Keeping communication channels organized is essential if you want your teams to stay productive and avoid wasting time searching for important information. A Slack thread is communication that occurs through Slack under one message in the form of a reply. This allows information to remain relevant and accessible to the master topic/question, whilst also keeping channels clutter-free.
Why Slack threads are necessary
Slack threads are an important way of organizing information, help improve team efficiency, and keeping conversations on track. By grouping related replies together, threads help reduce noise in channels and make it easier for people to follow conversations. Without this form of organization, teams can easily lose sight of important instructions, information, and even documents, this can be worsened if half of the team uses threads and half don't - information would be dispersed and harder to access. ultimately, this has a wider impact on productivity, can cause multitasking, incur disruptions, and cause deadlines to be missed.
Steps to encourage slack threads in teams
Mention users in threads with @
If you or teams notice that messages are being placed outside of a thread but covering the same topic, a reply can be posted in the thread as a response using @usersname to notify them. This is a great way to encourage thread usage, especially if this is a regular occurrence. Rather than "outing" the employee - simply respond to their query in the thread and tag them, this should be enough to encourage thread replies.
Add notes to key messages
If teams are still not following thread encouragements, adding a simple note to key messages could change things. If a message is typed, users can add (Reply in thread please) or something similar at the end of their message, this would be direct instruction but would also encourage thread usage.
Short Term Actions
Send out a memo to encourage slack threads
The simplest way to encourage usage of slack threads amongst teams is to send out a memo and remind them. Sometimes employees get stuck in their ways and need a nudge in the right direction, you can send out a short memo explaining when to use threads based on your company. This could also be a mention during team meetings, daily huddles, or email communications.
Add channel guidelines
A useful feature on Slack is the ability to add guidelines to every channel. When a user joins the channel they will see the list of guidelines that should be followed in that said channel. Here you can add a guideline that states threads must be used for all replies or whichever processes your company follows with thread usage. Whilst this only displays when a user joins, you can share these guidelines regularly as a "reminder".
Long Term Actions
Include in training documentation & onboarding
To start incorporating thread usage throughout the company, you should include it within your training documentation and onboarding process. If you stress the importance of threads and how they impact the team, employees should acknowledge the importance throughout their employment and in turn, it could encourage long-standing employees to follow suit in addition to creating a positive culture.
Create a Slack Best Practice Guide
You can take the steps to create a Slack Best Practice guide for employees to access which can almost be considered a policy for using Slack in the workplace. This can be an overview of the topics already mentioned for consistency, but also include these highlighted areas:
Encourage following threads for important topics
Users can 'follow' individual threads by selecting the three dots on the message and choosing "Get notified about new replies". This will send thread notifications to employees when that thread receives new messages, this encourages replies within that thread rather than starting a new chain of messages.
Establish where threads are needed
You should identify with stakeholders where threads are necessary. For example, you don't need to encourage thread usage for a "general chat" channel where teams are communicating with GIFs and relaxed conversations. However, a progress update on tasks from all teams should 100% be threaded. If you communicate where threads are necessary with teams, this should at least help encourage them to put the important information in threads.
Broadcast important discussions to other channels
Sometimes, it is possible for teams to have the same discussion about a topic on two different channels. If a topic is relevant to multiple teams, it can be broadcasted to other channels to encourage a larger threaded discussion that contains useful information in one place. This could help to speed up workflows and inter-team communication.
When one of our clients received a recommendation to improve their contextual communication using Slack threads, they decided to take an action. After short discussion within their leadership team, our client's executive decided to share this article with their team. Within 4 weeks her, and their team tribbled the Slack thread usage in their Slack workspace and are still improving.
Their teams have reported in the following months a significant decrease of noise in their Slack workspace and they also feel they have improved the context for their work. This is what we call a Flowtrace impact on the company communication effectiveness.
Image: Flowtrace gave the recommendation based on the fact the client company was using Slack threads below the industry benchmark in the end of August 2022, and from there, by end of September their team moved to use Slack threads 3 times more. You can read the full case study here.
There are a number of ways that you can encourage your team to use threads in Slack. By setting guidelines, adding notes to key messages, and broadcasting important discussions to other channels, you can help your team stay organized and efficient. You can use Flowtrace to identify where Slack thread usage is occurring the most, where it is lacking, and the topics it is surrounding, and also how you can benchmark to industry best practices. Flowtrace will suggest best practice recommendations for a number of metrics in your organization.