Despite being headquartered in the UK, telecommunications giant Vodafone employs more than 100,000 employees across the world with major hubs in Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania.
“A company of that size needs a common sense of purpose, community and everyone pulling in the same direction” to be successful, explains Vodafone Group social media and channels lead Patrick Yiu.
To help achieve stellar internal communications, as well as foster informal communication between colleagues, the companies has relied on Workplace from Facebook since 2019. Work-focused collaboration at Vodafone is carried out on Microsoft Teams.
The reason why Vodafone likes Workplace is because it “gives us an experience that is very consistent with the experience of social media platforms that people use in their everyday lives”, explains Yiu.
“We want it to be really easy for people to find what they need”, as well as leave comments and engage with their colleagues like they would their friends and family on Facebook’s consumer platform.
Also, Yiu is clear that Workplace helps “us to bring company culture to life” as it allows the internal communications team that he leads to “share really nice stories and content related to our company and our strategy”.
COVID-19 disrupts Vodafone’s world of work
“We recognized the impact on everyone’s health and wellbeing” from both COVID-19 as well as other associated impacts, like juggling work and home schooling, explains Yiu.
So Vodafone prioritized showing empathy, and ensuring “we were still building that sense of community and connection” despite the fact people were physically apart.
It was about supporting employees, but also enabling them to “feel motivated and engaged to still productively work”, according to Yiu.
For this reason, he is adamant that having both Workplace and Teams in place prior to the pandemic really helped with the sudden shift to working from home.
This is because people were already familiar with using the tools as part of their daily work lives.
In addition, Workplace allows Vodafone to set up “global storytelling groups”.
Employees were encouraged to set up their own groups about certain passion areas, like baking or pets, in order to build informal connections with colleagues.
The telecommunications giant used these groups in the pandemic to then share stories about what the company was doing to help the COVID-19 response and therefore “build a sense of pride in what we do”.
For instance, Yiu explains that Vodafone developed a tech platform called DreamLab that provided connectivity to hospitals and supported COVID-19 research.
Live events on Workplace
Further to this, Vodafone made use of Workplace Live Videos “to build bridges with the senior leadership”.
Yiu notes that Vodafone introduced live sessions with CEO Nick Reid – called ‘Stay Connected with Nick’ – where he had a “conversation with a colleague from somewhere else in Vodafone around the world”.
This made employees feel that no matter where they sit in the company or their seniority, they are part of the global strategy, especially as Workplace allowed them to ask questions of the Reid and the other speakers.
This live functionality has also enabled Vodafone to move its existing local office-based events online, and therefore reach more employees globally.
Yiu explains that Vodafone has organized events on the likes of racial equality, Pride and mental health. The company invited guest speakers from across the world to share their stories as well as participate in a life Q&A.
Workplace helps transform “what could be quite a staged webinar into something that is a more interactive” with great speakers, according to Yiu.
The future of work at Vodafone
Hybrid working is set to be the future of work at Vodafone. Vodafone refers to its plans as creating “future ready ways of working”, which is “all about flexibility for employees in how they work and where they work, whether that is at home or in the office”, according to Yiu.
“We do, of course, have some roles, which will always be location dependent” – like engineers out in the field or people who work in Vodafone stores – but Yiu explains that the split between the office and remote working “will always depend on people’s individual line of business, the team they work and their individual needs”.
Chief Human Resources Officer Leanne Wood added in a statement: “We anticipate that teams will average about two or three days in the office and two or three days remote, and over time we will learn, adapt and adjust as needed.”
In addition, Vodafone has been rethinking its office spaces. “There has been a change in mindset into how the physical working space operates – we are trialing new office designs, we are getting bigger and more inclusive spaces for brainstorming and informal met ups”.
Another core element of Vodafone’s future of work is providing the opportunity for people to work entirely remotely for four weeks every year.
This scheme aims to allow people who have been physically separated from their families during the pandemic to go and visit them for an extended period while still working.
Further to this, Vodafone has joined the likes of Citi bank in implementing meeting-free days – these are called ‘Spirit of Vodafone’ days – where employees can instead focus on their own personal development and growth.
Workplace and the future of work
Vodafone’s future of work strategy emerged as a result of employee listening that occurred throughout the pandemic using the Workplace platform.
Facebook’s HR tech tool has also helped to drive participation and engagement as it allows Yiu’s team to “share visualizations back so people can see the results”. This also means employees trust that Vodafone is being transparent about any problem areas while they seek out solutions.
In addition, Workplace enables Vodafone to ensure that those who work from home do not become second-class citizens.
It creates “a common environment for all of our people no matter where they are [working]”. This is particularly since Vodafone plans to continue to use Workplace to virtual broadcast in-office events in the future so everyone can attend no matter if they are in the office or not.
Workplace also allows Vodafone to continue to “communicate and reassure employees” about the next disruption: the move to hybrid working.
To support this, Vodafone is developing video office tours to “help people feel comfortable when the offices do start to open”, explains Yiu.
These walkthrough videos of the safety measures in place and the new layouts of the office will be shared in employee groups on Workplace. Then employees can ask questions and share feedback.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Vodafone has decided to renew its partnership with Workplace in order to continue build connections globally in the future of work.
Vodafone is going to continue to use Workplace Pulse surveys to listen and learn from employees. Yiu notes that Vodafone is always keen to try out new innovations from Facebook and Workplace.
While Yiu notes that Vodafone has not currently tried out Facebook’s new VR virtual meeting technology, Horizon Workrooms. “As with every new development with Workplace, we are always very keen to test the functionality and [see] what it can deliver”.
Ultimately, if new technology “can offer an enhanced experience to our employees and we feel that is the right thing to do, we will certainly consider it”, Yiu concludes.