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How HEINEKEN benefits from using Workplace by Facebook

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

Over the past several months HEINEKEN has rolled out Workplace by Facebook globally to the majority of their workforce. This article describes how individual employees and HEINEKEN are benefitting from being connected globally and what made the launch of the platform successful.

What is Workplace by Facebook?

Workplace by Facebook is a social communication and collaboration platform that connects people within the enterprise and can connect people from multiple companies. It looks and feels a lot like the regular consumer Facebook.

Workplace by Facebook connects employees to improve communication and collaboration. Everyone gets a voice. People communicate about their day to day work to get things done together. But it also helps to connect many brains to seize opportunities and solve company problems. Connections can be made regardless of someone’s position in the hierarchy.

By sharing updates about their progress employees keep colleagues informed and aligned. Because people see one-another’s updates they find opportunities to help each other. The result is a more agile, smarter, and faster company.

Leadership use it to improve engagement, have the opportunity to strengthen company culture, and can transform their old one-way communications to valuable, engaging dialogue.

Here is more about Workplace by Facebook.

Why did HEINEKEN decide to roll out Workplace?

HEINEKEN is a leading brewer and marketer of premium beer and cider brands. Led by the Heineken® brand, the Group has a portfolio of more than 300 international, regional, local and speciality beers and ciders. They employ over 80,000 employees and operate breweries, malteries, cider plants and other production facilities in more than 70 countries.

Being world class and dispersed means that you have highly qualified and knowledgeable people working all over the world separated by time and space.

Connecting all employees regardless of age, rank, education, or location in the world and leveraging their knowledge, experience, and pride is a very big opportunity for HEINEKEN. HEINEKEN sees Workplace by Facebook as a key instrument to forge and strengthen those connections.

As a brewer, we’ve been a company built on true human connections since we were founded in 1864. Today, using Workplace we’re able to give our employees across the globe a space to learn, share and co-create and, as always, to build connections.”

John-Paul Schuirink, Director Global Communication at HEINEKEN

What benefits have HEINEKEN seen from the use of Workplace by Facebook?

Although HEINEKEN have only taken the initial steps yet to change their communication and collaboration brought about by a platform like Workplace by Facebook, they are already showing very interesting use cases.

Below is a selection of the ways in which HEINEKEN have used the platform over the past few months.

Connecting the brewers

Led by global Master Brewer Willem van Waesberghe the company’s brewers have created an online ‘brewers guild’ that connects all brewers globally. The group is used to inspire each other, improve the brewing practice across all operating companies, and develop new products together.

Live broadcasting of financial results

Workplace offers HEINEKEN a convenient channel for leadership to connect with all employees and get closer to the workforce. It makes the company feel smaller. An example of this is the presentation of the 2017 financial results. The CFO did a live video broadcast about the financial results. During the live broadcast all employees were able to ask the CFO questions on the platform. A selection were answered in the same live broadcast. These sessions significantly reduce the gap between leadership and employees.

Improved alignment and execution of company vision HEINEKEN uses Workplace by Facebook to increase awareness of the long term vision of the company. They translate abstract strategic concepts into the language that all employees understand and use modern techniques to present the content. Because employees often find it difficult to translate strategy into their day to day operations, HEINEKEN organise online dialogues on Workplace for broad audiences about the way to best execute the strategy in day to day practice. In mid-February the Chief Commercial Officer explained what ‘brewing a better world’ means to his part of the organisation and explained the company’s long term vision in an easy to understand and straightforward way. Workplace helps to improve awareness of the strategy, helps make it more tangible, and aligns the organisation with the long term vision.

Global program execution

Large multinationals such as HEINEKEN have many global programs that need to be executed locally. At HEINEKEN two global HR programs stood out for the use of Workplace. The first program is their ‘Go Places’ global talent acquisition program that is run once a year in September. In January the program reached out to all HR professionals asking them for their wishes and for potential areas of improvement. The input is being used to improve the program year over year. This specific question yielded many responses of which about a dozen contributions were used to improve the program. Examples of the topics of contributions are employee advocacy and suggestions that will increase conversion rates for different job roles.

The second program defined global leadership expectations. The program had to be executed by local HR professionals and connected all local practitioners through Workplace. A process of sharing experiences and asking questions resulted in easier execution for local professionals, a greater success rate, and, on average, a shorter implementation period.

Adoption of technology Workplace is used to improve the adoption of new technology within HEINEKEN. An example of this were the JAM sessions held with users of a Sales app. Instead of investing heavily in sending trainers all around the world, the internal owner of the sales app ran JAM sessions to improve adoption and effective usage for thousands of sales people globally. JAM sessions are short online sessions where a group interacts on Workplace around a specific topic or problem. These sessions have resulted in sales people using the application more frequently and much more effectively.

Continuous improvement

HEINEKEN has a high quality sales force and a Global Sales Academy that designs and executes sales training on a continuous basis through trainers operating all over the world. Being geographically so dispersed makes communication difficult. They now use Workplace by Facebook to do feedback loops after they have delivered a round of training sessions. These feedback loops are used to further improve the trainings and the skills of the trainers.

