Workplace by Facebook

4 questions — and answers — from Flow: the first executive conference from Workplace by Facebook

This week, I attended Flow – the first executive-level conference presented by the Workplace by Facebook team. Talk Social to Me has supported dozens of Workplace deployments in the past two years, and we were thrilled to be part of the event.

Beyond the speakers and product announcements, the most gratifying elements of Flow were the conversations that we had with Workplace customers and potential customers. We got into the weeds, talked about the realities of implementation, how communities really work at work, and more. We listened to your fears and concerns.

Flow attendees posted four main questions in small groups, eyebrows raised, after the stage lights went down and the networking began. These were the authentic concerns raised by businesses that operate all around the globe, and I wanted to share them here. My hunch is, if you’re evaluating Workplace, you have some of the same questions, too.

Customer Question 1 – You realize we don’t live in Silicon Valley, right?

It’s easy for Bay-Area folks to get swept up in the tech-centric, snack-filled-office, selfie-conducive, HBO-parody-worthy culture. But the reality is, 99.9% of companies don’t operate this way. And big tech companies can’t impose their day-to-day reality on you – your 100 year old business, your regulated industry, your never-been-digital workforce. Workplace needs to work for the employees who are stocking shelves, working with customers in a store, and running a production line. Facebook and its people can move fast – very fast – and most of us will continue to operate at the speed that works or our own business. Both methods are perfectly OK. Why is this relevant? Because many of you shared that you feel pressure to move much more quickly with Workplace than your business allows right now. My advice? Always do what’s right by your people and your culture when it comes to launching Workplace on a schedule, and that’s how you’ll see the impact evolve.

Customer Question 2 – We really don’t need to provide training to our users?

That’s a myth. Of course you need to provide training – very specific training. Your employees may know how the platform functions because they’re consumer Facebook users, but they need further guidance on how to use the platform for work purposes. This can be achieved with short videos and guides, or in-person conversations during pre-shift meetings. Your group leaders and team managers need a different, specific kind of training on how to effectively engage people in a digital format. How do you spark conversation? How do you address unsavory topics? What about protected speech? You will need to empower them with the “right” way to work in Workplace, both with the nuances of the tool and the nuances of social behavior at work.

Customer Question 3 – Should we really launch this to everyone in 2 weeks, with a wall-to-wall deployment?

Baby steps, friends. Baby steps. Giving access to every employee does not equate to every employee using the platform effectively. While I don’t advocate for an unnecessarily slow approach that is rooted in fear, it’s a really bad idea to just open the floodgates to tens of thousands of people without an engagement plan (side note: an engagement plan is not a content calendar). Be thoughtful. Design your group structure. Create and shape use cases before you go live because this is the single most effective (and easy!) way to demonstrate “what’s in it for me?” to everybody else. Oh – and make sure you talk to your employees, from the field to the home office. Learn what it’s like to live a day in their shoes before pushing out a “new way of working”to someone who thinks his way of working is perfectly fine. How you market this to employees matters. And you need more than 2 weeks to do it right.

Customer Question 4 – What about data breaches, hacks and platform vulnerabilities in the news?

This is tricky and incredibly important. I heard two concerns at Flow about the consumer Facebook product: actual bugs/vulnerabilities in the code that could have been be exploited, and manipulation by bad individuals on a mission to do harm in elections and otherwise. While neither are related to today’s Workplace product – which is a totally separate platform – there’s a perception issue that has created pause because not everyone feels as though they have enough information to be comfortable. And for leaders launching Workplace, you need to be empowered with the facts, a narrative, and a macro-perspective on why you might be feeling discomfort due to consumer Facebook’s recent challenges.

To combat the technical concerns for Workplace, I have a single piece of advice: treat Workplace as you would any other enterprise-grade SaaS platform. Get IT involved in user provisioning. Make sure legal and HR participate in contract negotiations. Enable SSO. Read the security reports and talk to your account team with questions to build trust and an open line of communication. Get comfortable with the level of confidential information you’re willing or unwilling to have the platform host. Then use your standard governance policies to guide behaviors. This is the best way to ensure that there is technical comfort with the product.

With respect to the manipulative ways that bad actors have used consumer Facebook, I understand that this may create an optics problem for Workplace. But it’s important to separate the behavior of global political operatives from those of your trusted employees in a private platform. Your employees aren’t going to exploit an internal communications system for some illicit purpose; there’s a social contract with employees and their employer: if they post something bad, they’ll be reprimanded or terminated. There’s no question about who is posting what in Workplace. Everything is openly tied to a person. Also, Workplace simply doesn’t have the Facebook features like audience-segmented advertisements that were used by badly-intentioned people trying to convince billions of their perspective.

If you need a line of open communication with the Workplace team about this, please ask them. They’re beyond willing to help. They want and need your Workplace community to succeed. If you don’t know who to ask, email me or find me in an MCG. I will find the right person for you to connect with.

In Closing

To every Communications, HR and IT leader launching Workplace: we are all working toward the same goal of turning our companies into communities. I know that many of you will be on stage next year presenting the great results you’ve achieved. Just remember that this is your work, not work to be dictated by any consultant or vendor or way that worked for someone else. It’s your company. Your directive to launch Workplace can fundamentally impact the way that thousands of employees experience their jobs. So take your time, do it right, be thoughtful, and keep talking to your peers. That’s the best way to find authentic stories of change, empowerment, and community building at work.

PS – If you want straight-up, no-nonsense guidance for launching and accelerating Workplace at your organization, join our multi-company group. Myself and our community managers at Talk Social to Me are here to help.



Carrie Basham Young

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