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A woman in a yellow hat engaging in business communication via remote video call. She is speaking with one other attendee over a screen. She is at her desk with a monitor, keyboard, mouse and other digital devices.

How AI will power the future of business communication

By StrategyNo Comments

Remember that scene from Dr. Dolittle where Eddie Murphy talked down a tiger from a ledge? 

A screenshot of Dr. Dolittle, played by Eddie Murphy, talking a wild tiger down from a ledge.

It seemed bizarre then. But thanks to AI, this ability to decode animal communication will soon be within our reach.

Of course, it’s not that simple. But it is possible. And that’s what makes this AI-powered future so exciting, especially for business communication. 

Generative AI has already changed the way we communicate. Chatbots like ChatGPT promise effective content creation, making internal and external communication more efficient.

In fact, IT leaders look at generative AI as a game changer. Even skeptics who think the technology is overhyped agree that generative AI will help improve the customer experience.

The main fear, of course, is whether you can trust a third-party tool to safeguard your data. After Samsung’s workers inadvertently leaked trade secrets via ChatGPT, companies have naturally been more cautious.

The solution? Native integrations and in-built features in apps you already love and use. Think automated call summaries, AI-powered customer insights, and auto-generated status updates. These generative AI tools will change how we work forever. 

Slack GPT

Introducing the ChatGPT app was just the first step of Slack’s vision for generative AI. With Slack GPT, a natively integrated conversation AI experience, they’re all in. 

Slack GPT will allow organizations to integrate AI-powered apps and use different language models. 

So the next time you’re back from a break, you won’t have to play catch-up on Slack. With built-in generative AI, you’ll be able to read conversation summaries. 

A screenshot of SlackGPT's features in action. SlackGPT allows users to sum up unread messages.

Plus, if you’re worried about how you sound (and that’s a real concern in hybrid and remote work environments), Slack GPT will help you tweak your messages and adjust your tone. 

Read: How AI Will Impact the Future of Work (And What That Means for You)

Slack GPT will also work with Einstein GPT — an app that helps access secure customer data insights from Salesforce Customer 360 and Data Cloud.

So when customer service teams are stumped by an issue, Einstein GPT may be able to auto-generate case summaries that provide much-needed context to efficiently and quickly close the ticket. 

Microsoft 365 Copilot

Microsoft’s Copilot, advertised as “your copilot for work”, combines large language models (LLMs) with data in Microsoft 365 apps and Microsoft Graph to help you unlock more productivity. 

Copilot is embedded in Microsoft 365 apps. For instance, you can use Copilot in Word to get a jump on your first draft. Similarly, Copilot in PowerPoint and Excel can help you generate presentations and data visualizations in mere seconds.

A screenshot of Microsoft's Copilot in action. Microsoft Copilot allows you to effortlessly create content (for example, you can draft a proposal from yesterday's meeting notes).

But that’s not all. Microsoft’s new feature Business Chat works across the LLMs, your data, and Microsoft 365 to act on your natural language prompts. You can tell it to summarize your new product feature, or prepare a status update for the team on your new OKRs. 

Copilot features are also available in Viva Sales — it can recap the call, outline the next steps and update the CRM at the end of sales meetings

Microsoft plans to bring Copilot to all its apps in the months ahead. It’s currently being tested with a small group of customers with plans to expand soon. 

Google’s Bard and Help Me Write

Bard, an LLM chatbot developed by Google AI, is still under development. But with its default access to the internet, it’s already a step above ChatGPT. Plus, you can export answers to Google Docs and Gmail. 

We asked Bard what features it’ll have in the future, and here’s what it said:

“Bard is still under development, but it is constantly learning and improving. As Bard continues to learn, it will be able to do more and more things. Here are some of the future features that Bard is expected to have:

  • Multimodal capabilities: Bard is currently able to understand and respond to text-based prompts. However, in the future, Bard is expected to be able to understand and respond to multimodal prompts, such as text, images, and audio. This will allow Bard to have a more comprehensive understanding of the world and to provide more helpful and informative responses.
  • Better creativity: Bard is currently able to generate creative text formats, such as poems, code, scripts, musical pieces, email, and letters. However, in the future, Bard is expected to be able to generate even more creative content, such as paintings, sculptures, and music. This will allow Bard to help people be more creative and to express themselves in new and innovative ways.
  • More robust knowledge base: Bard is currently able to access and process information from a massive dataset of text and code. However, in the future, Bard is expected to have a more robust knowledge base, which will allow it to provide more comprehensive and informative responses. This will make Bard an even more valuable tool for learning, research, and problem-solving.
  • Better ability to learn and adapt: Bard is currently able to learn and adapt to new information and situations. However, in the future, Bard is expected to be able to learn and adapt even more effectively. This will make Bard a more powerful tool for communication, collaboration, and creativity.”

Bard’s future abilities to generate even more helpful and concise answers will revolutionize Search.

But for now, let’s hope that Google can help make writing emails less terrifying. Google’s Help Me Write feature for Gmail promises to turn one-line prompts into full-fledged emails. This feature is being rolled out in phases and is currently free to use for all users.

A GIF featuring Google Bard and its Help Me Write feature in action. The GIF shows you can use Bard to write emails generated by AI.

Airspeed’s AI-enabled Shoutouts and Celebrations Slack apps

Giving kudos and celebrating wins are small, yet meaningful ways to keep employees engaged and recognize their hard work.

Recognition also impacts productivity. In fact, Nectar HR’s survey found that 75% of workers would be more productive if they received praise more frequently. And best practices suggest employees should be recognized on a weekly basis. 

But it can be hard doling out praise at scale. Imagine having to write hundreds of these messages celebrating milestones or highlighting good work every single week.

Airspeed’s AI-enabled Slack appsShoutouts and Celebrations—can help you craft the perfect message while nailing the tone and powering more frequent employee recognition.  

A screenshot of the SHoutouts by Airspeed Slack app. Users can generate a kudos message with AI and easily recognize team members. You can customize AI-generated responses by answering the prompt "Is there anything you want to mention?", and also select a tone of voice.

Just add important details you want to be mentioned, select the tone of voice, and click on “Generate a message with AI.” It’s that simple!

AI is powerful but not perfect (yet)

Even though a lot of generative AI tools will help us do what we’ve never been able to do, business communication will still require human oversight. 

Apart from the usual data and security concerns, generative AI runs the risk of fabricating information.

ChatGPT and Bard both warn users about the risk of factual errors. Even Microsoft warns users that Copilot may be “usefully wrong,” which is code for don’t blindly depend on its output.

These “experiments” cannot replicate the human touch.

We might find ourselves in a twisted Black Mirror episode where our AI assistants know us so well, they can talk like us without going rogue. But for now, we’ll have to make do with imperfect (yet useful) generative AI tools. 

Want to get a jump ahead? Airspeed’s Celebrations and Shoutouts Slack apps are available now for free: limited spots available.

A woman sitting by the pool with a hat and white long sleeve shirt on. Her work laptop and notebook beside her on the floor.

A new virtual watercooler: Using travel tips to build remote work culture

By Remote WorkNo Comments

If you have a dispersed workforce, chances are that you have teammates spread out across the country. You may even have a few coworkers that you’ve never met in person… based on entirely different coasts and time zones! 

While team members may not be able to physically connect on a weekly basis, the most successful remote teams recreate the best parts of an in-person office environment, online. A virtual watercooler model can do wonders to foster community and connection

Getting to know your coworkers also improves your team’s wellbeing and morale. Talking about travel can be a particularly effective way to open the door for further conversation. Travel-focused icebreakers are a great way for coworkers to bond and learn more about each other, especially for geographically diverse teams.

Leverage your team’s geographical and personal differences to your advantage. You can encourage your employees to embrace remote work to its fullest extent by initiating conversations and icebreakers that revolve around travel. By doing so, you can help create strong connections and build a strong remote work culture that reinforces itself.

An illustration 4 people at a table asking each other 4 different travel-related icebreakers that allow you to get to know people better. Questions include, "Describe your dream vacation", "If you could travel to only one other country, which would you choose?", "If money was not a consideration, where would you spend your days?", and "What is one goal that you plan to accomplish during your lifetime?"


The benefits of encouraging travel in a remote workforce 

If you have a remote team, you’re already giving them the gift of a built-in travel network. With such an array of local experts and backgrounds, distant team members are best suited to exchange travel tips and tricks (and maybe even offer some local secrets along the way). 

Some companies even offer subsidized travel to visit other coworkers and spend time together in a physical space! Other companies host quarterly or biannual conferences and offsites to get the entire team in one place. With “bleisure” set to become a $3 billion industry by 2032, there are many opportunities to take to the road. 

