How To Virtualize Your HR Department

Did you know many traditional HR functions can be accomplished inside a single software—Slack? Marc Maxmeister explains.


If your organization isn’t large enough to have an HR department yet, there are many software products that can help you support your team in many of the same ways HR departments do.

First, what are some common HR functions?

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Professional development and tracking employee performance
  • On-boarding, off-boarding, and training
  • Leave, sick days, and group benefits, such as healthcare and retirement
  • Culture, compliance, fair compensation, ethics, and negotiating disagreements
  • Travel arrangements and reimbursement
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Audits, board relationships, and government compliance
  • Data privacy and protection

There are many different software solutions for each of these HR functions. Did you know many of them can fit into a single software built for integrating apps into a workflow—Slack? Here are some tools and approaches that get you started in Slack and save you time:

1. For recruiting and hiring: Slack provides an outline for the recruiting and hiring workflow, including designing job advertisements and reviewing applications. I’ve personally done some of this in Slack, forwarding all the applicant emails from Gmail into a private Slack channel. Then, I tracked which ones we read, responded to, and prioritized, using emojis, and shared a Google spreadsheet with summaries on each candidate.

2. For team member recognition: GlobalGiving uses the HeyTaco app. It lets Slack conversations become part of the formal employee recognition, which feeds into how employee are evaluated and compensated. Before this app, I created my own custom integration that creates a leaderboard of team accolades, explained here.

3. For new hire orientation: Let’s be honest—your organization’s manual will never be up to date (or doesn’t even exist!). One solution is to invite new hires into specific Slack channels where they can read the history of what has happened for a given project. Whereas constructing a history of what has happened from old emails takes time and is difficult for others to read, with Slack, you can share the history of the project and give links to important moments in that channel history where they should start reading.

4. For training: At GlobalGiving, we think staff training makes a big difference in the quality of an organization’s work. We currently invite project leaders to webinars, but we are exploring how we can move more of that interaction into shared Slack channels, where lessons will be part of an organization’s searchable history

5. For making your company policies available to all and keeping your team informed about changes to policies: Try building a wiki. Wiki pages are more likely to be read than offline documents and can be generated from the content of Slack itself. Examples include: Slimwiki, Tetra, and Guru. All of these allow you to search content within slack and build documentation from the conversations you team is having. They differ in how much flexibility they offer in limiting who can see the wiki. A page could be public-facing, company-wide, or limited to just a group within the organization.

6. For organizing meetings across 24 time zones worldwide: There are many slack plugins that translate messages you post in your timezone to the local timezone of the person reading it, making communication clearer. Example: Channel Time. In addition, Slack channels integrate directly with Skype, Google hangouts, and other meeting apps.

7. For team culture: There are many apps to choose from, so many in fact, that Slack has its own directory for these.

8. For giving the boss anonymous feedback: There are apps to allow this to happen, which opens a useful and necessary vehicle for team members to anonymously report complaints. Examples: Micro Feedback, Happster Feedback.

9. For tracking vacation days, sick leave, and other holidays: Try TimeBot or LeaveBoard.

10. For invoices, expense tracking, and approval processes: Major accounting software packages like Xero and QuickBooks can be integrated with Slack using IFTTT,, and Zapier. These third party tools let you set actions in one place that trigger actions in another place. This is especially helpful if you have senior leaders who only need to sign off on things once in a while.

11. For making decisions and polling: There are several good polling apps (see “giving feedback” above). But if you really want to keep it simple, use the built-in emojis for 0 through 10 and just write a message with your question and each response people can vote on. Number your answer choices in the message using these emojis. Then attach each of the emojis for these responses to the message as a reaction. Tell others to click on the emoji (and upvote) corresponding to their choices. This is a simple way to create a one-question survey within a channel.

12. For cross-team collaboration: Create a shared channel with the other team’s workspace. Then, you can talk to each other directly. If you need to collaborate with two or more other workspaces, use the app I built to let a community share channels. If you have outside contractors and board members, give them guest accounts with limited access. There are many ways to obtain the right level of access and announcements across your team, as I outline in my book, “Slack for Project Management.”

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