Webinar recap: Change the way you work with Workplace by Facebook

  • Seth Otto
  • March 15, 2017

Facebook is currently offering the Workplace platform free of charge to the non-profit and NGO sector. In a recent NetHope Solutions Center webinar, Brad Ferry, growth manager for Workplace, was joined in his walkthrough of the platform by Save the Children and CARE USA. Together they explored the features, benefits, and challenges of deploying the platform at these global NGOs.

“We believe a connected workplace is ultimately a more productive workplace.” – Brad Ferry

Ferry opened with Facebook’s corporate mission: “Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” He explained that Workplace was born of the desire to bring that ethos to the work environment through a similar, but distinct, communications platform. By extension, the mission driving Workplace is, “Connecting the 3 billion people at work.” The platform is designed to allow colleagues to connect with each other and share resources in an efficient way that looks and feels familiar to Facebook users.

Ferry explained that Workplace was built on the three pillars of leadership, visibility, and agility. “Leaders are looking for ways to connect with others in the organization in an authentic way,” said Ferry.  He shared that Workplace provides a high level of authenticity within inter-agency communication, established by the ubiquity and familiarity of the Facebook platform. Similarly, the platform allows for greater visibility around important organization-wide messaging that might otherwise get lost through traditional channels like email. “Workplace aims to be a platform that allows for quick access to timely information and conversations within organizations” he said.

Workplace is challenging the culture of the work environment to become more open and inclusive, by empowering workers with the ease of collaboration. Ferry shared a short video introduction to Workplace that showed this ethos in practice while demonstrating workflow on the platform in action. The video revealed a familiar Facebook-style interface centered around a News Feed and other Facebook features in the context of a work environment like Groups, Profile, Search, and Chat.

“Workplace is for organizations that want to get things done.” – Brad Ferry

Why Workplace Works

Familiarity with the Facebook interface is the strongest selling point for Workplace, and Ferry spoke about the lack of learning curve for new users and the efficiency of organizational uptake for the platform. “Everything Facebook does is mobile-first,” said Ferry, and because of this, he was able to make a strong case for the accessibility of the platform. “Not every team member is in front of their computer all the time, but most will have their mobile device at any given time,” he said. Workplace accounts are entirely separate from private Facebook accounts. It is a separate platform altogether, built for the enterprise market that ensures organizational information stay private and secure.

Facebook does not retain any of the rights to data or information shared on Workplace. “On Workplace, you own all of the data. We are simply the processor of that data,” Ferry said. Workplace maintains industry standards such as SOC2, single sign-on, support, and analytics. Users will not see personal posts or posts from friends and family, and there are currently no apps, games, or ads on Workplace.


Beth Kargel, senior manager of internal communications, and Greg Sjogren, senior director of IT operations of CARE USA, joined the presentation to talk about their organization’s experience using Workplace. Sjogren explained that after a review process last September, CARE USA decided to deploy the Workplace platform across their entire organization. The rollout was a rapid deployment and within four weeks all of CARE USA’s 4,200 employees in 35 countries’ offices were invited to use Workplace. Sjogren said, “Over half of the organization signed up instantly. When you consider the context of how we operate at CARE, that’s awesome. It’s a higher acceptance rate than any other attempt we’ve made to deploy collaboration software like SharePoint or tools like Constant Contact.”

“We really believe that social connection supports our business initiatives.” – Beth Kargel

Kargel talked about the effects Workplace’s native translation capabilities and collaboration structure has had on the organization. “CARE USA is an organization in over 35 countries, and we’ve never had a way to immediately share thoughts, gratitude, or new ideas with colleagues and peers. To have messages translated without delay and expense was incredibly valuable. It allows for faster top-down communication as well as new ways of communicating across the organization,” she said. Kargel went on to describe the bulk of CARE USA’s use of Workplace as a way to celebrate each other with introductions of new hires, celebrations, and condolences. “This is especially effective when posts from the CEO become interactive as opposed to a top-down email that only goes one way,” she said. Kargel also reflected on the importance of the communications platform in CARE USA’s work environment. “We really believe that being able to connect this way supports our business initiatives. We are a large and diverse organization. Connection, trust, and relationship are the foundation for CARE USA and for working more effectively,” she said.

CARE USA had success using Workplace within the context of a pitch event in which participants in an accelerator competed to have their projects chosen for scalability. Fifteen CARE USA teams from 30 countries used Workplace extensively during the event to communicate with each other. A selection of quotes that Kargel collected afterward include:

  • “We have experienced major exposure through this platform.”
  • “It gives us opportunities to learn about other projects in different countries.”
  • “As almost every employee is familiar with Facebook, it is easy for the team to connect and share knowledge. It is also easy to access through a mobile phone.”
  • “It has helped to overcome the geographical barriers quite effortlessly.”

Sjogren concluded their presentation by sharing a few of the challenges that they’ve faced working to incorporate Workplace in their organization. Due to rapid deployment, they neglected to connect user accounts to the Workplace user directory, and doing so after the fact is time consuming. Translation is not yet available for languages spoken in poorer countries where CARE USA has staff members like Bengali and Pashto. Incorporating other member organizations within the global CARE International federation while retaining control over segmentation and top-down communication is not yet possible.

Save The Children

David Kennedy, knowledge management systems analyst for Save the Children, presented the reasons that Save the Children, an organization with over 25,000 employees, chose Workplace. “To connect as people with a common interest and acknowledge that is more important than a common geography. To collaborate within topic-driven groups to maximize the use of knowledge within the organization. And to expand networks within the organization so that people make connections outside of their immediate projects and immediate geographical areas,” he said.

Kennedy used a graphic representation of the many different types of software and hardware tools currently in use throughout Save the Children’s organization. “The social collaboration piece of the puzzle is what we are looking to address with the use of Workplace,” Kennedy said.

Hurricane Matthew

Save the Children tried small tests of other collaboration platforms, and the highest user interaction was from the pilot test of Workplace. “After a six-week pilot among their emergency response team in Haiti during the Hurricane Matthew emergency response in October proved to be a success, global deployment among all employees was approved,” said Kennedy. Save the Children’s global humanitarian communications manager, Kyle Degraw, found that communicating with Workplace saved him a day’s worth of time per week usually spent on emails.

During their deployment to Haiti, the IT department decided to use Workplace as well. With it, they could easily track shipments of equipment and the progress of installations through online media posts that all parties could monitor in real time. “Using Workplace was a huge improvement over the usual two-day lag time during past emergency responses. A lot of time was saved with video updates and 360 imaging tools that would otherwise be spent writing lengthy email updates,” Kennedy said. Three months later, Workplace is still in constant use by Save the Children in the field. “There’s no longer a weekly update, it’s all real time. Workplace has really sped up the flow of information throughout the organization,” he said.

Just a day prior to the webinar, Save the Children had deployed Workplace throughout their global organization. “We launched yesterday and sent email invitations to over 20,000 staff across 104 countries. 5,000 new accounts created in the last 24 hours,” said Kennedy. “People have really taken to it. We see about 900 groups created with lots of people posting and going live. It’s really taken hold. We are really happy.”

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