Encouraging travel is great too: it’s a way to inspire your employees to take their time off and fully disconnect. It’s easy to send off an email while you’re still at home – harder if you’re sightseeing in another city. 

In some cases, planning a trip is good for your mental health. Research has shown that anticipation for a trip can increase someone’s happiness more than the excitement of buying material goods. This is because people prefer talking about experiences, rather than purchases. 

An open work laptop, notebook and mouse sitting on a desk with a tropical vacation drink nearby. There is a water glass with flowers inside.

Exchanging travel tips at a virtual watercooler builds a strong remote work culture

In a remote capacity, team members have the ability to work from anywhere – so why not work while on the road? While some folks are true digital nomads, living on the road and never staying in one place for too long, others can practice it just by taking their work in a different location every once in a while. 

Regardless of what type of remote worker you employ, having a strong remote headquarters is paramount to making sure your employees are set up for success, no matter where they log in from. Encouraging your team to share tips and tricks about traveling can reinforce the flexibility and culture you’re building. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when bringing travel talk into the workplace:

  1. Encourage people to be honest but mindful. Every person has a different financial or personal situation. Maybe a teammate can’t take a dream trip due to a sick relative or financial hardship. When talking about travel and vacation plans, be mindful that everyone might not be on the same playing field. You don’t want to alienate anyone!  
  2. Create open communication about time zones and availability. If you’re going to encourage travel and true remote work, make sure your team knows to communicate their hours. If the majority of your team works on the East Coast, but someone is visiting Seattle, a 9 a.m. ET meeting might not make sense. 
  3. Show, don’t tell. Digital tools offer an unique opportunity to express ourselves and share our stories online. Have your employees share photos or videos of their travels and adventures. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words! 
A person working on their laptop by the pool.

Virtual watercooler: Travel edition 

The whole concept about the “watercooler” is based on the random conversations people would have as they’re, well, getting water. Who knows who will be there and what kind of connection they can have in those brief moments?

Part of what makes watercooler talks so enticing is how spontaneous they can be. Some people describe the office watercooler as a liminal space – a place of transition between where you were and your destination. Liminal spaces can even be tied to creativity. 

One downside of remote work is the lack of serendipitous conversations, with some saying it’s impossible to design spontaneity. It’s why companies like Airspeed are focusing on recreating the types of interactions you’d have in-person online for the remote workforce – a virtual watercooler, if you will.  

Slack apps like Icebreakers can help facilitate this process by sending out questions ahead of a meeting (like an all-hands) and pooling responses. Your team can spend time together reading everyone’s replies at the beginning of your meeting. These questions can help connect people and start conversations. Some travel-related icebreakers include:

  • If you could teleport anywhere, where would you go?
  • Where was your favorite place you traveled and why?
  • If everyone came to where you live for a company trip, what’s the first stop on the tour? 

Maps is another app that can help connect people in real life as well. It shows the real-time location of team members, so they can schedule in-person time together, stay connected across time zones, and share upcoming travel plans.

Ultimately, finding ways to encourage travel talk among your team members enables leadership to practice what they preach, and reinforce the type of culture you are building among your team. And who knows – they may hit it off so much, you could have coworking pods throughout the country!

Join the fun – unlock Free Early Access to Icebreakers and Shoutouts by Airspeed.

A photo of a female remote worker smiling at her computer as she receives employee appreciation and recognition.

Employee Appreciation Ideas You Need To Accelerate Performance (+ Tips and Examples)

By SlackNo Comments

A global study of 200,000 managers and employees found that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cited the lack of appreciation as a significant factor.

The lack of appreciation isn’t just bad for employee retention. It’s bad for business. Underappreciated employees run low on morale and aren’t motivated to do more than the bare minimum—another form of “quiet quitting.”

On the flip side, effective recognition can accelerate performance. A joint research report from Workhuman and Gallup found that if the average organization doubled the number of employees praised every week, it could see a 9% increase in productivity.

The correlation between profits and productivity is clear. What organizations need is to be more strategic about appreciation and execute it to near perfection.

Who should be doling out praise?

We’ve established that employees need recognition, but who should it come from?

The short answer is everyone.

Managers should create a “recognition-rich” environment so that praise flows in from every direction.

But if we take a closer look at data from Gallup to identify where the most memorable praise comes from, employees report the most memorable recognition comes from their manager (28%) and a high-level leader or CEO (24%). In fact, positive feedback from the CEO may be a career highlight.

Peer feedback is also important, but it ranks slightly lower (9%) than feedback from customers (10%).

How frequently should employees receive praise?

While it may seem like praise should be treated as a reward for good work, regular positive feedback is crucial.

Gallup recommends offering this type of employee feedback every 7 days.

But every week may seem extreme. The 2020 Culture Report from the Achievers Workforce Institute suggests recognition should occur at least once a month.

7 employee appreciation ideas (+ examples, tools, and tips)

We asked people leaders and scoured company blogs to answer one question: How do successful appreciation (and recognition) programs work?

As expected, the ideas that stick are easy to implement in everyday work. We distilled their insights into these 7 high-impact ideas that make employees feel appreciated. 

#1. Shoutouts on Slack

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If you’re a “Slack-er,” you’ll love how easy it is to send and receive kudos with Airspeed’s Slack app, Shoutouts.

Screenshot of the Shoutouts app by Airspeed, showing the app in action. The hero image shows an example shoutout to Senior Engineer Jenna Wilson from Shikhar Patel for catching a bug before releasing their latest app version. Shikhar’s example shoutout shows a Recognized For section, an Impact Section, and a Values section. The image also features responses from other coworkers, similarly praising Jenna for her achievement.

Type 🏆(trophy emoji) in any message and @mention the co-worker you want to recognize or /shoutout in any channel.

The ready-made Shoutout template makes it easy for you to heap praise and offer feedback. Here’s an example:

A screenshot of the Shoutouts by Airspeed Slack app, showing the templated questions – "Who do you want to recognize?", "What was their impact?", and "Where do you want to send this Shoutout?"

You can also tag company values to show your appreciation.

A screenshot of the Shoutouts by Airspeed Slack app, showing a drop-down tab with the question, "Did they demonstrate any company values?"

Peers and managers can also nominate someone to receive glowing recommendations from senior leaders like so:

Screenshot of the Shoutouts app by Airspeed, showing the app in action. The hero image shows the app’s CTA button (Nominate someone for a Shoutout), and also shows the Shoutouts template when a user wants to recognize their coworker. The template features two questions – “What do you want to recognize them for?” And “Who do you want to forward this nomination to?”

And if you’re unsure what to write, use the in-built AI generator. Just share what you want to highlight and the tone of the message.

A screenshot of the Shoutouts by Airspeed Slack app in action. You can enter things you want to mention to customize your message, and even select a tone of voice.

#2. Tweets and posts on social (or billboards?)

You’re probably familiar with Morgan Stanley’s tradition of welcoming summer interns by plastering their faces on Times Square.

These interns can’t help but praise the company’s warm welcome and feel appreciated by their employer.

A screenshot featuring an Operations Analyst Intern at Morgan Stanley thanking the company for the opportunity to work at the company. This comment is in response to Morgan Stanley's tradition of showcasing intern faces on a billboard in Times Square, New York.

But if you want a low-cost, high-impact way to appreciate employees, stick to posts and tweets on social media. It’s equally effective (minus the grandeur) and makes new hires and existing employees feel valued. 

Loop in your social media team to create an effective strategy so you can run various campaigns to welcome new hires, reward the employee of the week or month, or give employees a shoutout when they cross a milestone. 

For instance, Gong, the revenue intelligence platform, hosts an employee appreciation month where they shout out all their “Outstanding Gongsters.”

Pro Tip: LinkedIn allows you to “Give Kudos” to anyone you’re connected with and share a public post. Navigate to their profile and click on More and you’ll see the option.

A screenshot showing Linkedin’s “Give Kudos” feature in action. A Design Consultant at World Bank Group shows appreciation for his coworkers.


#3. Regular check-ins and check-outs

The concept of a “check-in” isn’t new. Nearly every manager has regular 1:1s set up to discuss progress and challenges. What’s necessary is that leaders ask how people are doing and mean it. 

The pandemic has upended all our lives—possibly forever. The lines between personal and professional lives have blurred with the rise of remote and hybrid work. It’s of paramount importance that employees feel seen in order to not feel like they’re cogs in a machine.

Also, with the past layoffs (and more to come), survivor’s guilt can impact performance and reduce morale. It’s important to build human connection at work now more than ever.

But what are check-outs? We came across this interesting concept courtesy of Hyper Island, a global learning provider. A daily check-out serves as a moment of pause and reflection. While they do this team-wide, a 1:1 check-out at the end of the day or week is a great way to talk through challenges and call out good qualities.

