Media & Entertainment

The roles tools play in employee engagement


virtual office with business people working together
Image Credits: elenabs / Getty Images

Christina Janzer


Christina Janzer is Slack’s Director of Research & Analytics, responsible for leading all global research and product analytics efforts that provide insights about people and work.

Employee engagement isn’t just about the morale of individual workers—it also enables broader workforce productivity and leads to better business outcomes. In fact, research conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) argues that an understanding of the role employee engagement plays in driving morale and productivity is critical to business success.

At Slack, my team of researchers and analysts spends time studying how people work and what they need to do their best work. We consistently find that an important signal of employee engagement lies in how people feel about the tools they use at work.

Good tools can enable both productivity as well as increase morale. We’ve done research to learn more about successful and thriving Slack teams, and what it is about Slack that enables them to do better work.

These teams don’t just talk about how Slack improves efficiency, but also how it builds community and in some ways modernizes the company. We also found that the top three emotions people associate with Slack are happy, fun and easy, which you might not expect from a productivity tool.

Technology overall has impacted how, for how long, and from where we work, as well as our efficiency in getting things done. Engaging employees with technology isn’t just about supplying more robust software, but giving people tools that they look forward to using everyday as much as their preferred personal apps.

When products and technology reflect the nuances of human communication, while at the same time making information more accessible, employees feel more connected — both with the workplace and with their co-workers – resulting in a stronger, more trusting relationships and better performance.

So, how can we challenge ourselves to set higher expectations for the work products we build and use every day, and what would it look like to bring more humanity, fun and delight into the tools we use for work? Here are some principles to keep in mind.

Add emotional context to improve communication

Image via Getty Images / Anya Plonsak

With the majority of work happening online, we’ve lost much of the ability to pick up on emotional cues. Without physical cues that gauge whether a colleague is reacting positively or negatively by their facial expression, people tend to be more reticent to communicate with co-workers online with the fear that more communication can lead to miscommunication. That said, we think a lot about how to add social and emotional context to help indicate significant emotional cues.

One way we did this at Slack was with features such as emoji reactions and customizable statuses that help users talk more informally and show personality. This helps translate into feeling more like face-to-face communication, empowering employees to voice doubts or opinions and taking more creative risks together as a team.

Building camaraderie through communities

Being ignored, excluded, or overlooked at work inflicts more damage on physical and mental health than does being harassed, a study shows. Feeling alone or misunderstood at work can be detrimental to an employee’s performance.

One other major way that employees can find engagement in the workplace is through communities. Communities that create a safe environment for people to build camaraderie with other colleagues allow them to form bonds and nurture relationships outside of organizational silos.

We built Slack to enable community through channels. Not only do channels improve collaboration and provide context, they are also spaces that allow people to connect on hobbies, affinities and life experiences, giving them the opportunity to bring their whole self to work, not just their professional half. At Slack we have channels for volunteers, working parents, dog owners and Game of Thrones fans, among many others.

It’s imperative to create these types of communities that not only help expand employees’ networks at work and increase opportunities to meet other internal experts, but also inspire greater diversity of thoughts and ideas that can lead to new collaborations and solutions.

Keeping employees energized (and not annoyed) by speeding up workflows

Image via Getty Images / Ja_inter

Removing unnecessary hurdles and steps from work can help employees feel energized. This leaves more time and energy for people to focus their efforts on deeper and more meaningful work.

While eliminating small annoyances or work peeves may seem like a micro issue, the cumulative impact helps protect a positive employee experience that has a knock-on, macro effect on morale.

For example, with this in mind, we designed our Google Drive integration so that it generates a friendly message alerting the user if they have forgotten to update the permissions setting when sharing a link to a Google Doc in a channel. This small gesture anticipates a potential problem and prevents it from happening before it’s too late.

We also utilize emoji reactions to communicate the status of a project, collect and archive knowledge or convey urgency. For example, putting the “eyes” emoji on a report in channel indicates you are looking at it, without sending unnecessary alerts and updates to everyone else in the channel.

These functionalities prevent common hiccups in team communication and workflows and extend a courtesy to users, allowing them to communicate more simply and clearly or automatically picking up on things that might have been forgotten.

While Slack’s value is largely about improving collaboration and efficiency, we also find that people are using it to build community, and that a stronger community can then lead to a stronger workforce. We find that 87% of US users report being able to collaborate better on Slack, and that in addition to communication, building morale is something they look to Slack to enable.

For any company that’s looking to be more effective and productive, increasing employee engagement should be a primary focus. Good communication can make all the difference between getting a job done and getting it done well. Adding more humanity, fun and delight to work-based products has the potential to foster better communications, increase morale and improve productivity.

More TechCrunch

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

15 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data