One of the things I love about consulting is that I get to work with a lot of companies, and see what each of them is doing. One thing I’ve noticed is a profusion of tools for helping people to work more effectively together. As I discover tools I find especially interesting, I’ll list them here.
Donut is a wonderful tool that serves two important functions in a remote work environment. First of all, it is a very well designed onboarding tool. It acts as a Slack virtual companion, that chats you up as you start at a company, running through a list of things you need to know, introducing you to people, and for onboarding in a remote work environment.
Donut allows you to set up templates, that you can apply to various roles. So you can have an engineering template, and a people manager template, and a general template. When someone onboards, you select from which of those templates they should follow. Then Donut gives very nice reporting on how they walk through those steps. Because it’s a bot, it also has a nice way of involving other parties in the onboarding. So the onboarding buddy is prompted and reminded at the appropriate time for the steps they are supposed to do. And the manager is prompted to do what they should do. It’s a good way to ensure a more uniform onboarding experience.
A second use of Donut is for random pairings of people. You set up a Slack room, and all the participants in that room will be randomly paired with each other, and sent calendar invites for times they’re both available. It’s a great way to automate random information flow in a company, simulating the random conversations you would have in person in an office. I loved how I would meet random people in the company and be able to ask them about their corner of the world.
I also used it for skip level 1-1 planning. Instead of using a spreadsheet to track a rotation of people, HeyTaco automated it. I had a Slack channel that had everyone in it anyway, so Donut would randomly pair us up for skip level 1-1s at times we were both available.
Donut can do interesting things like pair 3 people together, or randomly select people from a group, so you can do things like have random pair programming sessions, or randomly select people to do gamedays each week.
HeyTaco is a wonderful, simple little tool used to recognize people within your company. You install it as a Slack bot, and provides a place for people to give thanks and recognize other people on the team. There is something about the act of giving tacos that is lighthearted enough that it works as some sort of magic social hack. It has some lightweight reporting and so on, but mostly it’s just a simple way to get recognition going through your company. Although you can replicate it manually yourself, the bot is a nice little layer that incentivizes recognition.
I’m not sure how well it would work in an international context, where tacos may not be a commonplace meal. But when I compare the effectiveness of how this was used at a startup I worked at versus a full on recognition program rolled out by HR at another company, HeyTaco was way better. I think the reason why is that it’s fun!
Fellow is a wonderful tool for more effective meetings. It’s like linking in a Google Doc for every meeting, but has all the right chrome around it to make a nice workflow for meeting planning and notetaking. It integrates nicely with Google Calendar, inserting the agenda into the calendar invite. And everyone gets clear action items and notes, all taken collaboratively. It’s very nicely done, and a tool I wish was at more companies — I highly recommend it.
One thing I like about Fellow is that it helps me plan out my week more effectively. I’m able to spend a chunk of time planning multiple meetings without much switch in context. I love it.
ReclaimAI is a tool to make your calendar more productive. It has a number of really useful tools to help you:
- A calendar sync tool, that moves entries between your personal and work calendar. This can make sure your personal items that happen during your work day (like going to the doctor) are blocked off. Reclaim even puts travel time around the entries!
- Habits, which allow you to put in place blocks of time that flexibly move around your existing calendar entries, but ensure they happen anyway. For example, you can set a daily lunch schedule, that moves a bit if you have something else scheduled. Or you can set some time every Friday afternoon to write up a report at the end of the week. It’s a nice way to make sure you do things you need to every week, but flexible enough it moves around your existing schedule.
- Tasks, which is a way to declare what you need to get done, and it will block off the time in your calendar for it. Again, it’s sensitive to what’s already there. You need 4 hours to finish a presentation? It will find the time for it, and block it off.
Full disclosure, I know the team behind Reclaim. But I’ve been using it for a while now and find it invaluable. Try it out!
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