BTW, check this really cool resource on questions you can ask in 1:1s to get to know your people better.  

#4. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and personal achievements

Celebrating anniversaries and birthdays at work is a small but meaningful way to make employees feel appreciated—a practice that’s pretty common across companies.

If you use Slack at work, consider using Celebrations by Airspeed. You’ll never forget another special date again and make it possible to celebrate the occasion company-wide.

Team members can sign a virtual card with GIFs and templates in seconds. And the app follows up with the celebrant so they can share photos of their special day later.

A screenshot of the Celebrations by Airspeed Slack app in action. You can enter things you want to mention to customize your message, and even select a tone of voice.

Plus, you can save time by creating a personalized card message with AI. Just add what you want to mention and the tone of the message.

If you don’t use Slack, consider doing a quick announcement in the employee newsletter:

A screenshot of Btag's monthly employee birthday announcement newsletter.


While birthdays and anniversaries are commonplace, personal accomplishments outside of work are equally important. Shout out these achievements in the employee newsletter. Better yet, bring them in all-hands meetings so other people can learn more about them.

#5. Handwritten thank you notes

A handwritten thank you note will probably never go out of style. It says you took the extra time to write a note of gratitude.

But thankfully, you don’t have to actually write hundreds of them. Companies like Handwrytten use AI to create human writing, helping you scale this nice gesture. They even mail them on your behalf.

A screenshot of Handwrytten's AI-generated notes.


Tip: Here are sample thank you notes you can use for inspiration.

#6. Offer extra vacation time

Offering extra vacation time is a nice perk that helps employees feel valued, while also preventing burnout. If you offer unlimited PTO, encourage your team to actually use it by enforcing a minimum of 20 days every year.

You can also offer extra company-wide vacation. For instance, HubSpot introduced a Global Week of Rest where the entire company takes an entire week off every year.

#7. Host your version of Dundies

Okay, so you may not want an actual repeat of the popular Dundies episode from The Office, but Michael Scott had the right spirit.

Instead of only giving out performance-based awards, offer fun awards like “best GIFs on Slack”, “best email signature,” or “best catchphrase.” Not only does it spread joy, but it also makes everyone on the team feel seen.

Recognition vs. appreciation: Employees need both

Recognition and appreciation are two different things. The former means recognizing what an employee has achieved, and the latter shows gratitude for a person’s inherent value.

They’re often used interchangeably (and we’ve done the same) because it is hard to untangle the two. Recognition makes employees feel appreciated. And frequent appreciation makes employees feel valued and subsequently receive recognition.

What’s important is to detach recognition from positive outcomes and to heap praise – even when your teams face challenges.

We also have to stop gatekeeping recognition. When there’s a finite amount of praise that’s doled out during an all-hands or a team meeting, managers tend to only recognize top-performers, leaving everyone else feeling unappreciated. 

At Airspeed, we make it easy for everyone to both appreciate and recognize employees without being burdened by clunky apps and context switching. Airspeed’s suite of Slack apps are designed to help you give praise in everyday contexts and celebrate all the special moments. Plus, with guaranteed stellar support, you know your employee appreciation strategy will always be top-tier.

Get Free Early Access to Shoutouts and Celebrations by Airspeed

A blog header featuring Lisa Russell, CEO of Aleria.

Lisa Russell, CEO of Aleria, explains how measuring workplace inclusion creates stronger company culture

By InterviewsNo Comments

Measuring workplace inclusion has become crucial in today’s business world, as companies strive to cultivate strong workplace cultures that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). According to Deloitte’s Leadership Center of Inclusion study, 80% of employees consider inclusion a critical factor when choosing an employer, while nearly 40% would switch to a more inclusive organization. 

A culture of inclusion is, without a doubt, critical to achieving success in all aspects of your business. And one aspect where it really matters? Retention – especially for millennial and Gen Z employees. More data from Deloitte shows that 69% of these young workers are more likely to remain with an organization for five or more years if it has a diverse workforce. And according to research by Glassdoor, a whopping 76% of employees consider DEI in company strategy to be a “non-negotiable” factor. 

Here’s what it comes down to: if companies want to attract and retain top talent in today’s diverse workforce, they’ve got to make inclusion a priority. And that means creating a workplace culture that values diversity and makes everyone feel welcome and supported. 

In this exclusive interview, Lisa Russell, CEO of Aleria, shares her insights on measuring workplace inclusion and fostering an inclusive company culture. With her years of experience in DEI, Lisa breaks down simple ways to gauge the inclusivity of your workplace and offers practical solutions to create a culture of belonging.

With Lisa’s strategies, any company can build a more inclusive workplace where employees feel valued, respected, and supported. Keep reading to find out how your company can measure and prioritize inclusion as a core part of its culture.

An African-American woman working with her computer on her lap. She is smiling at her screen.

Why measuring inclusion in the workplace matters

For Lisa, measuring inclusion in the workplace isn’t just about employee satisfaction – it’s also about the bottom line. 

“We’re looking to understand the day-to-day experiences of employees and use that information to pinpoint where business leaders can decide where to focus their resources and really drive impact. That impact is in employee satisfaction, but ultimately, also business performance. That’s really what we’re looking to do – we want to make it easy for folks to make the right decisions as they look to drive more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Ultimately, making employees feel valued is one of the easiest ways to improve productivity and profits.

I genuinely believe that we can and should have more business leaders who are approaching everyday business differently, right? We need more entrepreneurs that can accept that. We have this opportunity to not only prioritize purpose and impact, but also drive profit. And those things don’t have to be at odds with one another.”

Lisa Russell’s inspiration behind measuring workplace inclusion

For Lisa, measuring inclusion in the workplace isn’t only about driving impact. Her passion for her mission truly comes from her upbringing.

“I have a personal mission to remove barriers for folks. A few months after I graduated high school, my mother and her husband went to prison. Almost immediately, I was able to see how society expected less from me and gave me access to fewer opportunities – all as a result of something that really had nothing to do with me or anything that I could control.

That experience changed the way that I see the world and put me on the path where I am today. I work each day to understand and highlight opportunities to truly remove these barriers from the day-to-day experiences of folks and make things more equitable.

Over the course of my life, that began to look very different. Early in my career, I focused on community building, educating and creating opportunities for meaningful connections – really, just opening doors for folks.”

The birth of Aleria started when Lisa met her co-founder, Paolo Gaudiano.

“Paolo is a complexity scientist who studied ways to measure and predict the outcomes of changes in behaviors in the workplace. We took his foundational academic research, developed the product – our process and the frameworks that we’re using today. We’ve been working together ever since. For the past five years, we’ve taken the application of his underlying research and applied it to the workplace to help folks understand what impact and outcomes they can drive through change behavior.”

An Asian woman works remotely with her computer and tablet on her desk. She is smiling while her daughter hugs her.

How Aleria creates an inclusive culture

Aleria’s culture is cultivated through its mission and data-driven approach, developed as a team effort. 

“We are on this mission to change the way people think about diversity and inclusion, but more importantly, what they do about it. We’re also data-informed in how we make decisions, both internally and externally. We’re also impact focused. We hold ourselves accountable for measuring and understanding the impact that our work has on folks on a day-to-day basis.

One thing that’s truly foundational to our culture is that as a team, we’ve collectively developed a very intentional set of values that guide how we work, who we work with and how we prioritize things.” 

A unique factor that shapes Aleria’s cultural approach? Unsurprisingly, their own work. 

“Realistically, it becomes a bit of a harsh mirror sometimes. We are constantly talking about how to improve the employee experience in other settings, or flagging opportunities for other organizations to do better.

That naturally sets a very high bar amongst our team and our employees internally. Everyone on our team is aware of ways to measure and create inclusive organizations. We’re a constant work in progress because of it.”

From past to present: Aleria’s challenges

“We’ve been in business for over five years, but the earliest days of that work really looked like consulting. As we were developing, we really wanted to ask ourselves, ‘How do we measure inclusion?’ and ‘How do we drive change?’”

While Aleria’s mission has remained the same, the way they’ve executed their work has changed as their client base grew bigger.

“We launched technology to enable it to scale in mid-2020. And then more recently – last year – we rebuilt the product from the ground up and launched a new version that was more in line with your typical B2B SaaS startup. Our mission has always been the same, but how we deliver on that mission has evolved at least a couple of times at this point. 

With each of those iterations, we find that our day-to-day looks different. The people we need on our team look different, who we’re selling to might look different. Being able to maintain culture and folks’ sense of value and recognition in the organization through those shifts was always very challenging. 

We made sure we were over-communicating, and that folks had that level of transparency that allowed them to be comfortable. We made sure we were still recognizing them for their contributions, even if the contributions look different than they might have a couple weeks ago when we were selling something different.

