How Kooth PLC uses Slack to improve the well-being of both employees and customers

Kooth CEO Tim Barker explains how an employee-led initiative helped the company step up its internal communication strategy.

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In 2016, employees at Kooth PLC, a company that provides digital mental health and well-being services, embarked on a grassroots movement to improve their in-house communication. Although Kooth already had Skype’s instant messaging in place, many employees felt that it wasn’t helping them collaborate and communicate in the most efficient way. Consequently, the product team simply fired up Slack, invited colleagues to join, and got started.

Everyone at the company now uses Slack, and it has become the backbone of Kooth’s internal communication strategy, said Tim Barker, CEO at Kooth. “It has not replaced email but sits alongside it within our tech stack,” he said.

Streamlining the onboarding process

With 300 employees spread across the UK, having an efficient way of communicating across teams is vital for Kooth. All departments, ranging from clinical, counselling, and mental health practitioners to marketing, product, tech, and commercial teams, use Slack, Barker said. The platform also plays a role in the company’s onboarding process.

“Every new hire is auto-enrolled into key channels to quickly bring them up to speed,” Barker said. “When working on new projects or initiatives, we create dedicated channels that house all relevant information, keeping the right team members aligned on how work is tracking.”

He adds that whilst Slack has been designed with ease of use in mind, for new starters who aren’t familiar with the platform, getting to grips with new technology can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. In response to this, Kooth has created a Learning and Development team to help all employees — not just new hires — develop their technology skills and familiarise them with new tools.

Barker said that when Kooth first deployed Slack, it was initially asking the question, “How do you get the whole company to adopt Slack?” After speaking to Slack’s Customer Success Team, however, Kooth leaders quickly realised that Slack should be a self-service platform, where employees are free to join the channels that are most relevant to their work and the relationships they want to build with colleagues.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that in our business, that’s not a goal we want to pursue when it comes to onboarding new hires who may prefer to work in a different way. Everyone has to find the approach that is successful for them and how they want to get work done,” Barker said. He added that in Kooth’s experience, collaboration tools live on their merits, and forced adoption doesn’t work for the business as a whole.

Fostering relationships and supporting clients

Although the pandemic has seen most UK office-based employees become fully remote workers in the last 12 months, 80% of Kooth’s employees have always worked remotely. “Slack shortens the distance between us all,” Barker said.

Alongside boosting employee relationships, Barker said that Slack has become a core part of how the company delivers its mental health services. The company’s counselling and well-being staff have a dedicated channel where they can provide feedback and offer real-time support when dealing with difficult and challenging cases.

“Managers, discussion moderators, and practitioners are on call during any given shift, and the team uses the Kyber app for Slack in the #mod-main channel to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. During shift changes, Slack keeps everyone in sync and ensures continuity of service,” Barker said.

He explains that these real-time conversations enable the company to use its collective expertise to not only better the mental health of the individuals who use Kooth, but also provide around-the-clock critical support to those who need it most.

Despite the heavy subject matter discussed in some of the Slack channels, the company also has a number of “lighter, topic-driven” channels to help build rapport. Barker singles out #koothpets as a popular channel that has helped to foster a lot of non-work conversations at a time where morale needs to be kept high and personal connections need to be maintained.

“Slack has now become our all-encompassing office — not only does it allow us to collaborate seamlessly on work, but it has also helped us to retain our strong culture and sense of community,” Barker said.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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