For many people during lockdown, social media proved a reliable, even comforting, way of keeping in touch. London-headquartered Vodafone, which owns and operates networks in multiple geographies, has been attempting to bring that familiar social media experience to the enterprise with a rollout of Workplace from Facebook.
Patrick Yiu, Social Media & Channels Lead in the company's global Group Corporate Affairs, explains how in 2019 the company had been looking for an internal comms platform option that align with Vodafone's culture and work practices. It also had to be flexible, user-friendly, offer an intuitive experience, and would let team members feel part of an inclusive community, no matter where or how they worked. Yiu said:
We operate in over 20 countries, with thousands of employees based all over the world, and so even before the pandemic we needed a way to connect our entire organization.
We needed a single internal comms platform that would allow all of our employees to connect with the organization and each other. This meant bringing Vodafone's company culture to life in a vibrant online community which provided the right channel for us and other local comms teams to communicate news to employees.
A sense of inclusion
Yiu and his team decided that the ‘Workplace from Facebook' solution met all these requirements, plus offered an extra potential benefit: familiar features and processes users may know from using the social networking giant's consumer site, which should mean rapid, easy adoption for employees.
What probably has had the most impact, Yiu believes, is the high level of "excitement and dynamism" the tool has brought to internal comms-especially, since the platform was rolled out shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yiu said:
The platform has supported vibrant, employee-led communities to come together and represent different interests throughout our organization. We also now use images, video and live discussions to communicate important news and announcements, boosting engagement.
Over the pandemic this has been crucial in driving a sense of inclusion, while people were physically distanced. It also helped us to build a sense of pride in the company, as we used Workplace to share details on how we were contributing to the pandemic response, by doing things like providing connectivity to hospitals, free SIM cards for schools for e-learning, and community donations. Having Workplace when the world suddenly went into lockdown was a huge benefit to us.
Finger on the pulse
Vodafone also made use of ‘pulse' Workplace surveys during lockdown, Yiu adds:
We all know that the pandemic has had an impact on people's wellbeing and mental health. By using Workplace to amplify these surveys, we were able to get a broader view of exactly what our employees were going through and what they needed. We could then share the results and any next steps to reflect this on the platform to continue the conversation.
How this works in practice, Yiu says, is via an online space where employees can network, as well as share personal interests and ideas with their colleagues. One of the original project goals centered on building employee engagement with senior leadership. This included a regular series of discussions called ‘Stay Connected with Nick', where employees could engage with the company's CEO, Nick Read. Sessions are open to all, and anyone can submit questions.
Yiu's office has also run a few global events with third party speakers, in conversation with Vodafone executives, on topics such as mental health, menopause, racism and Pride, as well as a ‘Red Loves Green' Workplace group, which is run by those with a passion for the environment (red being the company's corporate colour). Yiu said:
By using community-building features, like video and group conversations, employees have also been able to hold two-way conversations with leadership. It's also helped our leaders be more transparent when communicating across the organization.
Integration with other tools
Now 18 months into the project, 90,000 employees are connected on Workplace and there are over 1,000 active Workplace Groups worldwide. The project's success can be put down to the fact that employee experience was always kept front of mind, Yiu argues. Moderation has been key. His team, for instance, is careful not to overload people with too much content to watch, or too many events to attend, for instance.
The system also has reporting tools that have allowed Vodafone to keep a close eye on feedback from employees, so that Yiu's team can try to understand what content and information is proving most valuable to them, to guide what should be tried next.
Yiu says the aim of Workplace from Facebook continues to be to build an environment that inspires a common purpose and encourages connections between colleagues.
As a result of its success so far, Vodafone says it will now continue to use Workplace as a key cross-company way to build engagement, by making it a central hub for employees, regardless of whether they are in the office or working remotely. To this end, it's now actively investigating possible integration with other Vodafone productivity tools such as Microsoft Teams to support employee collaboration even further.
Yiu said that the plan is to marry physical and digital spaces by doing things like holding events in person, but simultaneously broadcasting them live on the platform for the wider organization. The hope is that such mixed events will serve to "level the playing field" for employees across physical and virtual environments. Yiu said:
This system will be a key channel as we build out our ‘future-ready' approach, which will determine how, when, and where our people work in the future.
But whatever the future holds, our goal is to use the software as part of our strategy to create an engaged, inclusive work community for our multinational employee base.