Why Countdown encourages Facebook at work

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Regardless of your industry or organisation, social media will likely have served as a serious distraction at some point – now, Facebook is trying to turn that perception on its head.

Late last year, the tech giant announced a new internal communications platform for workplaces which aims to better connect employees and leaders across entire organisations.

“We want to connect everybody, not just people in offices with laptops or PCs,” says Ramesh Gopalkrishnan, head of Asia Pacific for Workpalce by Facebook.

“We want to connect retail store workers, we want to connect shop floor workers, we want to connect people who have never been connected before and we want to give them a voice within the company,” he tells HRD.

The Workplace by Facebook platform has already been adopted by a number of major organisations – including Starbucks, Volkswagen and RBC – but supermarket firm Countdown was the first Kiwi company to try it.

Communications manager Daniel Chasemore was the one to advocate for the platform – he says the decision came because the company was deliberately moving from a hierarchical structure to a more high-performing one.

“We want to have our team members feel part of our purpose and our journey and our mission as opposed to just taking orders from the top,” says Chasemore.

“We also realised that there was a lot of things we were trying to cascade when common sense told us we could just talk to our team directly about them, ask them their opinions and involve them.”

The platform is incredibly similar to Facebook’s standard format with employees creating their own account and then being able to share statuses, start live videos, form groups, post pictures or comments and react to colleagues’ activity.

The familiarity means organisations don’t have to train employees on how to use the tool as many already access Facebook on a daily basis.

“There are one billion active people on Facebook and most of them use it every day so there’s no learning curve and no need for change management,” says Gopalkrishnan.

“Another main benefit is that we can talk to our team directly and tell them what’s going on,” says Chasemore. “We’re in 185 communities across the country and we’re doing things within all of those communities but it’s often hard to get that message across – now we can put a spotlight on that.”

A second major benefit is that barriers are being broken down between support office and front-line staff while teams that previously butted heads are now working better together.

“There’s been an amazing change in the relationship between our produce buyers and our produce assistants in store,” says Chasemore. “Previously, if something was out of stock, the buyers would send them an email saying; ‘Sorry guys, no mandarins today, please try and sell something else.’

“Then produce assistants in the stores would have to shift things around and there was a little bit of animosity in the relationship because it was a tell-do relationship.”

Now, because the conversation happens via Facebook, it can be a lot of personal.

“Our buyers are out on the farm at three in the morning, posting a picture of a mandarin that they don’t believe is good enough quality to sell and the conversation is more like; ‘Hey guys, we don’t believe these are good enough for our customers, have a look at it, we had rain over the last couple of weeks and that’s why, so apologies, you’re not going to get them today but try this.’”

As a result, Chasemore says produce assistants are far more understanding of the challenges faced by those behind the scenes while they also have more information to offer customers.

Employee recognition has also been impacted by the new platform and Chasemore says managers, leaders and employees now find it much easier to recognize and appreciate good work.

“If an employee from night shift does a really good job and the store manager comes in and takes a photo, posts it on Facebook and says; ‘Wow, Bob did a great job last night,’ that’s a really easy and quick way to recognise your people without having to go through any formal systems,” he tells HRD.

“That’s probably been one of the bigger cultural shifts that we’ve seen – people are feeling proud of their job because their colleagues and friends are able to see it and now we’ve moved into people posting their own thing and saying; ‘Hey, I’m really proud of this, what do you think guys?

“That means that we’re not beholden to the rewards and recognition cycle of one employee of the months etc. – we’re able to just let our leaders lead.”

Finally, Chasemore says introducing the platform “opened up the floodgates” for employee feedback and improvement suggestions.

“We may have slightly underestimated what giving our people a voice would prompt,” he tells HRD. “It’s really accelerated our strategic journey and our culture – probably a little bit faster than we thought it would.”

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