Digital & Technology
Annette Gevaert, Matt James and Jonny Oser during IoIC's Discover Workplace by Facebook members event, October 2017 Annette Gevaert, Matt James and Jonny Oser during IoIC's Discover Workplace by Facebook members event, October 2017


Facebook’s collaborative platform for the corporate environment is changing the way businesses work. At an IoIC member event at Facebook’s London office, Annette Gevaert of Workplace and Jonny Oser from the social networking service talked about Workplace, internal comms and culture. And Matt James from RBS described the impact that Workplace has had on the organisation.

27th October 2017

“I’ve learned more [from Workplace] about what goes on inside RBS than in the 10 years I’ve worked here. I’ve networked with colleagues I wouldn’t normally run into, learned what other teams do, found solutions to problems faster, and engaged colleagues to help drive down costs…”


Annette Gevaert, head of growth, EMEA, Workplace
The way we communicate in our personal lives has changed from five to ten years ago. While work remains email-driven, we’re probably not so much on email to our friends and family. The way we share information has changed – from being text-focused to using more photos and videos. That’s a more engaging and immersive way of communicating. Our brains are built to read pictures. We’re doing them a disservice by communicating by text.

By 2020, 50 per cent of the workforce will be millennials. The talents we’re bringing in to the workplace from colleges and universities are changing. Try handing a graduate a BlackBerry and offering them Lotus Notes. That’s not cool. In Facebook’s onboarding process, we now have a session on email – that shows how its use is diminishing.

Of the top ten downloaded apps, six are chatting apps. Those tools are faster and more engaging than they used to be. If you don’t enable something like WhatsApp in your organisation, it will happen anyway. These apps help talent to make their voices heard, to share passions and interests, collaborate and communicate in a personalised, involving way.

Bringing people together

Likewise, Workplace by Facebook is about bringing people together. It’s built around the individual’s desires, interests and work environment – what is most relevant to them.

The core pillar is the News Feed, where employees get to see what’s going on in their own team. It’s smarter than an email feed that lists messages by date; Workplace brings the most relevant content to the user to the top, based on what they have liked or commented on or what team or group they belong to.

You also see trending posts – those with the most interactions or comments.

Groups are at the heart of everything that happens on Workplace. Employees choose the groups they want to post in, which helps channel information – and the user can adjust the notification level if they don’t need to see every post.

Workplace also offers Chat for real-time communications. Workplace Chat includes features ranging from video chat and screen sharing to message reactions and gifs, keeping the conversation fun but focused.

Why does Workplace work for organisations? It’s familiar. Two billion people in the world are on Facebook, so most of your employees will already by trained in it, though you would still need to give guidance on how you want it to be used in your business.

Champion change from the top

It’s important to have executive team leading the change – and posting – to make it business oriented.

Champions are important to help with the change; they don’t need to be team leads or line managers. Bring them on two weeks ahead of the rest of the organisation and give them tips on forming groups and encourage them to create content, so that, when others see conversations and structure when they join.

And it’s secure. Workplace sits on the same infrastructure as Facebook. We have a couple of hundred people at Facebook working on nothing else but data security.

Workplace helps information flow fast through the organisation, without being held up by layers. It enables speed of innovation and a chance to reinvent the organisation through information.

People who have talents and ideas can put them in front of the leaders of an organisation. It’s driving knowledge-sharing.

Matt James, head of innovation scouting, UK & Europe, RBS

Workplace has brought our vision and mission to life. The number one priority for RBS is trust. How can your people be advocates for your organisation if they don’t have a voice? Workplace gives them a voice. The silent majority among your employees never get heard, but they are more comfortable saying what they feel on Workplace.

When we first introduced Workplace, it wasn’t embraced with open arms. People were concerned that someone may something mean about the company, or that people could message the CEO directly.

So we started with champions, including our chief administration officer, Simon McNamara, who told people it was something we had to do. Within a month, a lot of the leaders were asking how we could get them on Workplace and now they all use it as a key channel. Ross McEwan, our CEO, is in the trending posts every day.

We did a live stream from an event in the US, where we had speakers from around the world talking to the top 1,000 leaders in the organisation and our client. We wanted to get the messages out to the whole company and we would never have been able to do that before Workplace. We had about 10,000 people watch in the day and more since. It cost us a fraction of filming and streaming it another way.