That’s really on business leaders themselves. As we’re navigating pivots and redrawing the boundaries of what business is, we have to make sure that we’re keeping folks looped in and letting them know that we still value what they’re doing.” 

How day-to-day interactions shape workplace inclusion and culture

For Lisa, the connection between workplace inclusion and culture lies in the day-to-day interactions we build with employees.

“One of the clear findings that we’ve seen over the last couple years is this idea that it’s not policies or systems that make folks feel more included or supported. It’s people – it’s individual interactions. I’d encourage everyone to take it on themselves and think about the one thing that you can do as an individual to make one person in your company feel a little bit more included each day.” 

Companies like Aleria have already built systems of recognition throughout their employee experience, but has yours? 

Building systems of culture from scratch is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Airspeed has recently launched a suite of Slack apps to help you build moments of recognition and appreciation for every employee. Whether you want to introduce new hires, give kudos, celebrate work birthdays/anniversaries, start meetings with icebreakers, or see where your teammates are – we have an app for that.

Ready to build an inclusive workplace culture? Unlock free early access and get started with Airspeed.

A blog header featuring Zbiotics' Growth Marketing Associate, Rob Ryan.

Culture Champion Rob Ryan shares how ZBiotics maintains a strong remote work culture

By InterviewsNo Comments

Welcome to Culture Champions, a blog series where we dive into the minds of exceptional individuals who are driving positive change in their workplace. In each installment, we’ll be speaking with culture-focused managers and contributors who care about making a positive impact on their team. 

We spoke with Rob Ryan, the Marketing Operations Associate at ZBiotics. Rob shared his unique perspective on building culture at an early-stage startup, and divulged some tips and tricks for other employees looking to do the same. Keep reading to learn how you can boost your workplace culture!

Can’t wait to learn more about being a Culture Champion? You can also read past interviews here. Explore our conversations and discover new ways to build a workplace where everyone can thrive.

A photo of a laptop with a remote Zoom call open and a mug besides the computer.

Culture Champion Tips & Tricks

1. Give us your one-minute pitch on who you are and what you do.

“I’m the Marketing Operations Associate at ZBiotics – we’re dedicated to creating, providing, and championing GMO products for good.

I really help our marketing department run like a well-oiled machine week in and week out. I coordinate follow-ups after our weekly check-in, which we have every Tuesday. We meet as a department and just go over what’s going on. 

Among other things, I help manage our marketing expenses and make sure those are all in line. We also partner with a lot of different YouTube and podcast influencers on YouTube and podcasts, so I help build out our landing pages for these partnerships, which we have every now and then. We have 15 people right now, so I would say that no task is too small these days.” 

2. Tell us about your favorite team-building activity or tradition.

“This is an easy question to answer. We have a company-wide standup every day of the week (except on Wednesdays) where we meet for 20 minutes. We’re still small enough to do this. It’s just our daily standup with the whole company and we get to see each other, which is awesome.

The main focus of this meeting is to outline what our main priorities are for the day individually and to inform people what we’re doing that day. But after that, we have 5 to 10 minutes where we give colleagues or team members kudos. We give shoutouts to team members for going above and beyond, or knocking a task out of the park. I really love that recognition that we have on almost a daily basis, because it really helps maintain positive morale. Every day, we get to acknowledge the positive in what we do for each other.”

3. What’s one thing you do to build a positive culture for your teammates?

“I try to be positive day in and day out, but that’s obviously not always easy week over week.

One of the biggest things for me, especially for a remote-first company like ZBiotics, is trying to maintain watercooler conversations. We might not all be together in the same physical space, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to a colleague and just chat with them. 

We use the Google suite of tools (like GChat), so it’s really easy to start a conversation and ask, ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’ 

It really helps when work isn’t necessarily the main topic of conversation. You get to know each other in a better way, and on a deeper level, it helps build empathy across the team because you get to know your colleagues personally. 

There’s really no downside to just asking someone, ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’ every once in a while.”

A photo featuring the Zbiotics team at an in-person meetup.

4. If you had all the budget and time in the world, what’s the first thing you would do for your team culture?

“Having more opportunities to meet in-person, maybe even quarterly, would be fantastic.

Being a remote-first company, we really make it work well for us – but it’s always a pleasure when we get to meet in-person. At ZBiotics, we have an annual kickoff every year in January where we all get together. This past year, we met in California, just south of San Francisco near our lab (which is in Mountain View). It was really cool – we got to tour the new lab and meet everyone. 

I even got to meet some coworkers for the first time who had recently come aboard. We also have a company retreat halfway through the year in July where we try to all get together again. 

Those in-person events are so invigorating to me. Of course, we’re there to do work first and foremost, and these in-person events are always really productive when we are together. But it’s just amazing to see the work that everyone does and to just be around everyone. We get to see each other face-to-face and bond in ways that we normally wouldn’t if we were working remotely.”

5. What’s one thing a manager or higher-up has done for you that made you feel like you were truly part of the company? 

“I really felt like I was a part of the company really early on and I think that is a testament to ZBiotics, its onboarding process, and the culture in general. 

We’re a science-first company and we have quite a few PhDs on the team. Our CEO, Zack, has a PhD as well and he meets with every new hire to walk them through the company’s science for an hour as part of the onboarding process. Bringing that into the fold is really awesome and I hope we keep doing it as we continue to grow.

Zack is also such a personable guy, and it’s really easy to get along with him and chat about anything. He’s always willing to answer questions about the science behind our products, and it can get complicated very quickly.

Another thing is that when I was first brought on to ZBiotics, I was hired as a Growth Marketing Associate. Over time, the work that I enjoyed doing and gravitated to towards most was more in line with marketing operations. My manager, Candace, not only recognized and identified that, but also had the frame of mind to allow for flexibility in my role and responsibilities. She and ZBiotics’ leadership team really helped transition me to the role I’m in now, which really meant a lot. You don’t really come across companies that do that kind of thing and have that kind of flexibility.”

6. If you could share one piece of advice for building a strong work culture, what would it be?

“You can’t force culture to happen, but you can encourage it. There’s kind of a fine line there in terms of culture and walking the walk, but there are ways to foster it. 

One thing that we do during our startups, which is kind of fun and helps foster constant learning, is sharing a fun fact of the day at the end of every standup. We choose someone the day or week before, and we have this person present as a fun fact for 5 minutes. It can be about anything! We’ve had a lot of random ones – we’ve had fun facts about pickles, we’ve had fun facts about snails, and anything in between those two things. It feels very natural and just kind of genuine, which is great.”

For Rob, ZBiotics’ strong culture and leadership team motivates him to do his best work for the company and stay with them for the long haul. 

“I love this company so much and the people are so great. The culture is really phenomenal. I’d love to stay long-term and see ZBiotics grow as a company. I think most, if not all, my colleagues would say the same. It’s just such a unique company and culture, and everyone really enjoys it.

It really motivates me on a day-to-day basis. I want to do my best because I see my colleagues doing amazing work, and I want to meet them where they are.”

A person writing on their laptop.

What’s Next for Rob Ryan?

In his free time, Rob enjoys reading and writing as much as possible. He has a personal Substack newsletter that he sends out occasionally to friends and family. “It’s a fun, creative outlet for me just to share what I’ve been thinking about or what I’ve been listening to.”

When he’s not reading or writing for his newsletter, you’ll most likely find Rob at a concert.

“I’m really big into music as well, so I try to see as much live music as I can. I have a lot of shows coming up this spring and summer here in Chicago, so that’s exciting.”

And even more exciting news? ZBiotics is hiring! If you’re interested in being a part of ZBiotic’s community-focused culture, you can apply for open positions here.

More Than Just Culture Champions: How Airspeed Can Help You Build a Cohesive Team

If you enjoyed reading our latest installment of Culture Champions, check out our other blog posts here. Read helpful tips, insights and best practices to help you create a stronger, more engaged team at work.

Would you like to be featured as a Culture Champion? Let us know here.

And if you’re looking for a simple and effective way to build culture at your company, check out Airspeed’s suite of Slack apps. Airspeed is an all-in-one platform that can help you create a more connected team with built-in engagement tactics. You can introduce new colleagues, encourage watercooler conversations, celebrate milestones, recognize your team’s hard work, and see where your coworkers are located – all without leaving your team’s Slack workspace! Start creating your remote work culture with Airspeed today.

Blog header featuring Libby Rothschild, founder and CEO of Dietitian Boss.

Libby Rothschild on building a strong remote work culture

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Libby Rothschild is the founder and CEO of Dietitian Boss, a coaching company that helps registered dietitians start and grow their business. As a health-centered founder, Libby has taken a lot of care in building a strong remote work culture that empowers her staff. 

