How RBS are using Workplace by Facebook to change corporate culture


RBS is a bank that has had more than its fair share of challenges since the credit crunch of 2008, when the once mighty global financial services group had to be rescued by the UK government following a disastrous series of deals led by its disgraced former CEO Fred Goodwin.

The effects of that catastrophic collapse are still reverberating a decade later yet since the financial crisis RBS has made huge strides to achieve its mission to be number one for customer service, trust and advocacy. It’s not exactly the most conducive background for investing in a new internal communications platform and many in the IC industry raised an eyebrow when RBS became the largest participant in the pilot phase of what was then called Facebook at Work.

But it is a gamble that has paid off; move forward 18 months and Workplace by Facebook is now well established in the Bank – and with surprising results. The naysayers have had to revise their opinion of just how much the new collaborative and social platform has helped change the culture at the bank.

Matt James, Head of Solutions Scouting at RBS was in at the start of the pilot phase and has nurtured it to the point where over 2,000 comments and posts are published each day with over 15,000 reactions in its 1,000 groups. In this interview onstage at smileexpo 2017 Matt describes the journey and the lesson learnt.

Matt James of RBS describes their Workplace experience at smileexpo from simply-communicate.

The Key benefit of the Workplace platform is the surprisingly high adoption figures that it tends to deliver in large companies. Many staff are familiar with the user experience through their personal use of Facebook; after all the social media platform now has north of 2 billion users around the world and is second nature to many. This translates in the internal world of the intranet into adoption levels well above 60% compared to the average Yammer network that is used by 22% of staff who have access to the platform.

CEO Ross McEwan is on trending posts every day. “He demonstrates his authentic real personality in his posts and this has encouraged the rest of the top team to follow suit,”claims Matt.

“Engagement metrics are up but in the next phase we will quantify real benefits coming from the platform. We are also looking at how we can get a return on investment from using bots.”

The implementation of the platform has also been recognised  recently when RBS won the Celent Model Bank 2017 award.

Matt and his team can draw upon a network of 220 champions and community managers around the world.  Governance is ‘light-touch’ with just a few rules about not posting sensitive information or any details about customers. During the time of the project only 2 or 3 posts have had to be taken down out of over a million.

“That has worked well is the usability and familiarity; the Workplace user experience  practically sells itself. It has been relatively low cost from the change perspective. Senior leaders have taken to it – even those who are not naturally social online. And many new influencers have been surfaced.

“For instance we have a Financial Controller who in his spare time is a stand-up comic. He started posting humorous cartoons, which proved very popular. Now Internal Comms  engages him around publicising campaigns.”

Matt claims that the platform has given a voice to the silent majority.  “Other channels can tend to give an amplified voice to the negative, but the threads have a self-healing nature.  If someone posts a critical comment, others will weigh in with views that are positive.”

Workplace differs from Facebook in that it is grey rather than blue and all the content is secure. Unlike public Facebook, on Workplace posts are private and owned by RBS; Facebook cannot search or trawl data for its own benefit.

Taking risks

For the roll out Matt involved a group of risk managers in the early roll out of the pilot. He invited in the compliance, legal and security teams to collaborate at an early stage and won them over before going bank wide. So what would he have done differently?

“You have to take an approach that is right for your organisation. We couldn’t look at other organisations to see how it worked – if I were rolling it out now we would have got our senior leaders on earlier and rolled out faster – as others would have been the trailblazers and we could follow their learnings. Take the risk and you will enjoy the benefits sooner.”

Your questions answered  

There was not enough time to answer all the questions put to Matt through the CrowdComms conference app, so we asked him to tackle them after the event:

What is the most surprising use of Workplace you’ve seen?

We used Workplace to promote the 1 in 4 Mental Health Week campaign.  The number of employees who told their personal stories was amazing, including one of our senior directors, who subsequently connected up with a number of employees to provide support and mentorship.

Have you had any misuse or inappropriate posts on RBS workplace and how have you dealt with that?

Only 2 accidental ones I’m aware of.  Confidential information isn’t posted on Workplace and the examples I’m aware of were minor examples of someone posting something that was against this policy so we took the posts down.

How has workplace changed the culture of your organisation? Has there been a noticeable shift?

