teach them how to create channels, invite
others to join a chat and filter the information to find what
they need. Dawn Sharifan, head of people at Slack, based
in San Francisco, notes that the vendor offers two levels of
training to employees: Slack 101, which covers the basics,
such as how to create and organize channels and teams,
and Slack 201, which includes the cultural aspects of chat,
such as how to use emojis.
Review and update your company’s electronic communications
policy. Frequently remind employees of
the policy, including the fact that group chats
can be monitored and retained.
Make it clear that
social media policies
apply to chat.