Blueprint
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Blueprint

Building Culture through Slack

97% of our team checks Slack every single day of the month. Our members spend an average of 500 hours/week on club-related work alone.

Are we workaholics? Probably.

Do we love Slack too much? Absolutely.

However, from this, we’re able to provide 5 nonprofits with beautifully engineered applications every year. For a group of full-time students, this is nothing short of miraculous.

But I’m not a believer in miracles. I’m a believer in culture, and when we take a closer look at our team’s attitude towards the club, it’s obvious there’s something more important at play. Despite being forced to work remotely for a large part of the previous semester, the most common feedback we noticed from members was how strong our club’s sense of community and togetherness was.

In Blueprint, we’ve built a culture where everyone feels a strong sense of belonging and respect. It’s become the norm to acknowledge and care for each member as an individual, and because of this, everyone feels like what they do as an individual member matters.

It becomes much easier to devote countless sleepless nights helping teammates with a task when you know they would do the same for you.

Our strong culture isn’t the result of luck, but there’s no trick or shortcut to getting there either. It’s the result of hundreds and thousands of little actions that everyone takes — ultimately adding up to mean more than any single action.

In Blueprint, we’ve developed numerous internal rituals to make these positive microinteractions as frictionless and easy as possible, using tools integrated right into Slack.

Hey there, I noticed you exist

A common challenge large organizations face is making new members feel included. It’s difficult because there are unspoken norms, existing friendships, and lots of different personalities to be learned about. As a new member, fitting in might not come easily if you’re not as outgoing and extroverted, which can result in feeling like you don’t belong.

In Blueprint, we have a Slack channel called #dawgspotting where members post pictures of each other when they’re spotted out in the wild.

This channel is great because it also allows new members to immediately be integrated into an inside joke without needing to put in any effort of their own.

Typical dawg-spottings around campus

It sends a strong message that everyone in the club is important and relevant enough to be recognized.

As you go about your day, it’s comforting to know that there are always other members nearby thinking about you. It’s empowering to feel that people care about you enough to let others know, especially when you’re new and haven’t had chances to leave impressions on others yet.

Despite being remote, our members still manage to dawg-spot each other in various places online!

Don’t ghost me

I still remember the first time I tried to organize a group of new friends to do something over the weekend. I made a group chat with everyone and asked what people were thinking/planning for the weekend.

3 hours later, not a single response.

I was confused and hurt, but I also knew that it’s not like anybody specifically wanted to ignore me — it’s simply easier to take no action than to sit down and craft a new message.

Regardless, I was left feeling naked and vulnerable.

In Blueprint, we use Slack for all our messaging needs instead of a big group chat. This allows us to have lots of small side conversations without blowing up everyone’s phones, but another important feature is the range of available reactions.

It’s much easier to tap on a custom emoji to acknowledge that you’ve seen someone’s message than it is to type something up in response, and the OP still feels like they’re being heard and accepted.

We love to use our custom reacts :’D

We make engaging with friends as frictionless as possible, and that results in everyone feeling comfortable to open up and share ideas or frivolous thoughts.

Our Slack workspace has dozens of channels to create a space for people to share whatever interests they may have, and everyone knows that no matter what they want to talk about, someone will be there to listen.

Good work should be rewarded

There are countless studies done on the importance of praise in working environments. Yet 65% of employees across the world feel like they don’t get enough praise.

Why is that?

A culture of praise requires conscious effort from not only leadership but also from everyone in an organization.

It doesn’t happen with one person or action, it happens with countless little actions that make it the norm to acknowledge others’ good work. When you build a culture of praise, members are happier, more fulfilled, and more engaged within an organization.

To make it easy to reward and praise people for their work, we use a SlackBot called bigblue that keeps track of points for each member when their name is mentioned followed by a “++”. The importance of bigBlue is not in the points but rather in how it shapes our behavior.

How it works —

When we think of praise, we usually think of big speeches at celebrations or heartfelt notes — both of which are formal and not practical to do on a daily basis.

BigBlue creates a digital space where praise can be given more casually and readily. If reactions were a frictionless way to acknowledge others’ ideas, then using bigBlue is a frictionless way to give acknowledgement for someone’s hard work.

Examples of how bigblue encourages us all to be kinder

Rewarding someone for doing a good job at a worksession or helping another member study becomes as easy as typing out two characters.

The result is a culture where no good deed goes unnoticed and people are inspired to do better work and be better to those around themselves.

tl;dr

As the world inches more and more towards a remote work culture, it becomes more important than ever to build a strong sense of community online. Developing culture isn’t easy, and no single person can do it alone. However, by creating systems and tools to make the process of caring for our teammates as frictionless as possible, we’re giving ourselves a fighting chance.

Special thanks to Tanthai for helping with this piece!

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We're a student-run organization developing software pro bono for nonprofits and working to bridge the gap between technology and social good.

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Johnathan Zhou

Johnathan Zhou

Product Manager @Dropbox • @johnathanzhou • https://johnathanzhou.com

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