We speak with Carol Paddison, who gives us her take on optimizing Slack for use in a fully remote culture.

Slack Best Practices Series: Optimizing Internal Communication & Engagement w/Carol Paddison

Slack Best Practices Apr 24, 2023

Hi everyone! In this interview of our Slack best practices series, we speak with Carol Paddison, Head of People at GivePanel. Carol gives us some actionable advice on how to reduce team burn out and fatigue in a fully remote culture. Click below to watch the full recording, or read through the transcript at your own pace. We'll have a few more interviews coming shortly in the series, so stay tuned!

About our Host:

Abigail Caldwell has been a People Operations and HR professional for the better part of the last decade. She's had the opportunity to work with several startups and upstarts, and is particularly skilled in kickstarting and maturing People Operations at companies that have not had it before.

Abigail Caldwell (00:00):

Um, so thank you everybody today for joining us for our Slack best practices for internal communication and engagement. Um, really centered around overcoming challenges and implementing an asynchronous culture with a hybrid and remote workforce, really our digital workforce that we see today. So in our session today we have Carol, who I would love to introduce as our star, and I'll give the platform for you, Carol, so you can tell us a little bit more about yourself and your career up to this point.

Carol Paddison (00:32):

Cool. Thank you Abigail? Hi, I'm Carol. I'm head of people at Gift panel give panel of a SaaS business that really helped charities and nonprofits with money through social fundraising. And I've been in um, people roles for a long time now showing my age and I'm really passionate about helping businesses to create amazing blazers to work through flexibility and through remote and hybrid working.

Abigail Caldwell (00:58):

Perfect. And so that was actually going to be my next question, Carol. Um, in your current organization, so inside of Give Panel, did you make the con or did your organization make the conscious effort to work remotely or hybrid or was it due to the pandemic?

Carol Paddison (01:16):

We made a conscious effort to work remotely since kind of being a startup. We're still a youngish company, so a few years old now and we felt that in remote could give us that kind of access to global talent that I guess you don't get if you are just all in one one space. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Abigail Caldwell (01:36):

Got it. Okay, cool. Um, and let's, I'm going to go ahead and set the stage here with our topic of Slack. So how long have you in your career been using Slack or known about Slack?

Carol Paddison (01:47):

We've used it on and off probably for about four, five years. Um, I've used it more active panel than anywhere else, so we, we love Slack, we'll talk about it more minute, but we absolutely love it and use it a lot as part of our work do it.

Abigail Caldwell (02:00):

Perfect. Okay. And how does it compare to other communications like um, email, whatever type of email you use or teams or even Yammer for that matter?

Carol Paddison (02:10):

Yama Yeah, that seems a while ago since using Yammer, but I much prefer Slack to kind of Yammer and teams for us, because we're using Google products, it works really well. It just feels a bit more kind of seamless, quick fun. Okay. User friendly a bit, a bit more like the other apps that you might use outside of work I guess.

Abigail Caldwell (02:32):

Okay. And how does Slack help your organization? Um, and can you share a bit of specifics about it?

Carol Paddison (02:41):

I think because we're fully of remote, it's almost the the office that we don't have. So as well as sharing lots of general kind of communication, it's those water cooler moments, the social interactions having fun that we really get from psych that we wouldn't get from email or other tool.

Abigail Caldwell (03:00):

Got it. So how do you come up with your water cooler topics with a globally dispersed um, workforce?

Carol Paddison (03:08):

I think they've grown organically really. So we've got different channels such as probably the pets warnings are favorite, you know, people posting their pictures of their cats and dogs or frogs or whatever pets they've got. And it's really how we've come up with that is if somebody, if something's tended to get chatted about a lot, maybe in our random channel enough that we could create our own channel, then we've, we've got specialist channels for it for it. So

Abigail Caldwell (03:35):


Carol Paddison (03:36):

Best designed by purpose and more kind of grew organically with the team that we have in the business.

Abigail Caldwell (03:43):

I love that. That's how we've done it in the past as well. When you see something start to trend, just go ahead and put it into a channel so it doesn't clutter up. Um, one specific, so um, diving into the best practices of Slack being in HR and people operations, how have you influenced your organization to organize Slack?

Carol Paddison (04:03):

We've got some guidelines on notion kind of how to slack. So we try and not keep them too complex, but it really helps for new people coming in to understand how we use Slack. Cuz I think each business uses it slightly differently.

Abigail Caldwell (04:18):


Carol Paddison (04:18):

Really about channel management, so making sure that the channels are clear, you know, people share the purpose of them and what's in them. We're archiving them when they're not used. And then I think a key one that I try and keep on top of is just reminding people to keep in threads so we keep the, you know, we keep the chat together with a particular kind of subject or thread that's been really key for us as well.