Dietitian Boss has been remote since its inception, and Libby has always made sure her employees are satisfied and fulfilled in this virtual environment. Libby is also passionate about hiring employees who align with the company’s values. She believes it’s crucial for building a strong sense of connection among team members while also keeping everyone focused on the company’s mission.

“We live our values and our mission. For us, it matters most when you’re working with clients or staff and you’re faced with issues or have hard days – you remember what you’re doing it for,” Libby says. “One of our staff members has recovered from cancer and she’s really connected with our mission because of her history. That’s a really deep, profound connection that makes the work feel more significant – and the highest human need is to be fulfilled and to feel like your work matters.”

To Libby, this poses a challenge: Finding staff members who are competent, skilled, excited about the mission, and able to work well remotely. 

“With the fast growth in our company, it’s been challenging for employees at any level, to adapt to the pace we’re implementing. Dietitian Boss grew 220% from 2019 to 2020. We have a lot of needs and clients, and it’s been really hard to find people who can adapt to the culture,” Libby says. “Finding the right people that can adapt to our learning curve has actually slowed down some of our growth with having to give people more time and space, while also competing for talent.” 

She speaks further on building a strong remote work culture to differentiate Dietitian Boss from other companies while empowering staff along the way.

A photo of a manager speaking with their direct report in a one-on-one call.

Building a unique remote work culture in the competition for remote talent  

As more and more companies went remote post-pandemic, Dietitian Boss needed to find a way to set themselves apart besides just offering a remote work environment. To Libby, this meant thinking further about the company’s brand itself and what they could give. 

“It came down to building a strong brand and making sure that our values as a company were unique,” Libby says. “We want to attract people who are interested in and aligned with our mission. We want to hire staff that are excited to build on that. But that does mean if we’re competing for talent that can also adapt fast to a remote work culture, there are still struggles with filling spots fast enough.”

Once new hires are onboarded, there are other factors to consider when getting them up to speed. Perhaps new employees have never worked remotely, or aren’t with the tech stack. Ultimately, it’s Libby’s goal to get her team members working as autonomously as possible and guiding them where she can. 

“We have a lot more of our staff reaching out to upper management, needing extra support because they might feel lonely. To combat that, we have to bake in extra coffee chats where upper management is able to be responsive, but not necessarily so much that people aren’t able to get work done.”

“We want to develop people and help promote and encourage them to develop that talent. This helps me feel secure in our recruiting and hiring process: I know that any hire is going to be treated well when they’re in the company.”

Another way Libby gets ahead is by coaching all her staff and providing them with growth opportunities. She also works with them on their professional and personal goals. She pays special attention to those in upper management, so the work they do can trickle down to all staff. 

“I put a lot of attention into upper management because I know that we have to put our oxygen masks on first before we can save anybody else,” Libby says. “People management is an ongoing issue and I’m always trying to empower staff, so they can empower others to be honest and open about what their needs are.”

A woman working remotely at home while petting her dog.

Using employee surveys for better communication and culture 

In order to create the strong remote work culture that Dietitian Boss has, Libby and her leadership team check in on their employees by sending out monthly surveys. This type of benchmarking helps the leadership identify when problems arise and solve them quickly before they become systemic issues. 

“Each month, we send out a survey so we can check Net Promoter Scores for employees. It’s like a temperature check to make sure our employees are satisfied,” Libby says. “We’re doing well on making sure that our employees are happy – and we have the data to prove it. We know if there are any issues, we’d be able to rectify that immediately and see exactly when the problems started.”

This type of reflection isn’t only for team members at Dietitian Boss. Libby and her co-founder also partake by checking in on themselves and how they can better serve their team.  

“I’m in an entrepreneur organization, and I always talk about leadership. How can I be a better leader? What am I not seeing? How can I empower people better on my team?” Libby says. “My biggest piece of advice is to take some time to think about your communication, and to not be afraid to ask for some honest feedback about yourself. That’s more important than ever in a virtual setting.”

This kind of open communication and feedback is what helps make Dietitian Boss’s culture so strong. Despite being remote, they are able to grow and learn from each other and the work they do. While they utilize intentional one-on-ones and coaching opportunities, companies can also offer low maintenance communication using Slack apps, like Airspeed’s Icebreakers and Shoutouts

Ultimately, it will be each company’s individual journey on finding the best way to create a strong remote work culture. Libby agrees:  

“Every company is going to be different, but the willingness to find new ways to measure what works with your culture and your staff. And that’s something that is a big learning lesson for me, that the emphasis is not on the frequency of the test, but the willingness to adapt to what your staff needs and be really open about it.”

A photo of charts to represent Employee Net Promoter Score survey results.
A Culture Champion blog header featuring Liz Leary, an Employee Experience Project Coordinator and our interviewee.

How Culture Champion Liz Leary connects a distributed workforce

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Welcome to Culture Champions, a blog series where we dive into the minds of exceptional individuals who are driving positive change in their workplace. In each installment, we’ll be speaking with culture-focused managers and contributors who care about making a positive impact on their team. 

Our guests come from a variety of industries and positions, but they all have one thing in common: a passion for building and maintaining a positive work culture. We’ll hear from managers, team leads, and other experts who are dedicated to creating a workplace where employees feel supported and empowered.

Throughout each interview, we’ll explore the various methods our guests use to build a strong and inclusive culture. Our Culture Champions will share their insights on what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a healthy and productive work environment.

To kick our series off, meet Liz Leary – a self-described events and experiences designer that builds team connections through intentional, unique events. She works in her company’s Events and Connections department and makes their “Team Anywhere” policy possible by creating global gatherings that bring teams together, no matter where they are in the world. 

Keep reading to learn from one of the brightest minds in the world of workplace culture!

A picture featuring Liz Leary wearing glasses and sitting on the couch with her laptop.

Culture Champion Tips & Tricks

1. Tell us about your favorite team-building activity or tradition.

“The first thing that comes to mind because I’m a total foodie is breaking bread. There is nothing like having an IRL dinner with people and sharing a good cocktail or mocktail. I’m very thoughtful about food and being mindful of dietary restrictions. I love to curate events so it’s specific to everybody and everybody gets the same kind of experience, no matter what their tastes are. I think there’s nothing more unifying than being able to share a great meal together and have a good conversation. It’s a natural conversation starter to be at a table with a whole bunch of people and share in a great meal.”

Another honorable mention for Liz? Competitions! 

“I’m a really competitive person. I think bringing people together on the same team and having to work together towards a common goal is a great thing for a team to do. You could do a cornhole tournament or mini golf – anything. You can go so far with that competition! It doesn’t even have to be sports because you’re going to have teams that don’t want anything to do with being physical. I started organizing trivia nights, which have become a really big thing at the New York office. I break people up into very specific teams – you get to know people you haven’t met before, but that competitive nature comes out and your teammates get to bond over over those things. Good friendships have been formed over those competitive feats.

2. What’s one thing you do to build a positive culture for your teammates?

“Connecting people to people – everybody talking is the big thing. It’s so easy to get siloed at work, especially within your teams. You can even see it when you go out for those nice big dinners. If you don’t have somebody thinking about putting different groups of people together in a very calculated way, you are going to have pockets of people that are always together. You’re never going to get the team to really collaborate and connect the way you need them to in order to see your product just soar.

That’s one of the biggest positives about where I work. One of the things I learned the most from being there from the very beginning is there were all these different teams and pockets, but they all connected. We would purposely plan for the marketing team to come to New York at the same time the sales team was coming, and make sure that they met up at least once. 

You can cross-pollinate and that’s the only way I think you’re gonna have a really cohesive, genuine team. That’s the biggest thing I do – get everybody talking, whatever way that means.”

3. If you had all the budget and time in the world, what’s the first thing you would do for your team culture?

“Hands-down, a non-work retreat. Why spend time going through annual planning and budgeting when we have the opportunity to all see each other face-to-face? We know how to work together remotely – we’ve been doing it forever. But when you’re in-person, you get to connect and really bond with your team. People don’t talk about how important it is to give people downtime.”

For Liz, making retreats unique, fresh and fun is really what drives productive collaboration and innovation.

“When somebody says ‘offsite’, I feel like a lot of people imagine being in a conference room for four hours, somebody’s talking at them instead of with them, and the team has dinner together before going back to their room.

Flip that perception over. Completely surprise your employees: bring them there, and have zero talk about work. When people who work together are put in a room without having to talk about work, they end up talking about work most of the time anyway because you want to find common ground with your people.

But now you’re not talking about what we’re going to do for roadmapping. Now you’re talking about your passion project, or you might think of a good feature that you want to tell the engineering team about. All of a sudden, you’re coming out of this retreat with a completely new PowerUp or product feature.”

