Why Slack Will Never Replace Your Intranet

Resources > Why chat is not an intranet

By Rachel Kaplowitz, CEO of Honey

There’s no denying that Slack has filled a void in how we talk to each other at work. It lets people connect in ways they couldn’t before, slashing away at email inboxes and moving conversations ahead quickly.

But Slack is not always the best channel for everything that needs to be communicated. Especially as organizations grow, they start to notice where an intranet can fill in important gaps and bring cohesion to a company.

At Honey, we're on a mission to make work better by making workplace communications more thoughtful, inclusive, and simple. Sign up for a demo of our beautiful intranet >>

Slack is a tool — your intranet is the toolkit

Slack and intranets exist for quite different purposes.

Slack is an instant messaging platform that lets people chat with each other at work. It’s a wonderful tool for short, fast conversations. But where Slack falls short, your intranet picks up the... erm...slack.

An intranet is the toolkit that helps your people make sense of Slack and other tools as your company grows. Intranets function as a digital home base for your company. They excel at organizing information, creating focus, and connecting people — three areas that need a more thoughtful approach than instant messaging alone can provide.

Organizing information

Slack channels look like a stream of consciousness. This can be good for real-time communication, like quick input by peers. But information quickly disappears out of view as new posts are added to a channel. An intranet gives you a central place to store and organize information, so people can easily find it anytime.

Slack: Organized Chaos

If you’ve been using Slack for a while, you know there’s no way to make sure everyone sees important information. It comes and goes like a ship in the night. There’s no logical way to organize company documents. Threads are hard to find, so new ones start, leaving behind the first half of the conversation.

Brenna Loury, head of marketing at Doist, sums it up, telling Recode, “If you miss something in a channel, you have to trace it back through what is often a nonlinear conversation.” And to be honest, how often do your employees invest the time to do that? And how else could that time be more wisely spent?

Before you know it, you’ve got too many channels, too. Consider marketing startup Drift, which discovered it had over 950 channels last year when they started looking at ways to use Slack better.

As your team grows, it becomes less and less likely that people will ever see information posted to Slack beyond conversations they are directly involved in. For some, the answer is more asynchronous communication. But most importantly, you need a central place to organize important material outside of day-to-day comms.

Intranet: Chaos Organized

Your company needs a more organized approach to where it stores information and how it communicates important messages.

A study by the University of Tennessee on “Internal Communication, Information Satisfaction and Sense of Community” examined how employees preferred to receive information. It concluded that electronic channels, if used thoughtfully, can flatten the traditional, hierarchical structure of internal communication and give employees at all levels of the organization the sense of hearing things firsthand, from the top. It’s the “thoughtful use” that makes all the difference in your communications.

60% of our users say that Honey helps them do their job better — Honey users can actually find valuable resources and experts within their company who know how to help.

A steady stream of messages is not the best way to organize information that your people have to refer back to again and again. Contrast that with intranets, which organize all information centrally, providing a digital workplace hub for your company.

Logical organization by departments or groups on an intranet means people can navigate to find the information and documentation they need. Employees also have plenty of options for receiving information posted to an intranet like Honey. They can opt to receive digests of comms from their department or groups, so they don’t miss anything. Integrations with the tools your team uses make it easy to post and find documents from other applications on your intranet, too.

A Honey intranet is also highly searchable. You can unearth the following just using the search bar.

  • Posts

  • Comments

  • Uploaded files that contain text

  • URL content — all of the text in a URL that has been scraped into Honey

  • User profiles

  • Group names

  • Topic names

  • Resources

You can also filter, sort, and search within groups or use modifiers to zero in on the information you need.

Creating focus

Relying on Slack to guide your company communications can cause employees to focus on the immediate-term and lose sight of the priorities that should be guiding them. An intranet provides an anchor to the mission of the company.

Slack: here for a good time

The recency effect tells us that we are most likely to remember the information we learned last. For example, if you memorize a list, it’s usually the last item that you can recall the best. When you log into Slack, you are immediately pulled into a micro view of that moment in time. For some, this dictates how they spend their whole day.

It’s really hard to keep sight of the big picture when there’s no anchor to ground you in your company’s overarching goals.