Combatting negativity and resistance

We didn’t try and control what it’s used for. We took it as an evolutionary learning experience. Most people already knew Facebook and adopted Workplace naturally, so the move was easy.

Negative stories are something everyone worries about, but we have no more than one post a week that needs to be taken down – more due to classification issues than something untoward. If the same thing happened on our intranet, the negative message would either go through comms and never be published, and the employee would remain disgruntled, or a senior leader would respond with a formal corporate response. On Workplace, so many people contribute positively that it negates the negativity.

And wouldn’t you rather know if there is negativity anyway?

After initial resistance, we are now starting to talk about whether we even need the intranet.



Active monthly Workplace users at RBS – creating 2,000 posts and making 2,500 comments.


Workplace is the comms channel we get most engagement through, including with leaders. Our CEO takes the time to post – to say “Great job” or “This is fantastic”. Another senior leader talked about his daughter’s bipolar, which led to him mentoring someone else in the organisation.

One of our finance employees started posting his own cartoons, and he now has 2,000 followers – and the comms team uses his illustrations to help deliver messages. These are the types of stories that would never otherwise have happened.

Workplace allows everybody to contribute – it’s so much more powerful than centrally cascading information across the organisation.

Jonny Oser, head of EMEA internal communications, Facebook

Culture is really important to us at Facebook. It’s based on a strong set of values that guide our approach to everything at work, so is at the heart of who we are and how we build our products.

One way that our “Be Open” value is expressed is how we communicate internally. We share information freely, our leaders are visible and authentic, and we’re open in how we approach giving and receiving feedback. It allows us to work better together, with diverse perspectives always being brought to the table.

Navigating information through groups

One of the side effects of being open is the huge amount of information available internally. With over 20,000 people communicating and sharing what they’re working on, it would feel too noisy without some structure, so Groups on Workplace are how we segment it all and help people navigate it.

Some groups are dedicated to global-scale, high-level and strategic information such as new product announcements; others are more local about what’s going on in your office; teams use them to share and collaborate openly; and some are for more social conversation where you see the community happening online. Some are dedicated to giving feedback to the teams working on products – another example of how we are open and encourage sharing. Having access to these conversations helps flatten the hierarchy and breaks down silos.

A benefit of having this information in post form is that you can get very instant feedback – from the Likes, Reactions and comments people leave. It’s a lot harder to gauge sentiment by email.

Encouraging social interaction

We’re a technology company but at heart we’re a social company, so face-to-face events and meetings are still super important. We host “all hands” meetings using videoconferencing across the region, allowing all offices to hear directly from our leaders. Leads often host Facebook Live video-streams for more informal, Q&A-type sessions with their teams.

Mark Zuckerberg hosts a weekly Q&A where he stands in front of the company and will answer any question. People outside of California can add their questions to a Workplace poll the week before. A culture of openness needs to start at the top, and this is a great way for people to surface feedback and ask about what’s on their minds.

We encourage in-person interaction and want people to meet to discuss challenges. Because we work across buildings, cities and countries, all our meeting rooms are enabled with video-conferencing, linked to Workplace, to allow people to have virtual face-to-face meetings if they can’t be there in-person.  

Workplace facts

  • Workplace is similar to a personal Facebook account, but runs separately. You don’t need to have a personal account to access your organisation’s Workplace account.
  • It’s mobile first.
  • More than 14,000 organisations are using Workplace a year after it launched – from Walmart, Heineken and Virgin Atlantic to Save the Children and Stanley Black & Decker.
  • There is no advertising or games.
  • The monthly fee is based on active users (logging in and doing something once a month), with no additional maintenance, installation or consultancy costs.

“I’ve learned more [from Workplace] about what goes on inside RBS than in the 10 years I’ve worked here. I’ve networked with colleagues I wouldn’t normally run into, learned what other teams do, found solutions to problems faster, and engaged colleagues to help drive down costs…”


Leave a comment

To leave a comment on this article, please complete the form below. Your comment will be posted once verified by our editorial team.

If you are not an IoIC member and would like to join to receive Voice and other membership benefits, visit our Membership page.

Room Booking

Thanks for staying with us! Please fill out the form below and our staff will be in contact with your shortly. The see all of our room options please visit the link below.
See All Rooms