4. What’s one thing a manager has done for you that made you feel like you were truly part of the company culture? 

For Liz, working at a startup gave her the opportunity to create her own role thanks to the autonomy and trust-focused culture at her company. 

“When I joined my company in their early startup days, I came on as an executive assistant. All of my managers and the team that I was supporting were my same age. We were all trying to just figure out how to make our product work. They told me, ‘We know we need you as an executive assistant, we just don’t know what you do. So show us what you do.’ And that was probably the best thing. 

I am who I am today because they gave me the autonomy and trust to create my role.”

Liz’s unique past and experience with a variety of industries shaped her passion for building great experiences tailored for fostering connection at work.

“I was an executive assistant for a very long time, but I worked across very different industries. My first kind of foray as an executive assistant was actually working for Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas for three years. I was kind of just a jack of all trades. I came in there and essentially took care of their family. That’s where the love for event planning and organizing people’s lives and taking care of them came from.

I sought stability and structure, so I ended up going into the nonprofit world and that was a very traditional executive assistant role. I built my skills here, and I saw the opportunity to merge what I learned from the Douglas job with my traditional EA role and see what comes of it.”

Liz’s company allowed her to use the skills she gained from her vast experience, but also gave her the chance to focus on the thing she loved the most: planning events that build moments of human connection in the workplace.

“The thing that always stuck with me is that I love events and bringing people together. I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I built my own adventure essentially, but was also given the license to do that.

I teetered between doing traditional EA tasks like putting together our town halls, but there were a lot of connection-based tasks I extracted and decided to take one step farther. 

For all the executive assistants who are listening too, this is something that your role is capable of. You’re supposed to be a jack of all trades. Executive assistants are like Chiefs of Staff at most places, in a way. You have a lot more autonomy than you think.”

5. If you could share one piece of advice for building a strong work culture, what would it be?

“Always assume positive intent. Think about how we communicate. We’re doing it through Slack, we’re doing it through email. Everybody is dealing with their own things behind the scenes. And sometimes when a person replies to you, you’re going to think they’re maybe coming at you from a bad place. 

Communication can get so lost if you don’t go in with an open mind. Be open with people, be vulnerable. Most of the time people are good and you just need to talk through it and dig a little deeper.

When you’re on your next Zoom call, instead of going straight into the content of that meeting, talk to these people! Turn on your camera and interact. Even if that meeting doesn’t go the way you want it to and you end up just making small talk the entire time – that’s where the gold is. That’s where real human connection is made.”

A woman speaking with 3 other female coworkers on a remote video call. She is at her desk, taking notes with a pen.

What’s Next for Liz Leary?

Liz is currently on a 2-month sabbatical. In her time off, she’s focused on herself and her family – as well as a personal side project of hers.

“This has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I’ve taken a lot of time to just not be a human doing, and be a human being because my brain is constantly working. By doing that, I wasn’t taking care of myself. And I needed to really take a very big step back and look at my self-care. It’s so important to just be introspective and aware of your tendencies to be unhealthy. Especially in the tech world, we’re going through all these layoffs and it feels like a dark cloud over everything. And you just have to kind of take a minute to take a break.

I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing, which has been amazing. I’ve been present with my kids, coaching my son’s basketball team. And for the last couple of years I’ve been working on my own brand and kind of going out on my own.

It’s called Gather with LL and my website will be launching April 29. I’m going to be concentrating on all things employee experience and connection. IRL isn’t the only way for us to connect – and a lot of people are burnt out in the virtual world right now. Connection can be done intentionally, and it can be well done. There are other things to do than just these awkward Zoom icebreakers. I want to help others be creative and thoughtful and intentional about all the things that you’re doing for your teams. 

I also want to touch on the fact we are going through kind of an unprecedented time in tech where people’s budgets are small and we really have to be fiscally responsible about what we’re doing. In spite of that, there is still an opportunity to connect, whether that be IRL or virtual. You can still really keep your team top of mind because you’re going to lose them if you don’t make them feel seen, heard and appreciated in this future of remote work.”

A family photo of Liz Leary with her husband and two children.

More Than Just Culture Champions: How Airspeed Can Help You Build a Cohesive Team

If you enjoyed reading our latest installment of Culture Champions, you can access our other blog posts and interviews here. Read helpful tips, insights and best practices to help you create a stronger, more engaged team at work.

Would you like to be featured as a Culture Champion? Let us know here.

And if you’re looking for a simple and effective way to build culture at your company, check out Airspeed’s suite of Slack apps. Airspeed is a free all-in-one platform that can help you create a more connected team. You can introduce new colleagues, encourage watercooler conversations, celebrate milestones, recognize your team’s hard work, and see where your coworkers are located – all without leaving your team’s Slack workspace! Start creating your remote work culture with Airspeed today. 

A blog header featuring a picture of Mada Seghete, co-founder and Managing Director of Branch.

Branch’s Mada Seghete on hybrid work leveling the playing field

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Starting a company is one thing – building, growing, and managing a global team is another. For remote and hybrid teams, scaling presents an additional challenge of making sure your growing team is strongly connected at work.

Mada Seghete is the co-founder and managing director of Branch, a mobile linking and attribution platform. She started the company in 2014 along with three other co-founders. Nearly a decade later, Branch just raised its Series F round of funding at a $4 billion valuation. 

The company seeks to build, grow, and win as a team, together – quite the feat with headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, and 11 offices around the world. For Mada, connecting each and every employee to Branch’s mission is critical to the company’s success. 

Mada discusses how Branch’s hybrid model has leveled the playing field among its international offices. She also shares how she empowers her leaders to bring members of the team together and feel connected at work. 

Branch's team meetup at their Palo Alto headquarters helps keep the team build connection at work.

Building a culture remotely 

In addition to being a managing director, Mada is also the Vice President of Marketing at Branch. Mada wanted a way to connect her team and build culture at work. Yet with more than 600 employees scattered across the globe, finding a way to plan and execute this process was a job in and of itself. 

It’s the reason why Branch created an employee experience position. This person’s main role is to help leaders and managers bring their teams together – not just for work collaboration, but also for social connection. 

“This hire helps me with everything that goes into planning an on-site: finding fun things to do for my team, getting accommodations, helping create the agenda, making reservations for dinner, etc.,” Mada says. “We’re trying to do this for regional leads and more functional teams, because having someone who can actually help plan makes managers more likely to have these events for their teams.”

Even for department-specific on-sites, Mada encourages managers to build relationships with their employees through team dinners and other activities to foster a sense of connection in the workplace. 

These activities allow leaders to recognize who their employees are and how they show up in their best way. Maybe you have an extroverted employee who needs a social outlet to be productive. Or maybe a more shy employee who needs some extra attention to get out of their shell. Bringing people together in a way that makes sense for them can help them feel connected and cared for at work. 

Mada shares her own experience: 

“Even introverts miss being around people. One of my co-founders is an introvert and I know that even he misses being around people not coming into the office. If you’re the type of person who needs to code or work independently, a lot of your time is already spent on your own.”

And while building connections between colleagues takes more work in a remote or hybrid office, there are benefits to the working environment as well. In a way, a hybrid or remote environment levels the playing field among global offices. 

“Disconnection among employees and worrying about remote vs. in-person employees and what is going on in different offices is less of an issue now than it was before when we had some people by themselves versus 200 people in the Palo Alto office,” Mada says. “It’s less of a disparity especially because not only do we not have as many people coming in anymore, but we also bring the entire team together every few months.” 

Branch's Engineering enjoys fun off-sites at cooking classes to create connection at work.

Future planning at Branch 

When it comes to planning for the future and hiring for other positions, Mada wants to emphasize the flexible nature of Branch’s environment, as well as the company’s mission, to future employees. Connecting the team to the mission is really important to get everyone – no matter where in the world they are – on the same page. 

“Our mission is to make a more open mobile ecosystem. We want our people to understand how each project and product at Branch is tied to the mission and how the work that they do on a daily basis is also tied to the mission,” Mada says. “I actually do onboarding sessions with all new employees where I talk about the mission. It’s not just the mission either – it’s also the values of the company and having them understand the differences that Branch has.” 

“I did a big project on employer branding and one thing that makes us different is making sure that everyone involved in the interview process tells the same stories. I want to make sure we present a unified front on what Branch is and what makes us unique,” Mada says. “That has helped a lot in closing candidates and retaining people even amidst the Great Resignation. We’ve also had people even come back to Branch. In the past six months, we’ve had close to 10 people return to work at Branch.”

While Mada does not see a full-time return to office in Branch’s future – especially considering its global offices and their specific needs – she recognizes that there is a greater need for human connection at work. Without regular in-person time, this connection is critical in making sure that all team members are invested in company growth. 