Crowdsource your work

Individuals are also using Workplace to crowdsource their work. They get better results, faster than working alone. An example is a communications professional working on a local responsible drinking campaign for social media. In a group that contains all global communication professionals she asked her peers for examples of materials used in their local markets with local brands. Very soon her colleagues started sharing their local materials. This crowdsourcing exercise helped the specific communications professional, but also created a nice collection of responsible drinking assets which are now used all over the globe.

Innovating in operations HEINEKEN also has a vibrant community of practice that focuses on packaging. People involved in packaging help each other to solve problems or share local best practices for others to reapply. On one occasion a local warehouse showed a solution to the problem of not being able to read the labels on very highly stacked stock. They used a drone to navigate the warehouse and read the labels. They shared clear pictures and a how to guide.

What made HEINEKEN’s launch successful?

At the outset HEINEKEN understood that you need to make the launch of a platform count. You only get one chance to do it right. Besides serious commitment to a successful launch on the IT side, HEINEKEN understood that success required a behavioural change. They focused on the ‘what’s in it for me?’ for employees and followed three simple steps. People need:

  1. A reason to visit

  2. A reason to stay, and

  3. A reason to come back every day

A reason to visit A lot of companies make the mistake to launch a technology platform. Of course there will be people that think it is cool that they can work with a modern platform like Workplace by Facebook, but in large traditional companies a lot of people aren’t that interested in the latest workplace technology. Or worse, there are significant groups that have grown tired of technology being pushed upon them.

A better strategy is to select a topic that is interesting for most people in the organisation. A very influential person invites people for an online dialogue on that topic. That dialogue will take place on the platform being launched. When you work this way everyone is interested to come and check out what’s going on because they relate to the topic. Furthermore, it is a great way to show people one of the most powerful use cases of Workplace by Facebook; Massive Online Brainstorms. They will immediately see the power and value of the platform.

HEINEKEN undertook the launch in several waves of around 25.000 employees each. For each wave they launched with a massive online brainstorm. The first brainstorm was led by their Master brewer Willem van Weasberghe who described the benefit of brewers being able to connect globally and asked all HEINEKEN employees who they would like to connect with and what they would like to achieve doing that. A vibrant dialogue followed from which many new communities of interest originated.

A reason to stay Imagine a scenario where you are out with friends. You enter a night club but the dance floor is empty. Most people would think that it isn’t the place to be and leave to try their luck elsewhere. The same principle applies to social networking platforms.

When people hit the platform for the first time it is crucial that there is activity on the platform. Furthermore the value of the activity greatly influences if people will stay and how people will use the platform themselves.

HEINEKEN took the dance floor metaphor seriously and prepared well before they invited the first batch of people to the platform.

They created a content architecture. A good content architecture ensures that the strategic groups to the company are already present and filled with some content and dialogue for when people visit for the first time.

The first layer are groups on an enterprise level. You can think of groups such as ‘HEINEKEN All’, ‘Global IT service desk’, ‘Innovation’, etc.

The second layer are groups organized around interests and function. Examples are the ‘Brewers Guild’ connecting all the brewers, a group connecting all communications people, and groups around marketing, packaging, etc. All of these groups also needed owners and these owners needed to be trained and have sufficient relevant content for their groups.

The third layer are groups for the locations people work in, the teams they work in, or the projects they work on. For this layer all managers were briefed on how to create valuable team groups.

A reason to come back every day Finally, once you have people on the platform you need to make sure they come back on a daily basis. This means you need to take the content far beyond posting updates and news. People need to use the platform to get their work done. Therefore it is key to immediately show people how they can use the platform to their own benefit.

Before HEINEKEN launched they used the pre-launch phase to develop productive use cases with select groups of people. The use cases were all packaged and integrated into a large communications campaign to inspire others to also start using Workplace by Facebook in similar ways.

HEINEKEN also put together an elaborate Tips & Tricks campaign supported by a Tips & Tricks group. This campaign supported users in getting the basics done.

An effective network of local community leads

HEINEKEN realised at an early stage that they needed to empower people locally to do the launch and adoption in their respective operating companies. Every operating company appointed a minimum of one person that would lead the launch and adoption locally.

Six weeks before launch the local community leads involved would start an online learning program. They were given early access and in a special group for their launch where they were taught about topics such as:

  • Creating your content architecture

  • Getting your leaders active in the right way

  • The shifting communications paradigm

  • How to create a run successful groups

  • Running massive online dialogues, JAMs, and brainstorms.

These local community leads were a crucial factor in the successful launch and adoption of Workplace by Facebook.

Because the program was 100% virtual the costs to prepare the local leads were very reasonable compared to traditional ways. Workplace by Facebook played a crucial role here as a training instrument itself.


HEINEKEN’s journey on Workplace by Facebook is still short and yet they have discovered numerous opportunities to do things they couldn’t do before. They have seen examples of:

  • Key professionals connecting on the platform to improve their practice;

  • Executives using the platform to deliver messages directly to employees through live video broadcasting;

  • Professionals connecting on the design and roll out of large global programs to improve execution;

  • People sharing real practical innovations to improve the way they do their work;

  • Using the power of the crowd to get your work done.

Their launch was successful because:

  • Massive online brainstorms made it interesting for people to visit,

  • A good content architecture made people stay,

  • Compelling use cases ensured people would come back every day,

  • Empowering and training local community leads ensured execution power at a local level.

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