Big Bank Taps ‘Facebook at Work’ to Foster Innovation

Checking Facebook at work is usually a no-no for most bank and credit union employees. But 100,000 RBS employees are now being told to do exactly that. Why? To fuel greater innovation and foster internal collaboration.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has announced a ground-breaking partnership with Facebook that will bring the social networking service to employees across the bank — everyone from chief executive Ross McEwan to back office workers and branch staff.

Facebook At Work, a business version of Facebook, will be available to 100,000 staff across the bank to “encourage collaboration and allow employees to communicate faster and more efficiently.”

This move means RBS isn’t just the first bank to partner with the new Facebook At Work product, they are also the largest company in the world to do so — in any industry.

The bank says the is aimed at connecting people across the company more quickly and efficiently through a mobile app, as well as a desktop site to increase
productivity. RBS is also pondering ways to use Facebook at Work to interact with customers, beyond what the bank is already doing on its public company Facebook page. (RBS has 82,786 ‘Likes’ on Facebook, ranking it at #71 on The Financial Brand’s list of most-liked banks.) There are also rumors that RBS may even roll out banking services through the social network.

As well as using it on their desktop computers, employees will also be able to download it to their phones and tablets so that they can keep track of work-related issues when they are on the move.

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What is Facebook at Work?

Facebook At Work, which is free for now, will look and feel similar to the Facebook that people use every day and employees will be able to use all of the same features, allowing them to post photos, create groups and events, update their work profiles, and send private messages to colleagues.

“Facebook at Work is like a very basic, secure, very walled-garden version of Facebook — conceived originally and used initially by Facebook itself,” explains Ingrid Lunden, a journalist with TechCrunch. “Users can follow/friend each other to see general updates posted by them in their work life.”

Users can also join Groups within their Work account, pending approval. Those Groups, for example, can focus on marketing or a particular project that some people are working on. Users can also directly message each other, and make voice and video calls, as well as share screens with each other.

Down the road, Facebook plans to charge for additional functionality, such as integrating Facebook at Work with other enterprise software such as Microsoft’s Office 365.

“We’re still in beta but we do plan to monetize, based around a freemium business model,” said Julien Codorniou, the director of global platform partnerships at Facebook, in an interview. “We are also building sales and marketing teams for Facebook at Work across the globe right now.”

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Pilot Proves Potential for Enhanced Collaboration and Innovation

RBS has already piloted Facebook At Work and quickly found that staff were able to work much more efficiently together, answer customer questions faster, update other colleagues on their work in a much more engaging way and source a far wider range of ideas for on-going projects. Given how many people already use Facebook in their every day lives, RBS says it was quickly adopted by those in the pilot, with minimal training needed.

RBS began the pilot of Facebook At Work in July 2015, with an impressive adoption rate of 90%. It will be rolled out to 30,000 employees by end of March 2016, and by the end of 2016 all 100,000 employees will be using the tool.

Other big brands are piloting the new Facebook product, such as Heineken’s US workforce, and 4,000 employees from real estate firm Century 21. There are some 300 businesses currently using Facebook’s enterprise version, the company says.

“I’ve already been using Facebook At Work while we test it and it’s been so useful,” said Simon McNamara, Chief Administrative Officer at RBS. “It allows me to exchange information and ideas quickly and securely with my entire team on a wide range of projects.”

“I’m excited about how bringing people together from all across the bank through Facebook At Work can help our employees do their job better,” McNamara continues. “Whether it’s being able to find answers to customer queries much faster or helping us come up with bright new ideas.”

“There is clearly potential to expand this relationship,” he adds. “We are exploring opportunities to develop this in other areas. The pilot we’ve been running demonstrated we were ready for more.”

The notion of using a consumer-focused social media platform for enterprise-level communications and collaboration might seem a bit far-fetched at first, but there’s some sound reasoning behind the approach. If the next generation of employees your financial institution grows up using Facebook, why not build off that experience for a company intranet?

“Almost everyone uses Facebook outside of work,” notes McNamara. “That means I don’t have to train anyone. Some nuances are different, but there are more similarities.”

And Facebook at Work should work well as a tool for fostering greater innovation. Think about how people typically use email — someone could send an email with a great idea to the wrong people, or recipients might shovel the idea aside. But with a company-wide social network, an archival record of all innovative ideas can be accessed by anyone across the organization — open for comments, feedback and suggestions for improvements.

In fact, McNamara admits one of the bank’s goals for Facebook at Work was to “dampen email usage” as a platform for sharing ideas with a group. “Email has become a broadcast mechanism where people are not reading much.”

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Social Media Security Concerns

Facebook At Work will be completely separate from personal Facebook accounts, meaning information shared between RBS employees is only accessible to other colleagues within the bank. The bank is confident that information shared through the network will remain safe, secure and confidential.

“RBS had a lot of security requirements, and we have addressed all of these,” said Julien Codorniou, director of global platform partnerships at Facebook, in an interview with the Financial Times.

In a somewhat unusual move for Facebook, the social media behemoth promises all the data that resides in the application will belong to RBS, and will not be mined for advertisements, as it does on the main site.

“We are very sensitive to discoverability of data,” explained McNamara with RBS. “We’ve been very rigorous in terms of testing the level of security with Facebook. We’re satisfied we’ve got something that will work.”

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