The workplace has changed, companies are transforming faster, employees change jobs more quickly and information is coming at employees through countless channels. Therefore leaders need new ways to build, scale and sustain culture across their organisations and provide people with the right information. In this article you can find 6 opportunities that Workplace by Facebook offers to leaders.
What is Workplace by Facebook?
Workplace by Facebook is a platform that allows people in your organisation to connect, communicate, and collaborate in a more effective way. As a leader you can have conversations with large groups of people. Read more about the platform here.
1. Help your company transform
Managing change is one of the biggest challenges for leaders. Examples of the problems they face are:
Getting people to understand why change is needed.
Getting people to accept that change is needed.
Having people accept, understand, and execute the chosen actions to change.
Workplace can be a powerful instrument to help you speed up the change process.
Why do we need change?
Leaders are often aware of the necessity to change long before the employees are. Often the leaders are already in change execution mode while the majority still has to grasp the reason to change. Workplace can be used to start conversations with the organisation that will make them realise the need to change.
Example: A former monopolistic logistics & delivery company that had many new entrants in the market was foreseeing a serious decline in business if nothing was done. The employees were all used to the monopolistic market and were oblivious to the risk. The CEO had sent out message after message in speeches and newsletters but to no avail. The message did not take hold. The CEO then asked his people to take a picture of every competitor they saw and upload it to their social platform. Within a few days there were hundreds and hundreds of pictures of competition uploaded. The general view on competition changed within days and people were ready to take measures to become more competitive.
The key skill leaders need to develop is the ability to break down complex multifaceted problems or opportunities into simple questions with a powerful effect. In the example above the problem of ‘lack of awareness’ is reduced to taking pictures of competitors.
Another common problem in change projects is that instead of preparing for the future people freeze because they do not fully understand the impact the change will have. They simply cannot translate the big strategic plans into the things they and their team will be doing a year from now.
Workplace by Facebook can be a great help in organising conversations about this. The concept is relatively simple. Start a dialogue where you ask people to describe how they think their jobs will change because of the new strategy. You will get valuable replies and less valuable replies to your request. When you spot valuable contributions you ask the group to further explore that contribution.
This approach has three key effects:
The employees feel that they are shaping their own future, are able to take control and become more engaged.
The spotting process ensures the valuable contributions get more attention.
By seeing other people’s contributions all employees will learn and be more able to understand the impact for them and their team.
An example: The commercial banking part of a financial institution had significantly changed their strategy. They put much more focus on digital and agility. There was a lot of unrest amongst large numbers of non IT employees because they didn’t understand how this would impact their work. The director organised a series of one hour online sessions with employees. She invited them to think about the impact of the new strategy on their day to day work. When the sessions started about 90% of employees were passive and didn’t understand the impact of the strategy. A small portion of people started to think out loud. Whenever people came up with interesting insights she would encourage people to further build on that contribution. By doing that she was able to steer the conversation in the right direction. These online sessions resulted in the people learning from contributions of colleagues and starting to understand their future. The discussions continued off line in individual teams all over the country. Communications summarised the insights into an infographic that was distributed to the entire company making everyone feel part of the solution. The result was that without ‘telling’ the employees what their future was, they understood it and became part of it.
2. Scale yourself
The agendas of most leaders are full of meetings. A lot of these meetings are about updates, approvals, solving problems, or creating engagement.
Very often the topics of these meetings are not unique to that team or location but often the impact of the meeting is local. Workplace can help the leader amplify and scale their work so local activity has global impact.
Example: A leader of a multinational was planning trips to regional offices in London, Singapore, Buenos Aires, and Seattle. The leader was going to address a similar issue in all locations.
However, this time she tried something new. Before she left she shared that she was visiting London and described the problem to be solved there. Furthermore, she explained she would later travel on to deal with the problem in the other regions. She closed by asking the regions involved to already share thoughts about a potential solution.
When she landed in London there was already a vibrant conversation going on in response to her question and a little later a reply from another region came in. The Melbourne office, not part of her scope, replied that they didn’t have this problem because they took action a year ago and explained how they solved it. They used the London meeting to evaluate the solution and it was decided it would be implemented globally.
If a leader works in a transparent and engaging manner they’ll engage people with their agenda and their priorities. Especially in large global companies this can help in avoiding double work on various locations. In addition, they spend far less time explaining employees the company priorities because they follow from the leader’s activities.
