Taking a Look into the Slack Company Culture

From a small Silicon Valley startup on the back of a failed multi-million dollar video game project, to the planet’s fastest growing company, Slack has a lot to be proud of – including the Slack company culture.

Slack is a direct messaging tool for modern day business, aiming to negate emails and humanise company communication. Slack has added features such as video conferencing, file sharing and connectivity to 100s of notable apps including Twitter, Salesforce and GitHub.

Slack emerged accidentally, as an internal chat system for CEO Stewart Butterfield and his colleagues while developing a video game that would never be. From an organic beginning, conceived through word of mouth, to a multibillion dollar company, the Slack team expanded rapidly. Now with hundreds of employees worldwide it has become a workplace cultural phenomenon. But how does such an exponentially expanding business still maintain the original Slack company culture that fueled its own beginnings?

Slack began as humans talking and it’s been an intrinsic company mission for it to stay that way; after all, that’s why Slack is so successful. As a self-confessed killer-of-emails, Slack brings team communication and collaboration back to the heart of the fundamentals of business; human interaction. Here are three core beliefs that have solidified the uniquely human Slack company culture.

“…you can’t conjure it out of thin air, or reverse engineer the culture you want from broad, nice-sounding phrases .”
Evie Nagy

Work Hard and Go Home.

Stewart Butterfield believes in working hard, but he knows that doesn’t mean working until midnight. With a maximum 6-8 hour employee productivity window, Slack recognises the importance of going home, in fact “Work Hard and Go Home” is a notable company mantra.

A corporate culture that understands their employees have lives is one where staff feel trusted, supported and treated as individuals. Implementing this behavior leads to a motivated and happy workforce, whose personal lives are recognised as being just as important as the good work they do for your brand.

Working hard then going home is a human attempt at navigating work and life’s busy demands that affirms the importance of both, a narrative that is imperative to any kind of success, and is a great part of the Slack company culture.

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Slack on iPhone

Slack on iPhone (Image provided by Slack)

Speak with Purpose and Speak Well

As the business world booms around us, terms such as ‘corporate culture’ and ‘employee engagement’ are beginning to be thrown around with little weight behind them. Overshadowed by profit margins and portfolio acquisitions workplace culture is lost and staff, as well as management suffer. Since their beginnings, Slack overcame these common traps by focusing on human communication and the power of words.

Slack employee Anna Pickard notes, “Words are hard”, a statement that has been agreed upon by the entire Slack team, but they also acknowledge that “Words are powerful”. With the power to encourage, inspire and create joy, they also have the power to ostracise, demoralise and confound – words are important.

The team at Slack know this and continue to aim to improve both their client’s and their own communication. Doing so has become a wider project for Slack, cultivating an internal style guide with the hopes of it becoming an external resource.

Slack has collated four considerations for the building of a truly unified voice, one that recognises and proliferates the culture that shapes a company, hoping to start a conversation about things such as;

  • How to build a living, breathing style guide that empowers and supports your culture
  • How to build an internal voice that translates naturally into your external voice
  • How to integrate a voice across brand, product, and support channels, because to the customer, it should feel like the same person is talking to them across each
  • Why communicating with courtesy, clarity, and in a more human way matters to people in work generally

Founded on the humanising capabilities of words and communication, Slack continues to strive to improve their product’s and team’s social dialog, for the betterment of their company as well as your own.

“The voice of the company sounds like us. And so it should—we’re talking, human to human. Because, after all, the company turned inward creates the culture that makes the product. And creating our “brand” is merely a matter of turning that culture outward to speak to the outside world.”
Anna Pickard

Slack HQ, San Francisco

Slack HQ, San Francisco (Image supplied by Slack)


Empathy is Key

To build a truly great product, one must understand it’s users, but every decision made in this process stems from the worldview of the maker. To compensate for this profound understanding Slack makes a great effort to hire as many truly diverse staff as they can.

They recognise that if the makers are able to reflect the users, the products created will be truly beneficial. Slack knows that the creation of a product for the benefit of others is an act of empathy.

We strive to be a place where people with diverse backgrounds bring equally diverse opinions where everyone feels able — obligated, even — to make things better.” – Slack

Slack employees are described by their own company as being extremely empathetic and always diligent, with an uncompromising pursuit for quality. The company takes great pride in noting that qualities such as these are not confined to trivial labels such as race, gender, sexual orientation or creed.

With an acknowledgement of the current industry’s often homogenous grouping, Slack proudly breaks away from the typical face of Silicon Valley. They strongly believe in this truth, to truly understand our variety of users is to employ as many diverse individuals as possible.

Slack is a product built through empathy and an amalgamation of diverse experiences and backgrounds. With an exceedingly profound approach to product and team development, it’s inspiring to see Slack do so well.

In Summary

Slack is perhaps a picture perfect example of Silicon Valley success, noted as the fasted growing company ever, in only 2 years Slack is already worth billions.

From an internal chat app between friends to a company with over 3 million active users daily, what has made Slack so successful is likely its fundamental human nature. Slack is an application built on human interaction with an even stronger company culture keeping it that way, whose three primary mantras solidify this;

  • Work Hard and Go Home
  • Speak with Purpose and Speak Well
  • Empathy is Key

For more inspiration on strong company culture, such as the Slack company culture, read our article, 20 Best Inspirational Quotes for Companies and Businesses.

Lauren Clarke

Lauren Clarke

Lauren writes for 6Q and a number of other blogs from her home office in Australia. She spends her time writing, reading and changing US to International English on many articles that she edits.