There are a lot of important factors that go into building great communication habits in the workplace. For example, Forbes suggests four critical steps, including being transparent, taking a team-focused approach, publicizing objectives and key results (OKRs), and getting specific with follow-up questions. But as your organization grows, you might find it harder to navigate this process at scale. That’s where team chat apps come in to make communication easier!
- What are chat apps?
- The benefits of using team chat apps
- Features to look for in team chat apps
- Team chat apps to try in 2023
- The better alternative to team chat apps: Fellow
What are chat apps?
Team chat apps enable real-time collaboration between groups of employees. Most frequently, chat apps are a form of text-based messaging service that companies adopt so team members can post updates, ask questions, and engage with the wider team. And as many companies are adopting hybrid working models, chat apps allow both remote and in-person workers to connect and discuss project details.
The benefits of using team chat apps
Chat apps have been widely adopted over the past few years with over 3.3 billion users worldwide, and for good reason! They bring a strong set of benefits to businesses of all sizes, including:
- The ability to connect remote and in-person workers to discuss projects, which improves team alignment.
- A shared go-to space for asking questions, which can make reaching out for help feel less intimidating.
- A shared channel for posting updates, which allows all employees to access company-wide information as it’s available.
- The ease of tracking communication habits, which helps managers with performance evaluations.
- A space for team members to chat one-on-one, which improves relationship building and team engagement.
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Features to look for in team chat apps
- Organized conversations. A great chat app will allow you to create separate conversation areas (often called “channels”) for individual department conversations or to host one-on-one communication with someone else. This makes it easy to store all of your communications around a given topic or team in one place, rather than losing information in email threads or phone calls.
- Great search function. When you’ve been back and forth communicating with your team, you might lose track of a specific piece of information. You’ll want to look for search functions that allow you to search by both keywords and dates. This way, it will be much easier to track down what you’re thinking of.
- Video and audio functions. It’s pretty common now for team chat apps to support video and audio functions, so this is beginning to be a minimum requirement for a high-quality tool. With the ability to do audio or video conversations, you improve accessibility, cater to more preferences, and also allow information sharing to happen even faster.
- Easy collaboration. There are plenty of ways that chat apps can help you build great team collaboration habits. Some smaller features to look for include document uploads, the ability to tag people (so they get notified), and integration capabilities with other apps in your tech stack.
Team chat apps to try in 2023
Slack is one of the most common team chat apps—especially for technology companies. It’s very intuitive with a professional-looking user interface (UI), so it’s quick for beginners to learn. It’s also very powerful and can host integrations with tons of software tools. Like most chat apps, Slack allows you to create custom channels as needed, either for specific departments or for niche purposes such as making announcements on company policies.
- View team engagement with the analytics dashboard
- Integrate the tool with many other software products
- Instantly “huddle” within each channel on either audio or video calls
- Easily set up integrated workspaces to connect with external companies
- A free version is available
- Paid versions start at $7.25 USD per user per month
Discord was designed as a place for gamers and school groups to hang out and communicate via text, audio, or video, but it has great use cases for businesses as well. Using the team voice calls feature allows you to mimic the feeling of in-person collaboration, which can go a long way toward making remote teams feel engaged and included. The “Nitro” version of Discord also allows you to access more features, such as bigger file uploads.
- Easily view who is online so you don’t risk calling someone who’s offline
- Set up team voice calls for your employees to pop in and out as needed
- Use strong moderation controls as needed
- Set up custom group or private channels
- A free version is available
- Nitro Basic is available a $3 USD per month per subscriber
- Nitro is available at $9.99 USD per month per subscriber
Microsoft Teams is the ideal team chat app for any company that’s already leveraging the rest of the Microsoft Suite including Outlook, Word, Excel, or OneDrive. It’s a group chat software that allows you to create custom or private channels, but you can also integrate the rest of your Microsoft tools directly into the conversation, which makes collaborative work easier.