Abigail Caldwell (04:42):

Got it. And do you have uh, boundaries for certain types of conversations that can be had in Slack versus email?

Carol Paddison (04:53):

We do have some guidelines. We try not to have too many kind of hard and fast rules and that people their on decision, but there's certainly things if they need a lot of discussion and input, um, maybe over a longer period of time, we definitely use email for that. Things that can be much kind of quicker, you just need a quick response, you know, you've got an ask anything question and the Slack will always be our go-to for that.

Abigail Caldwell (05:18):

Got it. And do you invite your vendors or your customers in as guest inside of Slack and the Slack Connect feature?

Abigail Caldwell (05:26):

Yeah, we've got quite a few guests, which are our nonprofits or charities that won't be invited to the hall of Slack but will be invited to collaborate in certain channels that we've set up. That seems to work really well. It makes communication a lot easier and quicker.

Abigail Caldwell (05:42):

Okay. Carol, do you have any guidelines for using emojis or visual cues in Slack to convey tone or emotion?

Carol Paddison (05:50):

Yeah, I guess our guidelines on that are really simple, that we love emojis and we encourage as much use of them as possible, whether that's in your initial message or certainly in the reactions to that message as well. It just conveys so much emotion that you gets lost otherwise without it. So yeah, embrace them, use them and have fun with them

Abigail Caldwell (06:14):

<laugh>. Perfect, thank you. What, what do you do being in hr, being in a, a spot of leadership when you see something that doesn't follow the uh, tone or the workplace culture as far as gifts or um, emojis go?

Carol Paddison (06:32):

I think it would depend what it was. So if it was something that was it needed to speak to the one particular person, then I would just reach out to them individually. Transparency is one of our values, so I think I would always prioritize transparency as long as it was appropriate and kind of either call that out, but to be honest, I wouldn't expect just me to do that. As an admin we all try and hold each other accountable so I would expect the team to maybe do that as well. It, it also then doesn't feel like it's kind of, you know, the hit HR saying that that's not the right thing to say. Um, yes, I'd expect each other to hold each other to account and be transparent about that.

Abigail Caldwell (07:16):

I like that. And then how do you um, or what kind of tips do you have for keeping Slack conversations productive and on topic? I know you said when you start to see something kind of crowding a channel, you might make a whole nother channel. What other tips do you have?

Carol Paddison (07:32):

I think that's the biggest one for me is yeah, making sure we've got the right amount of channels about the right subjects. Also as I mentioned earlier, the threads are really key, so keeping it in that thread so that the conversation's really contained, it's easier to find in the future. I try not to kind of read every single thread on there that would be impossible. I'd spend all my day on things like, um, so again, I think whether it's productive or not, I trust the team to make that decision.

Abigail Caldwell (08:02):

Perfect. Okay. So I can tell that transparency and accountability is just huge inside of your organization culture. So, um, Carol, in this digital era you said your, your organization works remotely. How do you manage notifications to avoid being overwhelmed by alerts and messages? I think, you know, slack is on your phone, it's on um, your desktop, it's really everywhere that you have internet, you can access Slack. So how do you help create those boundaries with your team to ensure that they have a healthy um, separation?

Carol Paddison (08:36):

Yeah, I think it's really important. I think when you're working remotely as well, it's so easy for those boundaries to Blair a bit. I guess we take it from a couple of approaches. One is try not to kind of tag too many people into things. So we really reduce the use of the light app here or app channel where it's tagging and notifying everyone unless it's something really important, say tagging people into Pulse again, unless it's really important or urgent. Can we minimalize the use? Also, we just make it comfortable for people to switch off their own notifications. So Slack shouldn't be something that you feel you have to respond to immediately and if you wanna switch notifications off or you know, I certainly wouldn't advocate having it on your phone all of the time, especially on um, holiday we created a really nice kind of emoji, which is a brain that says thinking and focus time.

Abigail Caldwell (09:32):

Yeah. So

Carol Paddison (09:33):

Our slack status a lot and say if you are not looking at Slack at all today, that's cool, just put that emoji on. People will know that you're not going to respond today on there. It, it can be difficult and I think it's just making sure everyone's got some kind of tools they can use themselves to help manage it.

Abigail Caldwell (09:52):

Yeah, that's, uh, I think that's the best that we can do is provide them that toolkit and kind of, you know, right in line with our next question is what are some main challenges that you've seen in your career with implementing an asynchronous culture?

Carol Paddison (10:07):

Yeah, that's a really good one cuz we're, I'd say we're still on the journey, we're fully remote, but I would say we're still on the journey of asynchronous working and making that a real asynchronous async first um, business. I think some of the challenges are really thinking about how you plan ahead. So with a startup everything happens quite quickly, it's very fast paced and that's easy to do synchronously cuz you're expecting immediate answers, you're in a meeting with asynchronous, you've really got to think a lot further ahead and plan and send documents for people to comment on. I think for us that's, that's a bit of a change of kind of culture from typical startup, uh, having to forward a plan. So that's one of the challenges I'd say that we've got and we're kind of working through right now.

