Slack and Facebook Workplace Launch New Features as Workplace Announces 30K User Businesses

Slack and Facebook Workplace Launch New Features as Workplace Announces 30K User Businesses

Facebook has made a number of rapid-fire improvements to its enterprise offering Workplace since launching the bold play for the workplace productivity market last year: Earlier this year, it introduced a free tier of the service and added a collection of new features like file-sharing integrations to keep up with the rapidly developing standards of collaboration platforms as Facebook vies for dominance in the market against Slack, Microsoft, Google, Atlassian, and a growing number of new competitors.

This week, the social media giant released another package of new Workplace features, including a desktop app that allows screen sharing and will soon introduce group video chat. TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden checks the specs of the latest update:

Previously, the video features in Workplace were limited to live video broadcasts and one-to-one video conversations. Alongside the new apps and features, Facebook is also updating the overall design of Workplace to simplify the interface and make it consistent across Android, iOS, desktop and web[.]

Workplace has positioned itself as the collaboration platform for everyone in your organization — not just those who are so-called “knowledge workers” who are at desks most of the day. The idea is that everyone, from executive to barista to warehouse assistant, will find Workplace easy to use because, well, it looks and feels a lot like the hugely popular Facebook. However, the new desktop apps — for both PC and Mac — are a hat tip that there are, in fact, a lot of those desk-sitters using Workplace, too.

Facebook had said the app was a response to user requests, but Lunden argues that these new features are also aimed at boosting user engagement, as that metric is critical for Workplace’s business model:

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How HubSpot Helps Employees ‘Flex Their Empathy Muscles’

Caroline Cotto, culture content creator at HubSpot, writes at Fast Company about how her organization trains employees to be more empathetic, likening it to how athletes build strength though steady, diligent exercise. HubSpot’s empathy-building program begins with measurement, having employees take a quiz based on the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire and providing tailored resources to them based on their results. The inbound marketing and sales software company then uses several techniques to encourage employees to see the world through their colleagues’ eyes, including storytelling:

It’s not easy to train one person to be more empathetic, and it’s even more difficult to do the same for 2,000 coworkers across seven global offices. As we contemplated empathy building at scale, we decided to host “Humans of HubSpot,” a live storytelling show focused on sharing personal anecdotes, which conventional office settings might not always leave room for.

Drawing inspiration from NPR’s The Moth, employees share stories about their own lives and identities. This kind of unfettered vulnerability breeds trust between colleagues, and trust is what ultimately drives results. As it turns out, we’re not the only one preaching the power of storytelling to build a more empathetic work culture. Our event has already inspired other companies, like Wistia, to start storytelling nights of their own.

HubSpot’s approach here is notable because one of the key benefits of empathy in the workplace is improved communication. Building empathy helps employees not only communicate with external stakeholders but also collaborate more effectively with their peers, which is increasingly important in today’s highly networked work environment.

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Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook’s enterprise social network, Workplace, has scored a major new customer in Walmart, the world’s largest private employer. The retail giant has already been testing the product, and will continue to phase the platform in among its other internal communication tools, though it’s not yet clear if or when Workplace will be available to all of the company’s employees.

Workplace by Facebook was launched less than a year ago, but with more than 14,000 companies using the service—including Delta Air Lines, Booking.com, Canadian Tire, Lyft, and Starbucks—it is already a serious competitor in an increasingly crowded field of enterprise communications and collaboration offerings. (Facebook hasn’t announced how many active daily users Workplace has.)

Since its inception, one of Workplace’s main selling points has been Facebook’s omnipresence as a social media platform. Most workers, and especially most millennials, are already likely to be familiar with the look, feel, and functionality of the Facebook-like Workplace, so organizations should have an easier time getting their workforces to adopt and actually use the platform without much of a learning curve.

According to a Walmart spokesperson, per Fast Company‘s Emily Price, that ease-of-use is precisely why the retail giant was drawn to the product, and they’ve already been pleased with how the service has improved communication where they have rolled it out. For instance, leaders at the company have been using the Live video feature to conduct more visually compelling all-hands meetings, and associates have been sharing photos of their best in-store display ideas. In addition, the platform became a vital asset to both Walmart and Delta during Hurricane Harvey, as Price explains:

“We were able to use the Live capability to share our current weather updates and what was happening with people that were in the field from our Emergency Operation Center. We also were using it to gather kind of information about what was happening on the ground very quickly. Part of that was because of the ease of use with the mobile [experience,” Walmart’s Dan Kneeshaw explained.]

And they weren’t the only company to use Workplace after the hurricane. Delta, for instance, used Facebook to help check in with its employees using a new feature called Safety Officer, a variation of Facebook’s Safety Check feature.

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Microsoft, Slack Roll out New Features as Competition Heats up

Microsoft, Slack Roll out New Features as Competition Heats up

The market for workplace collaboration software has been growing steadily more competitive over the past year, with tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook moving into the space formerly dominated by the startup Slack. Last week, Atlassian unveiled its new platform called Stride, which integrates with the company’s other enterprise technology offerings and aims specifically at meeting users’ needs in areas where Slack falls short. Both Slack and Microsoft made announcements about their products this week that show they are well aware of the heightening competition and prepared to respond.

