Improving internal communication at BT with Workplace from Facebook

In October 2020, simply reported how BT had unified internal social networking platforms by choosing Workplace over Yammer.

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With the initial roll-out so successful – gaining three million reactions and 970,000 comments on the platform as of October 2020 – we spoke to Helen Willetts, BT’s Director of Internal Communications, and Anna Epps, Internal Communications Director, to find out how the comms team have developed their Workplace strategy since then.

The platform was chosen in preference of Microsoft Yammer because of its social element, suiting the company’s need to connect people and promote collaboration across the business.

A few months on, the benefits of launching the platform are coming to light as company culture is boosted, communication processes are simplified, and channels are streamlined to ensure they are continually fit for purpose.

The benefits of Workplace

Workplace, for BT, has been instrumental in improving communication across the business, connecting people and breaking down barriers between colleagues in 54 countries.

Helen told us that a key benefit of Workplace was the ability to extend reach to frontline engineering employees, engaging them in the conversation and ensuring they have a hub in which to get involved.

Alongside the implementation of Workplace, BT have developed a strategy by clearly setting out what each channel is for and communicating that effectively to their teams.

For example, Microsoft Teams is described as ‘the heart of it’, where colleagues do their work – sharing documents and collaborating on them for a smooth workflow.

Teams is accompanied by traditional emails, that serve well in an operational sense by delivering messages with vital information that employees need to know, such as changes in policy or to provide a summary.

The BT team also have a SharePoint intranet to store documents and make them easily accessible for colleagues. With the new-found clarity around their communication channel strategy, the internal comms team have been able to make the most of features such as file sharing that are aligned to the core purpose of each channel.

Wanting to preserve a clearly defined strategy and ensure that employees are utilising each channel, file sharing has been disabled in Workplace to ‘keep it clean’ and make sure that the intranet is still the one-stop-shop for finding information.

For BT, Workplace has been most useful for the sharing of updates, especially with field-based teams who may not have access to a laptop and rely on a mobile device to communicate whilst working.

For all colleagues, guidelines were put in place to allow them to download Workplace onto their personal devices, within certain parameters. Connection is a key consideration, and there have been only positives to report with the increase in employees using the platform.

Implementing new tools

Helen and Anna have found the huge explosion in technology over the last year to be a catalyst for changes within BT’s internal comms. Four years ago, the team were using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint to do their work and email for communication. With the quick adoption of new tools, the team have embarked on an exciting journey of discovery.

This process sparked the transformation of the company’s employee experience – something that has become the top priority in recent months – with the aim of ‘simplifying the whole landscape.’

“It brings with it a lot of opportunities to unify how colleagues receive information, so we spent quite a long time looking at our channels to determine the core purpose of each and what we use them for.”

With the framework set and a business with a variety of different entities, colleagues have been able to collaborate on Workplace, embracing the mobile-first nature of the platform.

As all colleagues have access to Workplace, it has become the central hub for sharing product launch information, key sales updates and communicating with each other to learn more about each other’s roles.

“It has grown and evolved as people play with the technology, which is the real magic of it.”

Impacts on leadership

Making the leadership team visible and accessible is a real consideration for organisations, and BT have managed to do this using Workplace, with 83,000 employees registered as of February 2021.

Julien Codorniou, VP, Workplace from Facebook, said: “We build and develop Workplace for companies that want to be connected communities, and BT completely embodies this ambition. We are delighted to empower one of the UK’s best-known companies to connect its global workforce and support its transformation.”

Engaging the senior leadership team – around 850 people – has been part of the strategy, to answer the question: ‘how do we unite them?’

The answer is by creating a community to bring groups of people together where they can receive support from leadership and address particular concerns.

As the company continues to transform, providing colleagues with a place to come to ask questions is vital, and the team have delivered by setting up live Q&A sessions with CEO, Philip Jansen.

The sessions are streamed live, but employees have the option of watching some or all of the playback afterwards, removing the pressure of presenteeism and promoting flexibility.

Staying safe on the platform

Although Workplace was made available to all colleagues, it wasn’t pushed to everyone as a compulsory communication channel. With any new technology or tool, security and privacy are of main concern for an organisation.

To ensure this area was covered, the team made sure that everyone had to register for an account themselves, with the added protection of a multi-factor authentication process.

Employees were given the option to decide if they’d like desktop access as well as mobile access, and people who expressed a desire to reduce their social media use were free to make the choice that works best for them.

simply says…

Lisa Pantelli, Head of Content and Community says: “Workplace by Facebook has enjoyed a healthy growth over the past year. With a new BT CEO coming in relatively recently too, this is a great example of where the internal communication team have really listened to the needs of their colleagues and responded with a solution that works for all.”


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