We recently began evaluating how we communicate with the team and each other at Klocke Farms. Over the last several years, we used white boards for lists and metrics, regular meetings to collaborate, and cell phones to communicate various tasks and notes via text.
While these modes of communication are useful, we often experienced their limitations. Group texts are great to message everyone, but can be difficult when searching for past messages. Trying to toggle between teams is tedious. Sharing documents, photos, and data is often a time-consuming chore.
We went to work looking for a cloud-based platform that was inexpensive (preferably free!) where we could all effectively communicate with each other. We began using Slack because of previous experience with the app at PigEasy.
Slack is an information sharing/communication app. Slack is set up so participants can communicate in topic-based channels, private groups, and even direct messaging. While typically used for non-farm businesses, we have found it to be a highly effective tool for our farm managers and staff.
The best part? The price is right. We are using the free version and have yet to see a need to upgrade.
This is how we currently have our Slack channels set up for the sow farm:
Keeping it simple, we broke out the departments and other topics we typically cover. #Logbook is for logging any management/product changes so we can refer to it when we see any production variations.
There is a private group for managers and human resources, and everyone has the ability to privately direct message anyone in the organization.
Here are some pros for using this communication app:
- Slack saves up to 10,000 messages that can be viewed and searched for.
- The search feature has proven to be especially important as we look back at old messages of importance. We won’t reach the 10,000 messages limit for quite a while, so that limit shouldn’t be an issue.
- Once we reach 10,000 messages, Slack simply deletes the oldest message so there’s no limit to how much communication happens in Slack.
- Easily share documents. (Slack stores up to 5gb of files)
- Just like messages, we can easily search for files. The files we share are smaller, so that limit shouldn’t be any issue.
- Can integrate other apps into Slack. (up to 10)
- Integrating other apps into Slack is still new to us, and we are learning. We have quickly seen how effective it is to have all these tools in one place.
- Prior to Slack, we used paper time-off requests between employees, managers and human resources. Timebot is a Slack integrated app where the entire process can be done with a few clicks. Now, slips can’t be lost, communication is in real time, and everything is accurately recorded. Timebot is free for the level we’re currently using.
- Workast is another Slack-integrated app we’re currently testing. The jury is still out on this app, but the perceived benefit is this: employees can create, assign and check off tasks all within the app.
- There are many third-party app options, paid and free, that can be integrated into Slack. We are now just scratching the surface of the many options available via Slack.
- Information stays with the app, even during staff turnover.
- When there is staff turnover, we avoid losing key information by using Slack. All previous messages and shared data are retained. Admins can quickly remove former employees and add new employees.
- Can easily toggle between channels, private groups and direct messages
- Slack improves effective communication with the entire team, select groups and with one-on-one communication. Managers can communicate privately with each other via a private group, even when they are away from the farm.
- Employees can privately message our human resources manager, even when they are working remotely.
The few cons we experience are:
- Cell phone use.
- Many farms have a strict “no cell phone” policy.
- Using this app can sometimes lead to promoting more cell phone use instead of less.
- Getting buy-in.
- Change. Is. Hard. Sometimes it is difficult to switch gears into a new process. If staff can’t embrace the new communication strategy, the app will not succeed.
- Coordinating the different capabilities between the desktop and mobile app.
- When setting up Slack with the #maintenance channel, we planned to have a running checklist for tasks. Unfortunately, the only way to create and update the checklist is on the desktop app. Most teammates only use the mobile app, so we can’t use that feature.
Our conclusion: we are pleased with our transition to app-based communication. Our team at Klocke Farms will continue to utilize and improve on its use. Using Slack, we know the right messages are getting to the right people.
How do you communicate important information on your farm?
To download Slack, visit: https://slack.com/
Time-off requests: https://time.bot/
Task management: https://www.workast.com/