BT hopes Workplace by Facebook will transform workforce into company advocates

(Image credit: BT)

Complaints are a part of life in the telecoms industry. Communication is now so important to society that any issue with coverage, speed or reliability is considered unacceptable. 

Like a referee in football, mobile and broadband customers only tend to talk about their provider when something goes wrong. Customer grievances are often justified but it can be frustrating – especially in a highly competitive marketplace – when positive news is drowned out.

The industry has traditionally suffered from an image problem but recent events have elevated the role of connectivity within society. Although this also means greater scrutiny, there is an opportunity to highlight the positive role that providers play too.

Workplace by Facebook

BT’s internal communications team hopes that by engaging its workforce more effectively, staff will spread the news among friends and family, helping to boost the reputation of the company. To this end it is now using Workplace by Facebook, an enterprise social network, to share news and encourage discussion.

Although BT was already using other collaborations such as Microsoft Teams, it believed Workplace could play a vital role in establishing a company culture. With 100,000 staff located across the UK and the world in different business units, it could take time for company news to disseminate across the organisation.

BT concluded Workplace’s mobile-first nature, coupled with usability features borrowed from Facebook, would be far more successful than company-wide emails. New stories can videos are shared immediately, and BT can have open, real-time dialogue with staff whether they work in a call centre, the shop floor, or as an engineer.  A post from CEO Philip Jansen can be commented on by anyone within the organisation.

“We had a gap in our channel landscape when it came to social,” explains Anna Epps, internal communications director at BT to TechRadar Pro.

“We didn’t have a user-friendly way to connect to each other and access company news in between meetings. We could have built an in-house news app … but Workplace supports the culture we’re trying to build – it’s fast paced, easy to use, and shares news in real time. It’s a more authentic way of communication as it doesn’t require scripted interviews etc.”

“Our overall ambition in internal communications is to create a community of advocates and that’s why we chose Workplace,” adds Helen Willetts, director of internal communications. “[Staff] can see our advertising, our campaigns, and what we’re doing and advocate BT as a great place to work. Workplace normalises this.

“Content on Workplace allows us to be reactive. We do polls and ask for opinions so we can get instant feedback and get totally different views. We can see what employees think of things we’re changing and what we do.”

EE BT Store

(Image credit: BT)

Phased deployment

Deployment was a phased process so the tech team could identify how staff would use the platform, identify best practices, and ways to encourage adoption. It is now being used by 80,000 staff in 180 countries, with 50 million connections made in 2020 alone. BT has also seen three million 'reactions' and 970,000 comments so far.

The internal comms team hopes to reach the entirety of the workforce but believes 80% adoption is a huge success.

The project was already on track prior to the Coronavirus pandemic but Workplace has played a crucial role in connecting staff and sharing developments at a time of uncertainty.

Like its competitors, BT is proud of the role it played during the first few months of lockdown. As the country became increasingly reliant on their mobile and broadband connections for work, entertainment, and communication, the company worked to ensure its networks could handle the additional demand and to keep customers connected.

Engineers and customer service agents were assigned key workers status and BT promised not to furlough or cut any jobs for the foreseeable future. As the firm shifted towards remote working, Workplace was proving its worth in helping staff adapt to the ‘new normal’ and cope with what has been a challenging time for many.

“Workplace has helped us have that connection between people and leaders at this time,” says Epps. “It has allowed us to focus on the wellbeing of our staff and the importance of connection, not just on company news.”

“As an anti-isolation mechanism, it’s been so helpful,” agrees Willetts. “We definitely couldn’t have achieved what we have without Workplace.

“There have been some amazing content experiences because Workplace is low-production in a good way so we can share [authentic] content. You see the CEO coming in each week and people can share something that’s good about the company to friends and family.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.