Abigail Caldwell (10:57):

Got it. And how have you been able to use Slack to support your specific core values inside of your organization? Do you have, um, certain rewards and recognition, uh, you know, initiatives or certain ways to encourage your core values and your behaviors through Slack?

Carol Paddison (11:19):

Yeah, I guess so one of our core values is really about celebrating wins and helping each other succeed. Yeah. So we've got rituals on a Friday where we always have a kind of wins shout out thread, but you'll shout out anyone in the business that's helped you succeed that week. You'll, you'll shout out your own wins as well, which for some people that's difficult to do now they don't shout their own poses, but this is the space to do that and that's always really well received. It's a nice kind of end to the week as well just to see all the success from the previous week.

Abigail Caldwell (11:54):

I love that. I love shouting out your own wins. It is, we're very humble, you know, when it comes to that and so I think it's a, it's a good self-motivator to remind everybody what you've been doing that week as well. Yeah. Um, alright and then what are your top three Slack apps?

Carol Paddison (12:13):

Good question. <laugh>, we can many Slack apps right now, probably because of our size we're still fairly small but we love GFI as I've mentioned. Um, we've used a Donna app that's worked quite well for us as well. And oh, Polly I think it's called, which is doing Paul's, that works really well. If you've got a quick question to ask the team, I use it, um, quite, quite a lot. So there probably are three kind of top ones that we're using right now.

Abigail Caldwell (12:42):

Awesome. I love, I love Polly. I haven't heard of the second one. What was the second one again?

Carol Paddison (12:48):

The, just the giffy, is it the gifts

Abigail Caldwell (12:53):

<laugh>. And then Carol, last question here with best practices are, what are some of the biggest mistakes or pitfalls that you've encountered while using Slack and how have you learned from them?

Carol Paddison (13:09):

I think this is, yeah, good question. I think feel like I'm repeating myself, but I think not having things in threads at first as an admin I was like almost quite cool about that and it didn't matter, but it just gets so messy and unmanageable and then trying to find a conversation in the future is really difficult. Mm-hmm.

Abigail Caldwell (13:28):


Carol Paddison (13:30):

Quite strict on that now and trying to get people to keep things in the right channel or the right thread instead of, of it just getting out of control.

Abigail Caldwell (13:39):

What did you do or what are you doing to keep people on track? And we're organized to putting things into threads or using DM versus a group channel.

Carol Paddison (13:49):

I think it's just, um, as, as we said previously, it is just responding in that chat and saying, Hey there, did you realize you've not popped this in the thread? You know, this is why we try and keep it in the thread and just reminding and being transparent and then other people can see that too and it kind of is a reminder for everyone.

Abigail Caldwell (14:08):

That's fantastic. Okay. Um, so quick summary of this discussion. You know, thank you Carol so much for joining us today and sharing your experience and best practices and, you know, building an asynchronous culture within your own Slack. I would love to give this opportunity for you to give a quick plug to your organization if you'd like to what they can do, how they can help our audience, um, if you'd like.

Carol Paddison (14:33):

Yeah, I ca definitely can do, I'm not going to turn, turn down the opportunity

Abigail Caldwell (14:37):


Carol Paddison (14:38):

So we work exclusively, as I said at the start with charities and the nonprofit sector and we help them raise money through social fundraising. So it's a really kind of still growing area for, um, fundraising. So if you, you know, if you are a charity, if you're a nonprofit and you need some support in that area, then definitely reach out and we can let you know how we can help you.

Abigail Caldwell (15:03):

Perfect. And we'll put resources and links after this call again and um, to kind of spotlight a call to action and conclude this webinar. Uh, we would definitely encourage everyone listening to make best practices outlined for their team with the usage of Slack. So design something that supports your company culture and really paves the way towards a thriving autonomous work environment for your hybrid and remote workforce. And another thing I would encourage people to do is feel, um, feel enabled to be agile. I think with the best practices as well, Carol, as I'm sure you've probably experienced that maybe best practices that worked eight months ago, maybe they need to develop and evolve with the growing organization. So I would definitely encourage people to stay open to interpretation, um, feel engaged, to provide feedback on the best practices and continue those incremental improvements. And again, Carol, thank you so much for joining us today.

Carol Paddison (16:01):

Thank you for inviting me.

About CultureBot:

CultureBot is an all-in-one app for Slack to help build connected and engaged remote teams. Use it to celebrate your team's special milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries, recognize each other for jobs well done, and more.