I believe it’s been massive.   It’s given a voice to the organisation, demonstrating the things our people do every day to meet our mission to be number one for customer service trust and advocacy.  To create advocacy internally you have to give people a voice.  The stories people tell are just awesome.  From acts of goodwill like branch staff personally taking a customers lost wallet to their home, to sharing best practice, to encouraging wellness and the bringing together of micro-communities, such as the support of our diversity efforts: groups for LBGT, religions, Enable our employee led disability network – these groups get joined by people outside those communities and which helps to build understanding of the massive benefits of diversity.

What was the Communications problem/s in RBS and has Workplace fixed it?

RBS has been through some tough times and rebuilding the pride in the Bank has been key.  Workplace shares practical examples of the great things people do every day for our customers – and that attitude and engagement spreads.

I’d also say the fact that it’s mobile first means you can reach your people wherever and whatever they do.  For example we’ve got 1,400 branches and the employees there spend their days serving our customers.  They don’t have time to sit in front of a computer screen reading the intranet.  Wokplace gives them access to all the news, ways to share best practices, network with their colleagues and find help and support.

How involved is your IC team? Do you have a vision for the future of internal comms at RBS?

The IC were a core part of the team and they now ‘own’ the platform within the Bank.  Workplace absolutely forms part of our communication and collaboration strategy.  As we’re reaching critical mass across the organisation we’ll be looking to remove some of the old communication channels like email which are both costly and inefficient.

Do you have an example of how Workplace has aided collaboration or business processes?

A member of our infrastructure team shared facts and figures about the costs of the enterprise storage for the Bank and encouraged people to do housekeeping as removing 5GB per person would save £1m.  This was shared 123 times, seen by over 20,000 people and was taken up as an action across the organisation.

We have a group for our technology support team where people can post issues and share answers, cutting down calls to the helpdesk – and we’re going further on this developing an employee virtual assistant using the new Workplace bot functionality.

Does the fact that not all your people are eligible create any dissatisfaction?

They want it! The issue is sometimes it might be a technical issue we need to resolve and other times it’s because of their job – where it’s the latter people understand their regulatory constraints so they understand it.

Have there been any concerns about information overload? With email, FB@W, intranet…

We’ve provided guidance on how to tune their News Feed – and we don’t have too many default groups, so people chose what they want in their feed.  And of course Workplace has functionality that enables you to “See fewer post like this …” so some selective preening early on help the News Feed know the sort of thing you want to see.

Do you find out there is only a small amount of regular posters? Are people feel scared to ask or suggest things because of social scrutiny?

We have 22k active users i.e. those that are posting and interacting – and that doesn’t include the people who just browse.  I’d say Workplace has given a voice to many of the silent majority – people seem to be much more comfortable posting on Workplace than say the intranet or asking a question in an open forum.  Let’s not forget social media and chat has become natural activity for the majority of people in their lives outside work – so they really expect to be able to communicate in the same ways in the office.

How do you convince the cynics that don’t use Facebook outside of work?

We run on the premium service so it’s a bit different from Facebook outside work as the Bank is the data owner and it’s a ‘ring-fenced’ environment so we can assure people their information isn’t used for things like advertising .

There are and always will be people who won’t adopt – but there are many more who just delete communications emails without reading them!

What did you do to get strong leadership buy in?

Our sponsor is our Chief Administration Officer, Simon McNamara, just got it and was an absolute champion for the platform.    We are also grateful to our communications team who sat down with our top leaders and explained the platform and how it could be used.  Once they see it and touch it most just understand how powerful it can be as a communication, collaboration and employee engagement tool.    Leaders can share posts about themselves and what they are doing around the Bank and beyond it and that insight into the person makes any other communication they do more authentic.

Over and above that of course better collaboration leads to better ideas and higher productivity and that has a positive affect on the bottom line!

Any engagement tactics that you could share that worked?

  • Get leaders involved – especially your most senior.
  • Create a champions group.
  • Use images and video a much as possible.
  • Hold engagement session in key locations and create a buzz.
  • Think of some campaigns that can ‘go viral’;  a fun one we have one called #thisisme at the moment where people post an image and three things that describe them – they then tag 3 people to do the same (ice-bucket challenge style).
  • Use the mix of your established communications channels to share the message.
  • Recognise people who are doing great things and share great stories.

by Marc Wright

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