It’s hard to believe how Slack has taken the workplace by storm. In its short lifespan, it’s gone from being solely an internal communications tool for companies with remote teams to an extremely popular communication tool that is used by a variety of business types.
Now, we’re not here to debate whether Slack is good or bad for the average employee in an office environment. We actually use Slack internally as part of the Prospr team! It’s great for asynchronous communication and team collaboration, no doubt about it.
But we’re going to focus on why Slack isn’t the right tool for frontline teams.
Slack is not built for frontline teams.
Using Slack for frontline teams is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t work.
Slack was built for desk workers, not frontline teams. Teams stationed at computers have very different needs from hospitality, retail, gym, salon and mobile services teams. They need far more than simple communication; they need to be organized, collaborate and share in real-time.
Slack wasn’t designed to support teams that may be offline at different times, nor does it offer the ability to schedule work or shift coverage. Instead, it’s a tool that works best when everyone is online at the same time (like when you’re developing software, or working in any M-F, 9-5). It’s also missing a bulletin section so you can share information with all your team members in one place (like when you’re working on a project together). Pins are great, but hard to find after the fact.
Slack does not give you the ability to assign and manage tasks.
Slack does not give you the ability to assign and manage tasks. Slack is a communication platform, not a task management tool. The only way for teams to keep track of tasks is to create their own workflows and naming conventions, which inevitably leads to more disorganization and confusion.
Without the ability to assign and manage tasks, Slack asks frontline managers to do the impossible—coordinate activities without visibility into what their employees are doing, or who is actually on site that day. It’s no wonder that managers who use Slack often feel they have little way to hold the team accountable or have control over their team’s performance.
Thread form communication is challenging for staff that don’t work at the same time.
Threaded communication (like a chat thread) is definitely helpful for reducing email clutter and keeping track of the conversation. But, for frontline teams that work across at different times or different days entirely, thread-form communication becomes incredibly challenging. Messages get missed, and too much falls through the cracks.
When a message goes out on Monday, the group that comes in on Thursday or even Tuesday afternoon aren’t lying to you when they say “nobody told me” – they didn’t get the message! Different kinds of communication requires different tools – for example, actionable items may be better placed as a Ticket, and searchable documents in a Resource Section. There’s a time and place for “chatter” but it can’t be the only thing your team has to talk.
Slack does not let you see a full and accurate view of what your staff are doing at any given time in one place.
In a frontline team, you’re asking people to do a lot of different things at the same time: clearly communicate with customers, find important information quickly, set goals and manage themselves towards them and yet people are unreliable. They forget. They get distracted by other things that matter. It’s understandable and it happens! Slack is not built to support the needs of frontline teams in this way.
It’s your job as their manager or supervisor to help them get back on track, but how can you do this if you don’t know what they are doing? If they have forgotten something or need help finding information? Or even if they just need some encouragement because hearing “good job!” is important for any worker?
Frontline teams needs specific features for different needs. They need tools like bulletin boards to alert the entire business of important news, or facilities and ticketing for management of operational issues. What about team directories or a resource library? Slack doesn’t include these tools because Slack is not designed for you as the manager, or the members of your frontline team.
You need to find the right tool to keep your frontline teams organized; it should be easy to use, affordable, and keep everyone in sync.
You can point out the problem of communications with frontline teams all day long, but you need to find the right tool that actually works for them. How do we define the “right tool?” We mean a tool that is easy to use, affordable, and keeps everyone in sync.
Unfortunately, Slack doesn’t fit the bill. Slack’s channel-based messaging relies on users being able to keep track of multiple channels and threads at once, which usually isn’t possible when you’re working on a shop floor or running a gym. It also requires all the team to be plugged in simultaneously to be a reliable communication solution for many frontline teams.
Finally, Slack pricing is inflexible and expensive; it starts at $6.67 per user per month which can be over budget for teams looking for a more robust communications and workplace operations platform. Yes, there is a free plan, but there are some serious restrictions for teams that are growing. Then you realize that you only get “chat” and will still need to buy a system that provides you with scheduling, 4-wall management, learning and more.
So what should you use?
Ultimately, Slack is not designed for the daily workflows of frontline teams. It isn’t cost-effective, as it doesn’t provide you with enough functionality to handle all of your frontline management needs from within one application. At the end of the day, you’re left with a cluttered inbox that’s even more difficult to navigate than email.
Prospr is built for frontline teams. With our integrated communications (and scheduling) suite, you can find all the tools that managers and teams need to have a successful working day. With Prospr you have:
- Moderated secure chat
- Interactive bulletin boards
- Custom discussion threads
- Searchable resource library
- In-app directory
- Open/Close checklists
- Onboarding support
- Facilities & service ticketing
- Pre-shift surveys
Prospr allows you to consolidate all of your communication and scheduling tools into one easy to use platform. We know what frontline teams need as we’ve helped thousands of team members trade chaos for results. If you’re interested in learning more, book a demo with us here.