- Create meetings and access meeting recordings directly from the chat
- Easily view upcoming meetings from your Outlook calendar in MS Teams
- Collaborate on documents in real time
- Make use of breakout rooms and whiteboarding for further collaboration with higher-level plans
- A free version is available
- Paid business plans start at $6 USD per user per month
If your company relies heavily on Google Suite services such as Docs, Sheets, Drive, or Gmail, you should consider the benefits of Google Chat, too! It automatically integrates into the rest of Google’s services. This makes it easy to quickly search and share documents with your team members so you can get projects moving forward quickly.
- Set up dedicated collaboration spaces for niche purposes
- Leverage Google’s search engine within the tool
- Integrate the tool with popular third-party apps like Jira and Salesforce to easily access business intelligence
- Business plans start at $6 USD per user per month
Chanty is another high-value team messaging software. It’s quite affordable, and as your team scales you can continue to add new features for extra costs as needed. This means you won’t pay for features you won’t use! It’s a great option for budget-minded companies or small teams that don’t need a lot of features to get started.
- Benefit from 99.9% guaranteed uptime on all plan levels
- Create unlimited private and public messaging channels
- Leverage built-in task management tools to keep your team on track
- Leverage unlimited audio and voice messaging on all plan levels
- A free plan is available
- Paid business plans start at $4 per user per month
- 25% discount available for annual subscriptions
Mattermost is geared towards supporting technical team communication. It has a strong focus on maintaining privacy and security, so it’s a great option for companies in highly regulated industries such as financial services or healthcare. Because it’s made for more technical teams, Mattermost might not be the best option for beginners but it can offer great customization for more experienced chat app users.
- Opt into self-hosted or cloud hosting
- Create and manage playbooks for generating scalable processes
- Oversee feature development and open tickets with in-app boards
- Leverage tons of options for custom integrations
- Self-hosted plans have a free version available and paid plans start at $10 USD per user per month
- Cloud-hosted plans start at $10 USD per user per month
The better alternative to team chat apps: Fellow
What is Fellow?
Fellow is a meeting and management tool where teams gather to have productive team meetings and meaningful 1:1s, build collaborative meeting agendas, record decisions, and keep each other accountable. With Fellow, you can apply one of our 500+ meeting templates to a collaborative meeting agenda or start your agenda from scratch, record meeting notes, assign action items, organize your ideas, and exchange feedback to level up your meeting habits.
Plus, Fellow has a never-ending list of integrations that connect with the tools you already love, such as Fellow’s Google Meet extension, which allows you to take meeting notes right within your Google Meet call. Fellow’s Slack extension also helps you manage your meeting agendas from Slack to easily move conversations from Slack to a meeting for effective follow-through.
Why is Fellow the better alternative to chat apps?
A big task for managers is organizing their teams. With traditional chat apps, managers don’t get to see an overview of long-term progress. But with Fellow, managers can easily click back to older meetings to view the goals that were set or action items that were assigned, so they can easily hold direct reports accountable for performance objectives. This makes performance reviews and one-on-one conversations more defensible and streamlined.
Fellow also enables quick feedback exchange that is well documented and easily searchable. Having this information available alongside meeting notes, OKR plans, and other documentation that is uploaded to the meeting files, both employees and managers will develop a culture focused on fast and continuous improvement. On the flip side, team chat apps won’t typically make relevant files available in one place.
When thinking about expanding communication across the rest of your tech stack, Fellow integrates seamlessly into commonly used tools like Zoom, Google Meet, and Hubspot. This enables teams to minimize context switching and maximize knowledge sharing. As tools are available within your most-used software, you’ll make it easy to record and distribute notes to other team members. In comparison, team chat apps can only support the transfer of information within the tool, but can’t integrate the conversation to other major software.
There’s no doubt that team chat apps are useful for the modern company. But how you make use of these apps is really where you’ll maximize the benefits. Staying transparent with your team, setting communication expectations, and ensuring your team gets properly onboarded can help make using team chat apps much more effective! If you’re a manager looking for other types of tools to make the day-to-day more productive, check out this list of 18 tools here!