For Mada, though, she sees the future of work as hybrid, with every company having its own unique circumstances. Perhaps there needs to be more in-person collaboration based on the nature of the work. Maybe leaders have studied productivity and have seen that quarterly on-sites are good for maintaining connection and optimizing work production.

Branch's Bangalore office Town Hall meetup encourages in-person facetime and connection at work.

The key to hybrid or remote work? Helping your employees feel connected

Whatever environment your office has, leaders will need to get to know their employees on a deep level to understand what they need to give their best and how to help them feel connected at work. 

When operating in a hybrid or work setting, consider implementing certain tools or apps to help. Airspeed’s Icebreakers and Intros Slack apps make it easy to help team members learn about each other and stay in touch, regardless of location. Not having a physical office doesn’t mean you can’t have a virtual one!

A blog header featuring Chris Lochhead, godfather of category design and co-creator of Category Pirates.

Chris Lochhead, godfather of Category Design, discusses the link between AI and workplace connection

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In a world where generative AI is becoming increasingly omnipresent, many people fear that this technology will replace human jobs and reduce the interactions we have with each other. 

However, for Chris Lochhead, the godfather of category design and co-creator of Category Pirates, he fully embraces AI and its potential role in fostering workplace connection.

Lochhead was chief marketing officer of three publicly-traded Silicon Valley tech companies, most notably Mercury Interactive. After a successful acquisition by Hewlett Packard in 2006, Lochhead went on to write over 30 books – and 13 of them became #1 bestsellers. When he’s not busy writing, he runs 2 podcasts and advises legendary executive startup teams.

In this exclusive interview, Lochhead shares his thoughts on why he believes AI is the future of human and workplace connection. From his unique perspective, he explains how the digital-first world has changed the way we operate, and why AI can enable us to do more meaningful work while developing deeper relationships with our coworkers.

Join us as we dive into the mind of this visionary leader and explore the way the world of work has transformed – including why AI could be a solution to existing workplace challenges.

How to build culture and attract top talent in digital environments

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Designed by Freepik.

As an experienced marketing executive, Lochhead has had the opportunity to witness many great company cultures. The best culture he’s been directly involved with? None other than Mercury Interactive.

“The thing that was great about Mercury was absolute, maniacal focus on results and customers and their problems,” Lochhead says. “From the very beginning, the company was radically customer-centric.”

“Mercury was a place where if you produce legendary results, you were going to love it. If not, you were not going to like it.”

Lochhead went on to describe a situation that made him realize just how legendary the culture at Mercury Interactive truly was.

Mercury’s European marketing division had an open position for quite some time. Lochhead’s direct report had finally found someone who they felt was a perfect fit. She joined, and by the end of her first week, she had quit. His report had apologized for the setback this would cause, but Lochhead had a different point of view. 

“[My direct report] called to tell me this, apologizing that he had gotten this wrong and how we would have to start all over again,” Lochhead stated. “I told him, ‘No, that’s great!’ And he said, ‘What do you mean?’”

“I said, ‘If after a week she was terrified of our culture, then she needed to leave and we needed to hire somebody else. I think legendary cultures attract the kinds of people they are designed to attract and literally repel others.”

Lochhead notes that mission-driven employees are particularly important for startup founders and entrepreneurs. “If the mission excites you, then you want to be there. And if the mission doesn’t excite you, maybe we need to free up your future.”

Attracting top talent with mission-driven mindsets, especially among Gen Z, is no easy feat. But Lochhead says that learning how to prioritize workplace connection in a digital environment is key to acquiring excellent employees. 

“The first thing we have to understand is there has been a radical shift to a native digital world. White-collar knowledge work is going to be digital-first at many companies. It already is, and it’s going to be at virtually every company,” Lochhead says. He explains that there are more native digitals (those who grew up with the virtual world as a primary life experience) than there are native analogs (those who grew up with the virtual world as a secondary life experience) in the workforce. 

“Today, many of us are trying to find this magic line. On one hand we want to be very empathetic, we want to be very welcoming, and we want to focus on connection and collaboration,” Lochhead says. “We want tremendous focus on performance and results, but at the same time we want to be very human with each other. And so I think that’s the place that we’re all trying to get to.”

“To attract native digitals – Millennials, Gen Z – I think we want to create an environment where they feel their digital-first nature is respected. And I think native digitals want some flexibility and agency.”

A young adult working remotely while traveling.
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Small talk, big impact: why virtual watercooler conversations foster authentic workplace connection

Creating a digital-first work environment isn’t just good for your hiring efforts. Acknowledging the shift to a native digital world is also great for your retention rates – and will help you build meaningful workplace connections among employees.

Lochhead acknowledges his ability to build deep and profound relationships online before ever interacting with them in-person.

“I have incredible business and personal relationships with people that I met and collaborated with. I got to know them in the digital world first, long before I met them.”

Lochhead also understands that while collaborating and communicating online is easier than ever, it’s not necessarily the case when it comes to building workplace connections through virtual means.

“In the work world, the digital technologies that have become incredibly powerful and important like Zoom or Slack are for communicating and collaborating, but they’re very rarely, if ever, used for building human connection.

The question at hand for all business leaders, particularly those of us who care deeply about culture, is this: How do we create real, deep, meaningful human connection in addition to communication and collaboration?”

The answer? Small talk. And there’s some science behind it too.

According to a TollFreeForwarding study, analysts found that the positive mental effects of small talk are anything but small.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of workers said that small talk makes the workplace more bearable, and also increased employee motivation and wellbeing. And 77% of those surveyed said that small talk helps them improve and maintain workplace connections with their colleagues. 

“Small talk is the way human beings connect, establish, or re-establish relationships and it allows us to kind of ease in. It gives us an ongoing thing to connect about, and that’s very powerful,” Lochhead states. 

In today’s remote work environment, it can be challenging to foster the kind of casual conversations that happen naturally around the office watercooler. 

However, with the help of tools like Airspeed’s Icebreakers, it’s easier than ever to encourage these types of interactions. By automatically sending out recurring conversation prompts on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, Icebreakers can help you build workplace connections on a more personal level, develop stronger relationships and enhance collaboration. 

A remote employee building workplace connection by video calling with her coworker.
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The Future of Work = the Future of AI

With so many unknowns regarding the future of work, there are a seemingly endless number of questions about how to make the workplace a better world – and no answers in sight.

According to Lochhead, the answer is already here in front of us – it’s called generative AI. However, he doesn’t discount the fears that skeptics may have.

“Is it scary for some? Sure, new things are scary. It’s a little scary for me too. Are there big questions that we have to get answered around privacy and a whole bunch of other things? Absolutely. And do we need to be wise about that? Of course. That said, it’s amazing.”

“Now, in reality, will some people lose their jobs? They will, there will be some displacement,” Lochhead says. “But here’s the flip side. Being legendary at AI prompts is now going to be a radical career differentiator.”

Lochhead shares that this revolutionary technology will not only encourage innovation, but also help level the playing field for those with disadvantaged backgrounds. 

“I’m a writer, but I’m also dyslexic and I also have four or five different diagnosed learning disorders. All my books are co-authored with partners. And as a writer, I use ChatGPT to help me. It’s making me more effective – having both human collaborators and robot collaborators is teaching me.”

It’s important to welcome these rapid breakthroughs with open arms – not shy away from them. For Lochhead, AI will be a building block of the future instead of the fire that burns it down.

“The people who are going to thrive are the ones that embrace the future, not run from it. That’s always been true and it’s going to be true now. When the commercial Internet exploded in the 90s, it set off a wave of innovation that, at the time, we had never seen before,” Lochhead notes. 

“Creative, forward-leaning people are gonna do amazing things with this technology.

The demos that I’m already seeing from entrepreneurs are incredible, and we’re barely in the first inning. I think it’s time to be excited and to embrace this technology and to get ready for a category of new AI-based innovation.”

A man holding a virtual world.
Designed by Freepik.

Creating stronger workplace connections with technology

As companies continue to support virtual work and rely more on digital tools, it’s essential to leverage these technologies to support our human abilities – but not replace them. 

Living in a digital-first environment doesn’t mean you should disregard work culture entirely. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Adapting the ways your company fosters workplace connections through remote or virtual means is now more important than ever when it comes to hiring and retaining top talent. 

“The team at Airspeed has built a radically connected, super fun, native digital startup. And that’s awesome,” Lochhead says.

Current technologies like Slack and Zoom have already helped us learn how to communicate effectively, but most companies haven’t caught up when it comes to building a meaningful work culture online. AI can help take on the repetitive tasks that add hours to your work so you can focus on the more important things – like spending time connecting with your coworkers.

If your tech stack is stuck in the pre-pandemic days, consider using a platform like Airspeed. Airspeed’s suite of Slack apps helps you build meaningful work moments at every step of the way, from onboarding to daily recognition.

