The way people communicate has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Employees spend an increasing amount of time on social media networks, and tend to speak to their colleagues via email or instant messaging apps more than face to face or over the phone. Why wouldn’t workplaces want to follow suit?

The recent introduction of Workplace by Facebook – as the name suggests, a version of Facebook for the workplace – is the latest step in a trend that began with the likes of Yammer and Salesforce. These networks help people talk in the office by offering chat facilities, but they can also facilitate access to shared documents and act as ways to ‘broadcast’ corporate news.

Gerard Moss, senior vice-president of HR at Atlantis The Palm, points out that, by 2020, nearly half the workforce will be millennials – “and let’s face it, they practically live on social media platforms.”

The hotel uses Facebook in the workplace, because it is easily accessible, popular, user-friendly and adaptable, says Moss. “Because only a fraction of colleagues have access to work email, we must be realistic and creative with how we reach out and communicate with employees of different age groups and from 82 countries,” he says.

“We aim to ensure that our 3,200 colleagues are kept well-informed on happenings that concern them in an instantaneous manner – quick and relevant information increases happiness and ultimately retention.

“We encourage happy and useful posts, alongside well thought-out feedback on matters that directly influence employees’ lives – for instance, feedback on the free laundry service, accommodation or staff restaurants. And we constantly reinforce messages about industry awards we win, and the various events and sporting competitions that are organised for employees.”

Social media has to operate as a two-way communication platform to be effective – employees need to be able to voice their opinions as well as receive information, and companies must ensure the messages they broadcast are appropriate for the medium. But how much control should be exercised over an internal social media platform? Too much and you appear controlling; too little and you risk conversations spiralling out of control.

“Not all messages that are posted by colleagues are positive,” warns Moss. “But one way of filtering negative and destructive messages is to use the function that allows the administrators to pre-approve a post before it appears live.”

Negative sentiment isn’t ignored, however, he says, but instead of being posted live, the employee will receive a detailed, private response from the HR team. “This works very well for us, because it still allows colleagues to express themselves freely and receive a response to their query or suggestion.

By operating this way, we encourage two-way communication in a controlled and orderly manner that is not detrimental to the organisation.”

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