#Slack: a DNA of Learning

"At Slack, we think about work as learning and learning as work."

Ariel Hunsberger, the Head of L&D, Slack.

Think about that for a moment...

How many organizations around the world think that employee learning is an opportunity cost and they should spend less time learning and more on the actual work. I guess a lot of them.

Slack, for those who don't know this company, its no slouch.

It is one of the fastest growing companies in silicon valley with 1000+ employees and reportedly, projected revenue of 350 million in 2019, the growth of 50%+ year on year and 900 million in cash. The company is preparing to go public in 2019 and looking for a billion USD valuation.

Ariel Hunsberger, the Head of L&D at Slack reports that she has an awesome level of support from her management team and she spends less time building a business case for learning and more time defining how she can use learning to shape the culture of Slack.

Jealous right.. yup I can feel it. :)

So how do they do it and what is their learning approach?

Learning Approach:


How do we get people to...


How might we build a system where the most people possible can succeed?

The Answer:

Step 1: PULL not PUSH:

I have seen several L&D managers say this but most of them do not know how to implement this. With Slack, this is one of the guiding principles. Slack’s platform is a collaboration hub, and it’s also ideal for delivering bite-sized chunks of just-in-time learning. People can self-serve information when it’s relevant—it’s as easy as doing a search through a Slack channel to find the resource or link they need or checking the pinned items for that channel.

Step 2: Active Learning:

Online and ILTs based on problems or questions rather than answers. People learn best when they are solving a problem together. The topics could be varied for example how to avoid unconscious bias or Public Speaking: why do we fear it so much.

"We’re always looking for the intersection of learner curiosity and business needs. Because we spend a lot of time talking about our goals as a company, this happens quite naturally." Ariel says.

Step 3: Communities of learners:

At Slack, diversity is the most important factor to solve a business problem. So you will almost never see training organized for a department or a team. Courses are designed around a business problem and everybody is invited. This is based on a principle that to solve a problem you need a diverse set of individuals and their opinions.

Other Lessons:

- Leadership courses are given by the leaders of the company.

- Mentoring program is a high priority and run by employees which promotes inclusiveness.

- Storytelling is a big part of all courses. (More about this in the next article)

What can you learn from slack:

Their Story.

If you are an L&D manager/leader in your company. Please learn about slack and how a fast-growing company from silicon valley has adopted learning as a primary tool for their culture.

Your CEO will be more happy to hear this against any new theory which you hear from any of these big consultants who do not understand what you are going through. Trust me, I have been in your position.


The Journeyman

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