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Jamie Lawrence

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Facebook at Work: A tool to improve employee engagement?

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This article was first published on our sister site, MyCustomer.com, by their deputy editor Chris Ward.

It’s fair to say that Facebook has protruded into every facet of our lives outside the office, but as an enterprise tool? It’s a bridge very few business leaders have traditionally been comfortable allowing their employees to cross.  

Despite this, the social network announced last week that it would be piloting its new ‘Facebook at Work’ application, aimed strictly at enterprise users looking for a familiar way to communicate and collaborate on the job.

At first glance, the concept appears to be a cruder, more clandestine version of the current iteration of the social network, with Facebook’s official launch syntax as follows:   

“Facebook at Work lets you create a work account that is separate from your personal Facebook account. With a Facebook at Work account, you can use Facebook tools to interact with co-workers. Things you share using your work account will only be visible to other people at your company.”

However, a number of trade publications and industry experts foresee the app being a direct competitor for other enterprise engagement tools including Yammer, Socialcast and Salesforce Chatter, once the pilot scheme has concluded and an official roll-out commences.  

The question is – how can Facebook successfully penetrate a market that has long since matured? What are the likely pros and cons of the platform, and will it encourage a more effective segue between engaging employees keen to collaborate, and marketing departments keen to enhance customer experiences by using insight generating by those at the coalface?        

The hypecycle perspective

“Facebook are looking for ways to get users to spend more time on the platform,” says Sharon Flaherty, founding director of content marketing agency, BrandContent, with regard to the reason for the app being developed now, as opposed to around the time Yammer and Socialcast were in their infancy.

“The average user spends around 40 minutes a day on Facebook but they are dissatisfied with this because they see the average user spending nine hours a day in total on all digital media including TV, mobiles and computers.

“It wants us to be interacting on the platform all day every day at work and out of work. Yammer and Google Drive are the main competition within the enterprise, as these tools allow firms to tap into a wider collective of brains for departmental challenges and innovation. At Work’s real strength will undoubtably lie in collaborating with people you may never have talked to; it’s often said the most unexpected ideas for marketing can come from someone working in IT.”

While other experts have also queried the time it has taken Facebook to make a move into the business market, from an employee engagement ‘hypecycle’ perspective, the timing couldn’t be better.

Only two weeks ago, the chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), Bruce Temkin, declared 2015 as the ‘Year of the Employee’, and that many companies were in the process of seeking new methods to focus on customer experience in 2015. Temkin suggested the best way of doing this was to recognise the need to make internal changes, and that meant realising that “the key ingredient to success is the employees”.

Conversely, Matt Candy, European leader at IBM Interactive Experience, recently forecastemployee insights being a major focus for marketing leaders in 2015, and subsequently, becoming embedded into the rhetoric for technology vendors involved in delivering customer experience solutions:

“There will be a focus on creating environments where employees are empowered and motivated to create these experiences,” he states. “It won’t be about command and control – it will be about creating environments for brilliance – at scale.

“Organisations need to create a culture where employees are empowered to have a conversation and develop a relationship with their customers, not just deal with their queries in the shortest time possible. It will also mean companies will have to address the challenge of how to unlock expertise into their organisations and scale the collective intelligence of the enterprise down to the level of single individuals.”

In this respect, Facebook’s timing may actually be impeccable, but can it really offer enough beyond the current consumer platform to convince businesses to incorporate it into their current selection of employee collaboration tools?     

Selling points

“The main selling point of the new platform is the collaboration element,” says Ellie Morley, marketing coordinator at APS Group. “Facebook at Work appears to be designed to deliver a more holistic overview of events and projects that staff can all gain access to. What’s interesting to note is that this doesn’t yet integrate with other collaboration software tools, although it may be a move that Facebook decides to make further down the line.

“Crucially, the majority of us are already familiar with how Facebook works making this model much easier to implement and engage with. This is particularly important when considering employee buy-in and the required training when implementing a completely new system or intranet. That said, convincing heads of departments that employees won’t jump between the social platform and the ‘for work’ version during work hours is a different matter.”

This point, Tristan Rogers, CEO of Concrete argues, is a far more complex one for Facebook to have to confront. Despite the growing reputation of social media’s use in the enterprise, recent statistics show that 20% of businesses still don’t have a social media strategy in place for allowing employees to engage on social platforms, while a 2014 report from Proskauer suggests as much as 36% of all businesses still ban social media use at work.

“As a social network, Facebook is built on the principle that people “want” to share information with each other,” Rogers explains.

“It is a voluntary network with no predetermined goals or outcomes. One can do what they want on Facebook with whomever they wish. That is not very “enterprise”. An enterprise is built on pre-defined rules about outcomes, quantities, margins and repeatability. Workers are given roles and responsibilities, and the ability to perform these to the best of their ability can drive their personal success.”

Sharon Flaherty suggests the success of Facebook’s At Work venture may well boil down to whether businesses are truly ready to embrace the voice of the employee as an outlet for improved customer experiences, as opposed to merely a means to solely getting to grips with in-house issues more effectively:  

“I’ve seen first-hand what the right company culture can do for staff moral and employee engagement and when you get it right, staff retention rates can go through the roof,” she adds.

“However, companies looking to change their employee behaviour and fix engagement issues will be sorely disappointed if they see Facebook At Work as the silver bullet. Social collaboration tools can absolutely drive innovation but they can’t change a company culture. It’s only when culture issues are addressed that work collaboration tools become effective for businesses.”

Indeed, Mike Wilkinson, VP of market offers at BroadSoft, suggests the technology required to reap the true rewards of employee engagement requires a more business-wide cultural assessment, and that Facebook at Work may struggle to move beyond being recognised as another chat function within a much larger framework of software tools:

“To me, the future workplace is all about completing tasks in as efficient a manner as possible using the assets and systems in a business to achieve the best result in the shortest period of time. It is about leveraging all the enterprise grade communications capabilities of the workplace like video, HD voice, IM and integrating it with a dynamic collaboration front-end.

“Enabling applications that allow employees to work in highly dynamic groups, share documents and communicate with no time spent setting up calls or booking meetings, is the future of workforce productivity.”

And Dr Claire Hookham Williams, lecturer in organisational behaviour at Hull University Business School, believes businesses may be too sceptical about the benefits of the app to risk a company-wide implementation: 

“The bottom line is, this could be a very useful communication tool; however the decision to adopt the initiative cannot be taken lightly. Each organisation is going to need company-specific guidelines on the purpose of Facebook at Work, the desired outcomes, acceptability agreements in terms of language, tone and content, together with a certain level of internal administering to protect against bullying, inappropriateness and any other unwanted by-product of the integration of this application.”
 
Whether Facebook at Work can truly offer enough sophistication while guaranteeing privacy and data protection to businesses and their employees is something the upcoming trial period will no doubt decipher. 

One Response

  1. Facebook At Work’s biggest
    Facebook At Work’s biggest strength could be its familiarity. It should find onboarding users easier than many SaaS tools since people will already have a login, password, and know how to use it. That quick registration could help it leapfrog competitors that can often seem foreign or confusing compared to consumer software. If a customer prefers it for security purposes, employees can also set up entirely separate accounts for business. You can get this application for free from https://iappsbuzz.com/tutu-helper

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

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