The fight to be recognized as the best-in-class business chat tool is raging. Businesses are determining whether they are best served by using Slack, Google Chat, Microsoft Teams, or one of the many other offerings. As of now, there has been no clear winner, but there are industry leaders.
My peers in class have reported using a variety of different technologies, especially throughout the pandemic. Over the past 18 months, I’ve found myself wondering about the impact this technology is having on our engagement and sense-of-belonging in the workplace. Is it possible that we feel more connected to our colleagues then when we were sitting in cubicles and shared office space? Or has the connections just felt more meaningful due to being locked in our houses, away from our networks and communities?
The one aspect that is clear is employees are utilizing these chat tools. With the forced disappearance of water cooler chats and chance meetings in the office due to COVID-19, millions of workers have found themselves engaging with their colleagues remotely for the first time. Over the past 18 months, employees have been announcing life milestones on Microsoft Teams, creating fantasy football Slack channels, and doing daily check-in’s on Google Chat. The world has been so remote, that many people (including myself) have started jobs during the pandemic and only engaged with their colleagues using these business chat tools.
Despite the challenges of remote work, there have been benefits to employers and employees that wouldn’t have been possible without business chat tools. Such as:
- Companies can offer jobs to the best and brightest without asking those individuals to uproot their lives and move to a new location, as they can trust the technology is there to keep them engaged from anywhere
- Employees now have the flexibility regarding where they want to live
- Employees can have more control of their work/life balance
Without business chat tools, the list above may not be possible. As these tools give employees the opportunity to be as engaged (if not more) with their colleagues from anywhere in the world.
On the other side, there have been considerable drawbacks on employee engagement over the past 18 months. Including:
- Lack of informal conversations (everything word type can be monitored)
- No team lunches, happy hours, etc.
Research has found that employee engagement drops when there are no in-person interactions with team members. In a survey of more than 2,300 remote workers conducted by Buffer, 12% said that staying motivated was the biggest difficulty for them, and another 16% said overall communication and collaboration suffer.
These challenges illustrate why it is so important for businesses to select the best business chat tool. There are difficulties to our new normal, but the majority of employees enjoy remote work and want a hybrid work environment to become standard. In order to make this new reality work, businesses must keep employee engagement high. Keeping employees satisfied with a business chat tool that keeps them engaged with their colleagues is one of the best paths to success. As demonstrated by a 2020 study by Gallup that showed that companies in the top quartile of engagement had 43% less turnover than those in the bottom quartile.
Business chat tools are a profitable business. In 2020, the team collaboration software market reached $9.5 billion globally. Businesses are rushing to implement collaboration software to keep their productivity high in these uncertain times. The two current leaders in this field are Slack and Microsoft teams.
Microsoft Teams is growing rapidly due to being implemented through large organizations, schools, government workers, and its existing Office 365 customer base. Whereas Slack is the clear leader within the startup sector and among developers and other young, tech-savvy workers.
When looking at both offerings, they do share many similarities. Such as features like private and public channel messaging, searchable message history, conference calls, screen sharing, file sharing, and more. Differences include Microsoft Teams offering video conference capabilities and Slack offering unlimited collaborations with people in a variety of different facets of life (work, side-hustle, personal, hobby groups, etc.). Microsoft teams is the market leader, but Slack is still the more innovative and easy-to-use tool, which makes it a mainstay in startups and smaller companies.
At the end of the day it comes down to preference and ease. If a company is already using Office 365, then Microsoft Teams is the easiest path as it integrates natively with Office 365 tools. But this is not always the case. My company (a Fortune 20 company) selected Slack despite using Office 365 tools.
What business chat tool does your company use?
Does it keep you engaged and connected to your colleagues?
Do you miss informal work conversations? Or do you prefer this new, flexible communication?
Looking forward to reading everyone’s view of business chat tools in their workplace!