How Bolt uses Slack to kill internal email

The mobility services company has been using Slack since 2017 in order to streamline its internal communications and provide all employees with a single source of truth for workplace information.

co-workers at laptop

At mobility services company Bolt, there’s a saying: “If you aren’t on Slack, you aren’t working.”

Founded in 2013 in Estonia, the company—which offers ridesharing, scooter and bike rental, and food and grocery delivery services in 45 countries—now boasts more than 3,000 employees, all of whom communicate exclusively through Slack. 

Speaking at Slack’s Frontier event in London earlier this year, Mathis Bogens, head of internal communications at Bolt, explained that the messaging platform is so ingrained within Bolt’s company culture that the organization has essentially eliminated internal emails.  

Back in 2017, Bolt had about 250 employees, all of whom were communicating on Skype. Back then, Skype was based in Estonia and had a team of homegrown developers working on developing the product, making it an obvious choice for Bolt at the time. However, as the company sought to expand, it soon became clear that Skype was unable to keep pace with Bolt’s workplace needs and an alternative collaboration platform was sought.

Bogens explained that while this was happening, Slack was starting to gain popularity in the Estonian startup scene, with new employees joining Bolt and discussing the merits of having used the platform in previous roles. Due to the platform’s popularity, the company didn’t consider any other messaging platforms before deploying Slack, and since deciding to move away from Skype in 2017, the company has exclusively used it for its internal communications.

When a new employee joins Bolt, part of the onboarding process involves receiving a crash course in all things Slack. Bogens said the company provides a full day of introductory sessions, where workers are shown how to use Slack and introduced to all the channels they need to be a part of.

“New employees are given training on how to announce things, what not to post, and tips and tricks for using the platform,” he said. “This kind of stuff is part of everyone’s onboarding because we’ve seen great results from it.”

Bolt has around five companywide channels that anyone from the organization can post in and Bogens said there hadn’t been an incident of inappropriate posting or channel use in about six months, which he credits to the onboarding training that teaches everyone how to use the platform in a professional manner.

With every office-based employee now on Slack, Bolt is currently working on rolling out the platform to its frontline workers as well. While Bogens explained that these workers don’t have laptops and the nature of their jobs mean they don’t have time to continuously check Slack channels, the company is working to develop guidelines to help these workers engage with the platform in a more meaningful way.

“If we establish guidelines that say once a day, after lunch for example, they need to check Slack, it makes it easy for this to become part of their routine,” he said. “So far, we’re hearing that they are finding it beneficial because all the information they need is now there in one place,” he said.

Dealing with channel sprawl

It’s estimated that, globally, around 320 billion e-mails are sent and received daily, often leading to employees’ inboxes becoming unmanageable. Bogens said that at Bolt, if you send a colleague an email, you’re unlikely to get a response for about two weeks.

And while killing off email is something most organizations can only dream of, Bogens concedes that moving to Slack hasn’t completely eliminated the problem of being overwhelmed by messages.

He said "noise" is Bolt’s biggest enemy and for new employees—as there are so many Slack channels you need to join—it can feel a bit overwhelming. However, part of the training offered in the onboarding process specifically teaches employees how to avoid some of the noise and make sure Slack is helping them to stay productive.

“For example, I have channels which contain information I need to check on a daily basis and also channels for conversations with people I need to communicate with on a daily basis,” Bogens said. “I then have project channels so I can be aware of what's going on within our work groups and, at the bottom, I have some company and news channels, which I check about once a week.”

Bogens argues that no matter how overwhelming all these channels can seem, they still provide a better way of communication than email because, by default, emails aren’t filtered. He said that fundamentally, Bolt just wants to find ways to be more efficient and by having all its employees using one single platform for communication internally, it has allowed employees to take a huge step forward in terms of productivity while ensuring that all the information they need to do their job can be found in one place.

“[At Bolt], your workday starts with opening your laptop or your phone to check Slack and ends the same way. Once you close Slack, that means you are off for the evening,” he said.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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