There are many ways to create an environment where great internal comms thrives. Does social media offer fresh options? You’ll have heard about Workplace by Facebook but this new case study gives some interesting new insight…
by Lindsay Narey
It’s been around seven months since we gave Workplace by Facebook the literal and digital thumbs-up.
Its arrival was something of a whirlwind. New Chief Executive = new vision and a renewed desire to make our 1500-strong, geographically scattered workforce more connected, communicative and collaborative.
We already had an intranet that’s social, not that old, and not too shabby. Now it had a rival. A much slicker, more intuitive, better looking, more popular rival too. And one that included gifs and emojis.
So how’s Workplace by Facebook, the big, brash newcomer fitting in at our housing association?
Pretty well actually. With 66% of accounts claimed, it’s steadily becoming an integral member of our established suite of internal communications channels.
We regularly live stream announcements and events to the whole business - watched from the comfort of a desk or on the move via smartphones. With this comes the chance to ask questions and react via smiley/sad/angry/amused emoji in real time.
Colleagues based in opposite ends of the UK have found common ground and bonded through their love of a crime thriller in our bookworms group, or fondness for star-jumping in our fitness group. Our smaller offices and remote care and support schemes, who often say they feel out of the loop, have found a voice and a place to share photos and updates with the rest of the business.
Our Chief is one of the site’s top contributors and frequently comments on others’ posts, as well as sharing news about what she’s up to - giving us an insight into life at the top of the organisation.
The slow but sure demise of the panic-stricken ‘WE NEED AN ALL STAFF EMAIL!’ requests for classic broken toilet/car park chaos type messages is a particular highlight. That type of news is gradually finding a more suitable home in our office/location specific Workplace groups.
As a universally recognised, social media powerhouse used by billions it’s perhaps easy to think that Workplace sells itself, and needs little management. That’s partly true, anyone who’s used ‘regular’ Facebook will find its look and features more than a little familiar, so training requirements are minimal compared to other new systems. But to give it the best chance of success, and keep driving engagement beyond the initial frenzy of excitement, here are a few things I know:
Assemble your crack team early doors
Comms, HR and IT are the magic triangle for Workplace success. So get the people and tech folk on side to iron out any social media policy issues and make sure its launch isn’t going drain data and disable the rest of the IT network. Data protection colleagues, especially in the light of the small matter of GDPR, are key too.
Keep it quiet to begin with
Try as you might to keep it within the project team, news of Facebook’s impending arrival will spread like wildfire and you’ll be inundated with enthusiastic early-adopters keen to have a go. Keep it confined to begin with - pick a key office or function, and a group of cross-business Workplace champions to play around with it and share any thoughts, ideas or issues.
Add the top team quickly
Getting your Executive Team on board quickly works wonders with engagement. It’s also helpful when faced with the ‘messing about on Facebook’ perception held by some. If it’s OK for the CEO to use it, then it’s OK for you.
Use it yourself!
It might sound obvious, but as soon as you can, stop emailing and use Workplace for the Workplace project comms! Chat about stuff in a group, share meeting minutes and other updates. It’ll help switch your mindset into a new, more collaborative way of working and communicating.
Think about how it fits
Our intranet is pretty interactive and well-used, so the arrival of Workplace threw up some duplication issues and meant we had to quickly decide how we’d use each channel for what, and guide colleagues accordingly. Although this is ever-evolving, a handy grid explaining what to use for what, and when, helped.
Don’t set too many rules
Workplace’s similarity to Facebook can be a double-edged sword. Would the oversharers within the workforce confuse the platform with their personal accounts and start posting dog news and Magaluf stag do photos? Generally not. Our launch communications emphasised Workplace's position as a business platform which should be used as such, but too many rules are off-putting. “Don’t be an idiot“ is a simple but powerful mantra.
Just as regular Facebook has its friends and foes, the same goes for Workplace. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying how it’s reshaped the way we share and connect with one another, but those who aren’t a fan of social media in their personal lives might struggle to embrace it in a work sense. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. But you might win them over when FOMO on what’s being said about the office Christmas party kicks in.
Whether Workplace will eventually override and replace our intranet remains to be seen. And whether in time it’ll kill off email too is another ambitious but not entirely unrealistic notion. What it has absolutely done so far is give internal communications, the way we create and curate content, and how we as colleagues connect, a massive and exciting shake-up. Like.
Lindsay Narey is Internal/digital communications and employee engagement at Metroplitan
image via Tullio Saba