A little bit of recognition from the big boss can mean a lot to employees. At Bunnings Warehouse, that recognition often comes in the form of ‘likes’ and emoji reactions, after the hardware chain signed up to Facebook’s enterprise internal communications platform Workplace.
When an employee shares their idea or good work and the MD gives them a smiley – “people are printing those out and pinning them up,” Bunnings Group managing director Michael Schneider told a Workplace event audience in Sydney today.
“It’s interesting given it’s a digital platform, but they’ve got this recognition and that’s a nice thing.”
Around 24,000 Bunnings employees – about 60 per cent of the total workforce – are currently using the platform after it was launched internally about a year ago.
Workplace looks and functions much like Facebook, and is pitched at enterprise as a collaboration and internal communications tool. Facebook in March claimed it had amassed two million paid users (users being individual employees at an organisation as opposed to paying business customers), among them NAB, Coca Cola Amatil, Hoyts and Vodafone.
One of Workplace's main selling points is the fact most employees already know their way around the application, making training time minimal and driving uptake a little easier. That’s certainly been the case within Bunnings, which is aiming for a close to 100 per cent sign up rate.
“The reality is there’s always going to be some team that for various reasons don’t want to participate and that’s cool too,” Schneider adds.
According to the MD, who has been with the company since 2005, Workplace is fast replacing other communications channels, and “starting to take away the reliance on the intranet and email”.
There are a number of advantages to serving corporate communications over Workplace as opposed to weekly email newsletters or manager conference calls.
“We run a program called ‘Mythbusters’. Big organisations – you’ve got policy and procedure and then what everyone really believes which is usually hidden in the gossip or water-cooler conversations. So we can break down rumour and myths very directly and candidly with our team,” Schneider revealed.
Following the Christchurch massacre, the leadership team was able to “connect very closely” with local managers and offer support.
“They felt the support of a whole organisation wrapped around them. It does bring that sense of community,” Schneider said.
Live stream has been used to provide feeds of employee conferences to regional workers who couldn’t attend.
More than with previous approaches, communication can more easily flow both ways. Sharing details of a recent enterprise bargaining agreement was met with support and “constructive criticism” Schneider says. In another example, visual merchandisers can use video to explain how to set up an in store display, with workers responding with what worked and what didn’t.
“It’s good to interact in an open way and have those conversations. It helps build trust,” Schneider said.
The platform is also being used for pure fun. One of the most popular Bunnings groups is called ‘Dog Spotting’.
“There are some great pages of cute dogs in Bunnings and some less cute dogs as well,” Schneider said.
Yammer to fall
Bunnings had previously used Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise social network for private communication within organisations, around four years ago.
Although Yammer’s use spread organically slightly, it never really caught on and wasn’t deemed appropriate for a company-wide tool.
“We [used Yammer] in a very unregulated way, we deployed that just to get a sense of who wanted to use it, where we were seeing ideas being shared and how that process worked. We then started to think about how to connect in a more structured way,” Schneider said.
Bunnings executives visited Facebook in California and London to get a better sense of what the platform could do for their workforce.
"Companies want to empower their people to participate and communicate. Workplace enables two-way conversations and democratises employee culture, giving everyone a voice, from the CEO to the newest intern, and for desk-bound and mobile workers alike," said Will Easton, Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director, today.
"It acts as a cultural glue, connecting people together in the ways that make most sense for their business, creating a culture of openness, feedback and diversity of thought,” Easton added.
Schneider said that leadership buy-in was one of the most important aspects of the success of the Workplace roll-out. Schneider himself is the Bunnings’ Workplace’s top user.
“If it’s an HR or communications team initiative it’s not going to work, and we certainly saw that with previous iterations,” he said.
There were some small pockets of resistance to the roll-out from employees and managers.
Some employees weren’t too keen on using their own data for a work activity. That in part has accelerated a Wi-Fi roll-out to stores without it and additional access points in those that have it.
Team members also had to be convinced that “what you’re doing on a Saturday night on Facebook and Monday morning on Workplace don’t talk to each other”.
There were some differences of opinion among management about whether employees should be using their smartphones in-store. An issue that has been solved with common sense, Schneider said.
“For a period of time mobile phones were seen as the evil; something to take away from productivity and take team members away from customers. But we want our team members now to participate in our online channels and Workplace,” he explained.
“But it comes down to common sense. Something missing in today’s business world where there’s lots of policy and procedure is common sense. So bringing that back around the use of mobile phones and other tablets has been a really good thing,” Schneider added.
In the coming months, more employees will be signed up to the platform, and the company will explore how to use Workplace as a means of sharing supplier educational content.
“Having tools like Workplace has enabled us to connect in a very personal way,” Schneider said.
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