3. Innovation and focus
All the eyes, the ears, and the brains in the organisation are immensely powerful. To unleash the power you need to focus it. It is just like being in a place where 5000 people have come together. If nobody stands up and focuses these people it is just noise they produce. Workplace is a good instrument to take charge and focus the group’s conversation. By asking the organisation smart questions leaders can collect a lot of insights and ideas that will solve problems or form the basis of important innovations.
Example: The margins of a package delivery company were under pressure because of fierce negotiations with large online shops. Those shops were demanding extremely low prices for delivery. To improve their negotiation power they wanted to become more ‘preferred’ by the people the packages were delivered to. If the ‘receivers’ (the people you deliver to) prefer you over other delivery companies, you have a basis to negotiate, so they argued.
They involved their people and asked them how that relationship could be improved. About 300 employees responded. With the insights the company gathered from employees the company decided to create a portal for ‘receivers’ where people could manage different aspects of the delivery process. Besides this new service they also noticed their net promoter score increasing. It turned out that because of the online conversation the people delivering packages better understood the importance of their interactions with ‘receivers’ and made an extra effort. The conversations had not only brought key insights for innovation but had also caused a shift in culture to become more client focussed.
4. Leverage your overview
As a leader you are more aware of different activities in the organisation than people that are lower down in the hierarchy and are blinded by silo walls. Large organisations are notorious for people or teams performing duplicate activities or in some instances even doing work that hinders people somewhere else in the organisation.
Workplace offers a great opportunity for leaders that want to break down the silo walls and get people to connect and collaborate. The procedure is surprisingly simple as well as surprisingly powerful.
The immediate effect of these interventions is obvious; these people will collaborate.
The indirect effect of connecting people like this is that it becomes clear that thinking past the walls of your silo is the norm in the company and that success isn’t just about your own KPIs.
5. Give mandate and encouragement
Another great opportunity for leaders presents itself when employees start to use the platform to share their work.
Leaders have the opportunity to encourage people’s activities publicly and give people mandate to proceed publicly. This encouragement and mandate are crucial for 3 reasons:
When a leader publicly supports someone or a project it is far more likely to succeed. It makes the person working on it feel valued and it will make sure other people feel safe to support the initiative.
It sends out a clear message to other people about the kind of behaviour leadership appreciates. That makes it a powerful instrument for behavioural change.
It can be used as an instrument to give the company focus on an important topic. If you want to save costs, you encourage people talking about saving costs. If you want to improve customer centricity, you encourage people working on that.
Example: At a Dutch insurance company an employee involved in innovation bought a dog. After an expensive first visit to the veterinarian he became interested in pet health insurance. He looked around in his own company and found out they didn’t offer it. He went to their social platform and asked the company:
Nobody answered his question. At first he felt ignored, but after talking to a few people he realised this was a collective blindspot.
He went back to the platform and wrote:
Again it remained silent for a day until out of the blue the CEO of Health insurance liked his post. During the days that followed people shared a lot of material. He thanked them and said he was going to analyse the material. He came back stating that based on the shared material he thought there were 3 potential opportunities.
Now he needed an actuary, health insurance marketeer, and pet health expert (vet) for a few hours to take the next step. Quickly after posting the same CEO replied:
This post had 3 results:
Very quickly a couple of managers publicly offered Roeland help and the project was on its way.
Roeland felt valued and empowered. He was ready to take on the world.
More people started to ask the organisation questions to leverage the hidden knowledge to innovate and solve problems.
6. Stop saying what your priorities are, work out loud instead.
When leaders adopt the techniques described above they will be sharing progress on the things they are working on and asking questions to activate the organisation on a continuous basis.
The result of that is that it becomes clear what the leader’s priorities are because that’s what he or she posts about. This technique is far more effective to focus and align the organisation than to share your list of priorities in your new year’s speech.
Imagine you’re CEO and in a meeting. You’ve just decided to launch a new product the next Monday and the whole team is excited and proud. Instead of getting communications to send out an email or to post on the intranet you now open a live stream and inform everyone of the milestone making the whole organisation join you in being proud.
When I talk to leaders about managing change using platforms like Workplace they often reply that a lot of the topics they are working on are secret or are stock market sensitive. There is no doubt that this is true and we’re not saying you should share everything.
However, making employees aware of the bigger picture by asking simple questions and creating dialogues concerning difficult organisational topics is a new skill that future leaders will need to master. The CEO of the logistics company didn’t ask to solve the competition problem, she just asked people to take a picture of a competitor.
The examples above are just a few examples of the benefits of a platform like Workplace. We also run executive workshops where we discuss all the benefits Workplace could bring your company. Reach out to us if you want to know more.