Ready to take your team’s workplace connection to the next level? Unlock free early access and experience the magic of Airspeed today.

A flat lay of a phone with the ChatGPT website pulled up on the screen.

How AI Will Impact the Future of Work (And What That Means for You) 

By StrategyNo Comments

Artificial intelligence (more commonly known as AI) is making major waves in the workplace. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard of programs like ChatGPT-4 and DALL-E 2. Existing businesses are finding opportunities to leverage generative AI, and new businesses like Return and Linguix are implementing AI as a core feature of their product development. It’s clear that artificial intelligence is no longer a thing of the distant future – especially when it comes to the future of work.

As technology advances, businesses are looking for ways to leverage artificial intelligence to streamline their operations and increase efficiency. Integrating generative AI into the workplace can revolutionize how businesses and employees operate, all while giving them back time to focus on making the workplace more connected than ever before.

In this blog, we’ll cover a brief history of AI and innovation in the workplace, how AI will impact the future of work, and our final thoughts on what this means for you.

A man working from home in his personal office setup.

The Evolution of AI at Work: Past, Present, and Future

To understand the impact of AI on the future of work, it’s important to look at how artificial intelligence and innovation have gradually improved work over time. From assembly line robots to virtual chatbots, we have seen these changes increase efficiency and productivity in various industries. AI is the next step in this evolution, and it’s already making an impact in many areas.

While ChatGPT is probably the AI software you’re most familiar with, it isn’t the first example of AI software being used in the workforce. In fact, artificial intelligence has a long history of being used in the workplace, dating back to the 1950s. 

Here’s a brief overview of key milestones regarding AI’s implementation in the future of work.

Past Achievements

1950s & 60s:

  • One of the first AI programs was created in 1951 by Christopher Strachey, who developed a checkers-playing program for the Ferranti Mark I computer.

1970s & 80s: 

  • Expert systems were developed to simulate the decision-making capabilities of human experts using decision trees. These systems are used to help humans make tough decisions in a variety of industries, including finance, healthcare, and manufacturing.

1980s & 90s:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a branch of AI that helps computers understand, interpret and respond using the human language. Based on linguist Noah Chomsky’s theories of syntax, NLP was used to develop speech recognition software and other applications.

Current Applications

1990s & 2000s:

  • Robotics became more advanced, allowing for greater automation in manufacturing and other industries. Robots are used to perform tasks such as welding, painting, and assembly. They remain an important part of automation today. 


  • Machine learning, a subset of AI that involves training algorithms to learn from data, rose in popularity in the 2010s. Machine learning has become widely used in industries such as finance, healthcare, and marketing.

Present Day

In recent years, chatbots and virtual assistants (like Zendesk’s Answer Bot) have become common in the workplace. Productivity software companies like Notion are now implementing AI into their software to help users speed up their work. AI’s widespread implementation into business softwares helps employees organize and streamline their projects while freeing up their time to focus on higher-level tasks. 

Future Opportunities

The future of AI in the workplace is bright, with opportunities for automation, real-time insights, and enhanced decision-making capabilities.

With advances in generative AI, companies can unlock new opportunities for innovation, productivity, and cost savings, enabling them to stay competitive in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.

In our next section, you’ll learn how AI can affect the way you work in the future.

A monitor with OpenAI software pulled up on the screen.

Navigating the AI-Driven Workplace

It’s clear that AI will play a major role in the future of work. This is why it’s crucial to comprehend its influence on leadership, middle management, and individual contributors. Employees can better adapt to these changes and leverage the benefits of AI to enhance their productivity, decision-making, and performance.

Below, we’ll explain how AI affects each tier of your corporate structure (and why you should care). 

What AI Means for Leadership

The widespread use of artificial intelligence means that leaders will need to adapt to a new way of working. 

AI adoption has skyrocketed over the last 18 months, with 37% of organizations now using AI in some capacity. And 72% of business leaders believe that AI will be fundamental to the future success of their organization.

Rather than simply managing departments, leaders will need to learn how to manage data and algorithms, using AI to make data-driven decisions that will help drive their organizations forward. This seismic shift will require a deep understanding of AI and its capabilities, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with those who are not familiar with the technology.

At the same time, AI presents new opportunities for leadership to focus on the future of work, which centers on building strong work cultures that prioritize human connection. As more tasks become automated, leaders will have more time to focus on higher-level tasks. This could be developing and nurturing relationships with their employees, promoting teamwork and collaboration, or fostering a sense of purpose and engagement in the workplace. By focusing on the human side of work, leaders can create a more meaningful and fulfilling workplace for their employees. This can lead to greater job satisfaction, increased productivity, and better business outcomes.

While AI can automate certain tasks and support leaders as they build company culture, it can’t fully replace empathy and human connection. Leaders will need to find ways to balance the use of AI with the need for human connection in the workplace. Creating a positive work culture is essential for the success of any business.

How AI Reshapes Middle Management

Artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on middle management, reshaping the way they work and the skills necessary for their success. In fact, workers believe robots are better than their managers at providing unbiased information, maintaining schedules, problem-solving and budget management. 

As AI takes on the more routine tasks a manager might complete (like handling budgets and work schedules), middle managers will need to focus on strategic thinking and soft skills. 

AI can’t do everything, though – the same study found that workers saw managers as superior to robots when it came to coaching, creating work culture, and understanding their direct report’s feelings. AI isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a tool that gives managers the ability to focus on the things that they are better at. 

Understanding AI’s capabilities and limitations, while also knowing how to collaborate effectively with other managers and employees, will be key to succeeding as a middle manager in the future of work.

AI will also change the way that middle managers interact with their teams. With remote work becoming the norm, managers will need to be skilled at leading virtual teams. This could mean leveraging AI-powered tools to keep track of employee performance, provide feedback, and ensure that everyone is working effectively together. Middle managers will need to develop stronger communication and culture-building skills, while also learning how to leverage AI to optimize their teams’ performance.

AI’s Effects on Individual Contributors

AI will have the most profound effect on individual contributors. With more tasks becoming automated, individual contributors can begin to focus on developing new skills that are more difficult to replicate, such as creative thinking, problem-solving, and complex decision-making. 

Increased productivity is one of the most significant benefits individual contributors can experience with AI. AI-powered tools can automate routine tasks, allowing individuals to focus on more complex and valuable work. For example, chatbots can handle customer service inquiries, freeing up employees to work on more strategic projects. According to a study by Accenture, AI-powered automation has the potential to increase productivity by up to 40% by 2035, enabling workers to focus on higher-value tasks that require human skills such as creativity, empathy, and critical thinking.

AI can also improve decision-making by providing individuals with real-time insights and data analysis. By analyzing large amounts of data, AI can identify patterns and trends that humans might miss. For example, AI-powered tools can help marketers identify customer preferences and behaviors, allowing them to create more targeted and effective campaigns. A McKinsey study found that AI-powered decision-making can increase productivity by 20-25%, demonstrating the significant impact of this technology on individual contributors.

Another way in which AI will impact individual contributors is by changing the nature of work itself. As routine tasks become automated, individuals will need to develop new skills and adapt to new roles. This shift will require continuous learning and upskilling to ensure that individuals remain relevant in the workforce. A World Economic Forum report found that by 2025, 50% of all employees will need reskilling due to the adoption of AI and other advanced technologies.

A woman working with her laptop in a living room.

Ethical Risks and Concerns of AI

While there are many benefits to AI for individual contributors, there are concerns about the potential negative effects of this technology. One of the most significant concerns is job displacement, as automation and AI-powered tools may replace entire jobs or tasks. However, studies have shown that while AI may replace some jobs, it will also create many new ones. According to Medium, AI will create 97 million new jobs by 2025, although certain industries and regions may experience job losses.

Reduced autonomy is another major concern that AI skeptics may have. AI-powered tools may make decisions or recommendations that override human judgment. However, it is essential to remember that AI is a tool, not a replacement for human decision-making. Artificial intelligence can help employees improve their outcomes while maintaining control over the final result.

AI has the potential to significantly impact individual contributors in the workforce. By automating routine tasks, improving decision-making, and changing the future of work itself, AI can provide significant benefits to individuals. However, it is also important to recognize and address concerns about job displacement and reduced autonomy.

So why does understanding the benefits and risks of AI matter? Because it empowers individuals to adapt and leverage its power and enhance their contributions to the workforce.

Human and robot hands reaching out to connect with each other.

Final Thoughts

AI isn’t anything to be scared of, and if anything, should be embraced in the workplace. Generative AI won’t fully replace employees, but it will help your human workers reach new heights of success and productivity. Encourage your employees to leverage AI and experiment with tools to optimize their current workload.

So what does the Future of Work look like? It’s one where robots and humans work together to create a happier, more productive workplace.