There are many ways to skin the internal comms cat. Facebook Workplace has been a successful choice for one housing organisation and their staff as this case study shows.
by Mike Underwood
If you’d have told me 14 months ago that we’d pull the plug on our intranet to make way for Facebook, I’d have laughed in your face.
But here I sit, writing this a day after the Exec Team at Futures Housing Group approved this exact proposal. Why? Well, we like to be bold at Futures.
It was December 2016 when my Chief Executive, Lindsey Williams, challenged the comms team to reinvent how we do internal comms.
Our traditional intranet was creaking at the hinges while office closures and better technology were ushering in a more agile, mobile workforce.
So we needed a more accessible, content-friendly way of keeping our people connected to the business.
Playing the field
We looked at an app version of our intranet. Too pricey.
We looked at Yammer. Too cold.
We looked at building our own. Too much like standing still.
But in March 2017, I received an email from Facebook Workplace to say that our request for a trial had been confirmed.
From small acorns…
We began softly, rolling it out to a small group of 20 people with no instructions other than to play with it. By April, it had grown organically to 64 users and there was a clamour from others to get signed up.
We learned a lot even from this short trial and produced a one-page dos and don’ts graphic and animation before officially inviting every one of our 275 staff to sign up to Workplace.
Let it grow
As a comms team our mission was simple: give a little guidance up front, hold a hand or two if asked, encourage with the odd like or comment, but generally step back and let it ferment.
This really worked and people began creating and curating their own groups around innovation, transformation, IT, politics and music among others.
Watch it bloom
But it really took off when the Chief Executive started posting and commenting on people’s posts.
Whether it was a simple “stay safe” comment on a tradesman’s post about driving in adverse weather or a post about visiting our developments, it seemed to give others permission to get involved.
The brightest flowers
Our most successful posts are always the ones which tell a story (obviously), provoke an emotion or which are voyeuristic, such as live footage.
For example, we used Facebook Live to broadcast our 20-minute staff awards ceremony to the whole organisation. It’s usually an intimate affair attended by a few people and the Chief Executive. This year, however, around 200 of our 275 staff either watched it live or recorded on the Group news feed.
Facebook was also critical in helping us spread the word and raise more than £12,000 for Shelter; it has broken down silos, giving office-based staff a much greater insight into the lives of our frontline teams, and vice-versa.
Workplace has also been central to internal comms campaigns – a perfect platform for our multi-media, content-rich campaign to raise awareness of GDPR.
How does it compare?
Our engagement rate on Facebook Workplace is now touching 60%, with 63% of those staff accessing it via a mobile device.
In total, 95% of our organisation has signed up to use it (nearly 20% more than ever visited our intranet).
And at the same time, engagement on our intranet has plunged to less than 10% and never reached higher than 55% at its peak.
While the stats and the majority of feedback is extremely positive, I’ll be totally honest and say it isn’t loved by all.
Some are concerned that there is too much ‘noise’ and they’re worried about missing important information (we’ve used groups to combat this); some people simply ‘hate Facebook’ or think people who post on Facebook simply aren’t busy enough (so we’re still trying to sell it to them).
But with communication being everyone’s responsibility at Futures, Workplace is the perfect place for us to give staff the tools to fulfil that obligation.
While there is no question that Facebook is working for us, we will know much more now that we have officially switched off our intranet and whether or not Facebook is the paradise platform we are seeking.
Mike Underwood is head of communications at Futures Housing Group
image via Tullio Saba