You jump into whatever conversations are happening. This can become quite unproductive, as Alicia Liu, a manager at technology company Nava, found when her team started to grow. She says, “I realized that using Slack in the same way as we did as a small team was the source of many problems, both communication-related and much broader than that.” She noticed that all comms come through Slack with the same sense of urgency. Pings that require deliberation and discussion appear on equal footing with quick one-off questions.

There is no way to distinguish important guidance from everyday chatter.

Intranet: Here for a long time

An intranet can help you rally people around a mission as they dig into the details of their work. You will have a central place to post information with the weight of importance it deserves.

82% of our users say that Honey helps them feel more engaged at work — maybe it’s because of the video messages they receive from their CEO or the visibility they have into work that’s happening on other teams.

Your intranet gives you an ideal platform to highlight your mission and remind people why the work they do is important. Connecting your employees in this way can influence engagement and turnover. For instance, the company newsfeed on your intranet lets you post material that can set the tone for the day and help people prioritize their work:

  • Highlight customer stories, testimonials, and pictures to remind people of the end user and why your company exists.

  • Feature a video message from the CEO to get people excited about a new initiative.

  • Share progress toward a company goal regularly.

But it’s not enough to simply connect with a company’s mission. You have to connect your people with each other, too.

Connecting people

As a company grows, people become organized into more distinct groups and functions. At some point, you will see that people in different departments spend less time collaborating and sharing. According to McKinsey, only 25% of companies report effective sharing of knowledge across boundaries, although nearly 80% say it’s crucial for growth.

Organizations must bring a thoughtful approach to connecting people.

Slack: Free for All

Slack has helped people make social connections at work. It helped break down the silos of information that used to exist only in emails for many companies. But connections built on an instant messaging platform bring new challenges.

Scott Burns implemented Slack when he was CEO of high-growth company GovDelivery. He noticed that the burden of internal emails lessened. But in its place, his employees were left to track multiple channels across Slack. “The silo might be gone, but in its place is an additional layer of chaos,” he said.

Other companies found that Slack actually created new silos of information. Ruti Wajnberg wrote that tools such as Slack were “prone to alienating team members and creating information silos” at her company, thoughtbot.

One of the barriers your team faces when Slack is your company’s primary internal communication vehicle may be simply knowing who to reach out to when you need to coordinate with another department.

Intranet: One for all

Today’s intranets excel at connecting the people in your organization. You can set up a company directory with rich profiles to help people get to know each other. Posts allow for commenting and interaction. And departments can share knowledge easily.

74% of Honey users say it makes them feel more connected to their co-workers — features borrowed from the social media tools your team already knows and loves like @mentions, commenting, upvoting, and browser extensions make connecting to your colleagues on Honey easy.

This increases transparency and empathy.

Let’s say Marcia in marketing wants to check on the sales figures so far this month to see how their latest campaign is doing. She can hop over to the sales department in Honey to check out the system where the sales team logs results. There’s no need to ask someone to find her the information or try to remember where to find the system to log in.

And even a new team member can easily see what documents and tools are available for collaboration between the two departments.

So what goes on your intranet, and what goes on Slack?

Here’s a handy rule of thumb we use here at Honey: if you will need to refer to it more than once, put it on your intranet. Posting items to Honey makes sure they live in a centralized, safe place where your team can easily find them. Then you can share them on Slack if you want.

These are some of the items that companies post to Honey:

  • Operating procedures and wikis

  • Documents that teams are working on

  • Company news

  • HR and IT announcements and info

  • Notes or recordings of meetings

  • Directory of people and roles

  • Calendar events

  • Announcements for your department or team

  • List of tools each department uses

  • Any files, links, images, and videos that you want people to be able to reference later

You can share links to Honey posts on Slack like you would any other link, complete with an embedded preview. You can even set up information that’s posted to a Honey group to automatically push to Slack. And your team can search for Honey posts and people directly from Slack using the /honey command. See more about how to use Honey with Slack and how to install the Honey Slack app.

Two tools, two purposes

A thoughtful approach to your communication tools can make a big difference. Your intranet and Slack both have their place. But don’t confuse the two. As your team grows, help your people get organized, see the big picture, and connect with each other with a Honey intranet. Leave the minute-by-minute instant messaging on Slack. And combine the two with easy integrations when it makes sense for your message.

At Honey, we're on a mission to make work better by making workplace communications more thoughtful, inclusive, and simple. Sign up for a demo of our beautiful intranet today >>