On Monday, GeekWire’s Nat Levy reported, Microsoft released a new feature on its Teams product called Guest Access, which gives organizations “a way to bring in freelancers or consultants on a project and show them everything they need to know, and nothing more”:

Larry Waldman, a program manager for Teams, told GeekWire that guest access has been among the most frequent and long-standing requests from customers. “We knew we needed it because people in companies work with folks outside their companies very regularly,” Waldman said. “That’s something we heard feedback on even as we were developing Teams.”

Microsoft also announced that Teams is now being used by 125,000 organizations, more than double the 50,000 who were using it when it launched globally in March.

Not to be outdone, Slack put out an announcement of its own the next day at its Frontiers conference in San Francisco, Levy’s colleague Monica Nickelsburg adds. The company revealed that it had grown to 9 million weekly active users in more than 100 countries, including 50,000 paid teams, and 2 million paid users, generating $200 million in annual recurring revenue. Slack also unveiled a feature that enables ongoing collaboration between multiple organizations:

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Hipchat’s Atlassian Strides onto Slack’s Turf with New Collaboration Platform

Hipchat’s Atlassian Strides onto Slack’s Turf with New Collaboration Platform

The software company Atlassian, already a major player in the enterprise technology game with its applications like Jira, Confluence, and HipChat, has released a new collaboration platform for employees and teams called Stride, to compete with existing products like Slack. Kerry Flynn at Mashable describes Stride as “all about taking action”:

It cuts down on notifications by letting users put themselves in a “Focus Mode,” and it makes it super simple to switch from text to video. The design is mobile-friendly and easy to use, not unlike its competitor Slack. But it offers features that make it arguably a better product than Slack for actually getting work done. …

One of the core features is letting users set themselves as away. That feature is available in competitors, such as Slack’s emoji statuses, but Stride allows users to actually mute specific channels, share what they’re working on, and more easily catchup once they’re done. … Any room in Stride can start a meeting and allow any user to join in via audio or video. It eliminates the need to move to Google Hangouts, BlueJeans, or another third-party video system and can encourage people to switch to video more often.

Steve Goldsmith, general manager for Stride at Atlassian, tells GeekWire reporter Tom Krazit that Stride is integrated with Atlassian’s other software products and will be available in both free and paid tiers with different features:

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Is It Time to Rethink B2B Sales Incentive Plans?

Is It Time to Rethink B2B Sales Incentive Plans?

The overwhelming majority of companies use individual, revenue-based incentive plans as part of their compensation package for front-line sales staff. For as long as there have been salespeople, commission served as the perfect motivational lever which kept them productive and happy—it could even make them quite rich if they got good enough at it. But now it’s time to re-evaluate this strategy given the recent changes in business-to-business buying behavior.

Strategic buyers are no longer dependent on salespeople for information on product and service offerings. In the information age, business leaders can consult review sites, online forums, social media, and professional networks to discover solutions for their needs. In fact, at CEB (now Gartner), our Sales and Marketing practice found that the typical B2B buyer is 57 percent of the way through their decision-making process before engaging with a supplier. The cold call isn’t dead, but it is no longer the most prudent way to introduce your product to potential customers.

As such, it has become harder to measure the value a salesperson has provided after a purchase is made. Previously, companies would arm their field teams with standard marketing materials and wait for the money to come in. Sales reps would cultivate leads, provide potential customers with all of the relevant information, and convert some of those opportunities into deals. The salesperson’s contribution was very clear: They were revenue generators. Today, now that customers wait until they know exactly what they want and how much they want to pay for it before reaching out to salespeople, B2B providers are getting their name out through some combination of PR, content marketing, social media, white papers, and the like. The best companies are doing it in a way that draws prospective customers into the funnel, recognizing the need for more institutional support in the sales and lead generation process.

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Is Remote Work Better? ‘It Depends,’ Says Humanyze CEO

Is Remote Work Better? ‘It Depends,’ Says Humanyze CEO

With remote work rapidly on the rise among professionals in the US and other countries, one of the great debates about contemporary workplace culture concerns whether working remotely from home or a coworking space is better, worse, or just different than working on-site in an office. Some studies have suggested that remote workers are more focused and productive, and less likely to quit, than regular office employees. On the other hand, some companies, most notably IBM, have been having second thoughts about their remote work policies recently, recalling employees to the office in an effort to improve communication and team collaboration.

So is remote work better than office work, or isn’t it? Unfortunately, Humanyze CEO Ben Waber tells Sarah Kessler at Quartz, there is no simple answer to that question—it all depends on the type of work being done, among other factors including the culture of the organization and the amount of teamwork involved:

A European retail bank that hired Humanyze to analyze its office layout, for instance, found that sales teams that spent time interacting in person outperformed those who worked remotely. That appears to contradict an often-cited 2014 study by Stanford researchers that looked at how working from home impacted employees at a Chinese travel agent’s call center. The study found that employees at home were on average 13% more productive, making more phone calls and spending more time on the phone.

But the circumstances of the two workspaces were very different. Members of the sales team, Waber hypothesizes, benefit from learning how others do the job better. In-person, an improvement one person makes is more likely to be shared with others. …

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