How will ‘Facebook at Work’ affect the workforce experience?

Facebook may be the biggest social network on the planet – with over 1.3 billion active members and 1.5 million advertisers – but it still hasn’t yet conquered the workplace in any official capacity. So when Facebook announced back in November that it was launching Facebook at Work (FAW), a version designed for the workplace specifically, we began following the story with great interest. And, when news broke recently that the FAW app was available in the Apple App and Android stores, and has been rolled out to a number of  trial customers, we couldn’t help but investigate.

So what exactly will FAW look like? Well, it’s very similar in appearance to the main social network site, whilst promising to be a separate experience. It aims to keep corporate data far from personal profiles (and the world of selfies and ‘what I had for lunch’ updates) – while giving employees the ability to connect using familiar Facebook tools. Features include a separate ‘news feed’ and employees will be able to share ideas with their colleagues through the recognisable posts, groups, events and messages.

Considering the current wide spread appeal of Facebook this could encourage all sorts of collaboration. For example, when an employee writes a post it could spread virally throughout the company as it will be shown in numerous news feeds. Staff are encouraged to ‘follow’, rather than make ‘friends’ with their colleagues; so you could connect with an colleague you’ve never even spoken to, let alone met.

Zuckerberg says that they are going to invest in it aggressively: “Connecting everyone, understanding the world and building the next generation of platform.” It seems Facebook is hoping to compete with all the existing workplace communication and collaboration tools from Google Docs to Slack. LinkedIn is already looking at FAW as a competitor.

But how is FAW going to affect the workforce experience? Will it eventually find competition amongst the HRMS providers if it decides to expand the offering to start including features we’d normally see in today’s HR systems? Or will FAW complement a HRMS if at some point in the future the two could integrate rather than having FAW as a “separate” experience?

I’m not actually sure if it will take off in the way Zuckerberg thinks. Yes, over a billion have an account but who uses it to the extent that it would be needed at work? I may have a Facebook account but I don’t use it that often – I don’t even have the app on my phone.

Another thing to remember is that trust and security are fundamental to a good workforce experience – and Facebook doesn’t have the best track record with public trust. Remember their secret psychological tests from 2012? Do people actually trust Facebook anymore? I know I don’t – and I think this is something Facebook will have to focus a lot of effort on if it wants to see uptake on this FAW.

And, it may be used by builders and barristers alike now but what about Generation Z and Millennials? There’s research showing younger people are leaving Facebook for ‘trendier’ social media channels such as Snapchat and Instagram. So it’s also going to have to fight hard to appeal to all generations within a business.

So I would say watch this space but it seems FAW has got its work cut out if it wants to appeal to an increasingly modern workforce that is multi-generational, multi-cultural, media aware and tech savvy.

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