The phrase “Zoombie” was coined this year as the global workforce experienced fatigue from the overuse of online video conferencing tools. Maintaining personal relationships without overburdening team members is difficult, but we’ve seen one approach work fairly well: Creating and maintaining an internal forum for sharing experiences. In other words, blogging.
In this interview, we spoke to Brittany Sudlow, Product Marketing Manager for Confluence at Atlassian, about how their team uses an internal blog and videos to go deeper than threaded text without overloading team members.
📚 Related reading: How Atlassian Finds and Fixes Antipatterns
This isn’t our first time talking about Atlassian — we chatted with Ashley Faus on identifying and addressing antipatterns before. In case you missed this first issue, Atlassian is a global company with more than 3000 employees and 150,000 customers worldwide. The company provides team management tools including Confluence, Jira, and Trello. Confluence is a team collaboration tool for sharing documents and workspaces.
Brittany noted that working at Atlassian requires a high level of cross-team collaboration since there are several specialized teams within marketing. This collaboration isn’t just about getting the work done — it’s also about having a deeper sense of connectedness.
In this article you’ll learn more about:
- Creating an internal blog for sharing both personal and work-related insights
- Motivating people to use internal communications in ways that deepen connections
- Techniques for reducing meetings while still sharing all the information needed
📝 Internal Blogging: Going Deeper
The Atlassian team uses internal blog posts on Confluence to share long-form information across teams. Brittany noted that the blog format allows people to get an idea of what other employees are doing, relating to both their personal and professional experiences alike.
Unlike Slack communications, these blog posts don’t end up getting buried in high-frequency threads. They have a longer lifetime and lend themselves to documenting experiences that others can revisit over time.
“Every new hire is encouraged to write a welcome blog — where you come from, your hobbies and pictures — fun pages usually. Almost every employee that leaves writes a really nice goodbye letter as well. People use memes, gifs, and emojis to show their personality. You'll also get updates from engineers, for example if they tried a new way of doing sprints or a new way to code.”
In order to create and maintain a successful internal blog, Brittany cited five techniques that Atlassian employs to encourage regular engagement:
- Encouraging welcome blog posts. This is a way for new employees to get familiar with the platform and habit.
- Regular updates by management. At Atlassian, executives post recurring updates and Human Resources uses the blog as their official channel for updates.
- Positive feedback only. Brittany mentioned that throughout the pandemic, people have felt open in sharing personal stories or even stories about social injustice, and there are never any negative repercussions for what they share.
- Comments and likes. Like you see on any social media, popular posts are highlighted so that people have access to the most relevant information across the organization.
- Recognition. Management and other teams recognize the value of the blog posts for cross-functional communication. “Nobody knows what I’m doing here in marketing if I don’t make it public. It’s always a great feeling when the CEO “likes” your post.”
The Transparency Process
With cross-functional and remote teams, having clear processes in place is one of the themes that run throughout all of our Behind the Team interviews.
Brittany contributed to this theme by sharing her planning process that creates clarity each quarter. Prior to the start of the quarter, every team publishes their plans and works with adjacent teams to set up the structures for execution.
“The Transparency Process at Atlassian is a unique process done every quarter. A program manager will assist you to create JIRA tickets for every request you have for a specialized marketing team. So you submit, prior to the start of a new quarter a request for assistance from the email, webinar, paid ad, website team, etc. Each JIRA ticket has a set of fields specific to the type of task. These templates form the basis for predicting workload and bandwidth to plan for headcount. It also creates mutual accountability because the content team might message me saying: “Hey Brittany, it's January 20 and you had an email ticket for January 30. What’s going on here? We need your feedback.”
If you’re interested in implementing a similar process on your team, keep these keys to success in mind as you get going:
- Create consistent cross-organizational templates, so any department can quickly understand the other department’s needs
- Enforce regular intervals for the process
- Adopt tools that support the process management
- Assign a reasonable Project Manager to steward the process
- Communicate with other teams and reach agreement in advance
💊 The Zoombie Cure
Just about everyone has conference call fatigue these days, so finding other ways to connect is essential for managing morale and company efficiency. The team at Atlassian has responded by putting more emphasis on Slack and Loom:
“We heavily use Slack (and Confluence) for non-video communication, however, sometimes that isn’t rich enough feedback but you don’t want to jump on a formal 30-minute Zoom call. Instead we’ve been experimenting with other asynchronous video platforms like Loom to record video updates or screenshares. Videos...but on your time.”
As a substitute for face-to-face communication methods, Brittany said the company uses a combination of approaches:
- Short videos for feature explanations, quick answers, and updates
- Internal blog for sharing experiences and insights
- Slack channels for general discussion and lightweight coordination
- Confluence and Jira for project management and Trello for brainstorming
Brittany also mentioned that people are communicating more about how to communicate. Rather than just setting a meeting, they message one another to find out the person’s preferred methodology for communication.
Taking the time to find out about other people’s preferences improves communication and simultaneously creates a culture of caring across the company.