How SWOOP has helped NBN’s Workplace network avoid becoming a victim of its own success

Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN Co) has been using Workplace for more than two years now. It’s become an incredible knowledge platform full of information and resources.

But the success of Workplace at NBN Co has the potential to become its own enemy because so many people are using it and the information on the platform swells every day, at times making it difficult to navigate.

Some of the more than 8,500 users on Workplace at NBN find it difficult to filter the relevant information into meaningful content and are at risk of switching off completely.

This is a challenge also faced by NBN Co’s leaders. How do they keep employees engaged on Workplace and make sure their messages cut through the “noise”?

NBN CEO Stephen Rue.

NBN Co is using analytics and data provided by SWOOP to counter this problem, especially when it comes to keeping leaders engaged. NBN Co’s Senior Manager Leadership and Employee Communications, Pat Devery, recognises the importance of leaders using Workplace because when a leader is engaged, their staff will follow.

By using the data, anyone can immediately see the impact of their posts on Workplace. They can see who was engaged, how people responded, they can track the sentiment of the posts and see how posts compare. Individuals and groups can also be benchmarked to see how they compare.

Leaders can cut through the noise and find out what people are talking about, they can listen to their organisation.

Mr Devery explains how data analytics is keeping leaders engaged on Workplace, an essential element to keep the entire platform flourishing.

“We push the analytics,” he said.

“We grab it out of SWOOP super quick at the enterprise level, and at that CEO update group level, and … immediately it’s gratifying for them because they can see how many people are looking, how many people are engaged, responding and the spider web effect of how that communication has infiltrated the organisation which previously you couldn’t see.

“But more so than that, it provides the ability for leaders, whether it’s the CEO or the executive or any leadership level below that, to have immediate and broad feedback, which is also an extremely powerful feature of the platform itself.”

Mr Devery said numbers, measurements and targets drive NBN Co so the ability to track is powerful, and a great way to keep leaders engaged.

“We can measure and we can benchmark as a result and SWOOP really has been the catalyst for us to drive those measurements through our leadership community and keep them engaged that way,” he said.

Connecting Australia

NBN Co Satellite Ground Station at Wolumla, in southern NSW.

NBN Co was established in 2009 to design, build and operate Australia’s wholesale broadband access network. Its purpose is to connect Australia and give everyone access to fast broadband.

However, effectively connecting and communicating with employees located around the country was a challenge.

“We had this charter two years ago to connect the continent but we weren’t really connecting with each other,” Mr Devery said.

“We had lots of different channels, lots of different ways of communicating and collaborating and that’s where Workplace came in.”

Two years on Workplace

NBN Co began investigating Facebook’s social enterprise tool, Workplace, in early 2016. Less than five months later, the platform was launched to the company via an all-employee invitation from the CEO.

Former NBN CEO Bill Morrow, who launched Workplace at NBN in 2016.

There are currently more than 8,500 users on NBN Co’s Workplace network, with 93 per cent claimed accounts and more than 7,100 active users. NBN boasts one of the highest activity/user rates according to SWOOP’s benchmarking of Workplace networks, the world’s largest analysis of Workplace networks.

With those large numbers of interactive users, comes a lot of activity – some relevant and some distracting.

Mr Devery said he would have been “kicking goals, doing cartwheels, jumping over rainbows” had he known two years that NBN Co would achieve the engagement rates it currently has on Workplace.

Two years ago, he would have thought his job was done and he had achieved success.

“What I didn’t know then, that I know now, is that level of activity drives a lot of noise through the platform which people find, depending on what their information needs are, frivolous, irrelevant,” Mr Devery said.

“And as a result they start to switch off the platform itself and there’s a danger because we’re using that platform as our key communication device and if people are switching off from it, they’re missing important messages.”

He said one way Workplace has addressed the issue is by improving the relevance of content in a person’s newsfeed by only displaying content for groups that someone has joined, or people that someone follows.

Prior to this change, the newsfeed for each user was crafted by an algorithm that could not be controlled by an organisation or a user of the product.

Mr Devery said NBN Co had been about to change many of the groups in the network from open to private groups, reluctantly, to cut back on the “noise” but that’s been put on hold as a result of the changes made by Workplace.

Define how Workplace is being used in your organisation

The key, he said, is to give people confidence in the platform so they can find relevant information.

That involves defining what Workplace is being used for. Is it a broadcast communications tool, a video library, an onboarding tool, or a team collaboration tool?

“Workplace can be a lot of different things. It comes out of the box and you think people know how to use it, it’s intuitive and you just set it up and it runs itself but it doesn’t really work that way,” Mr Devery said.

“It can be a jack of all trades but at the same time, run the risk of being a master of none.

“So defining what Workplace is going to be in your organisation is probably the first step.”

A NBN contractor installing a Fibre To The Node in Newcastle, NSW.

Mr Devery said NBN Co’s internal communications team uses Workplace to collaborate and get work done faster, but that isn’t the norm across the enterprise.

“The most common use case is just to receive broadcast information,” he said.

“In amongst that you have upwards of 7,100 people potentially pinging messages around the platform and that’s not going to be relevant for everybody so then it comes to … defining what the actual platform is … educating people on how to actually filter that information themselves.”

Mr Devery and his team have encouraged staff to access their groups to get the information they need rather than the Workplace newsfeed.

“The newsfeed becomes more of a serendipitous discovery of information platform, you can find different stuff and scroll through but if you want to know what’s going on in the organisation you click on the ‘Connected at NBN’ group which is our corporate comms channel,” he said.

“If you want to know what’s going on in your group, you click on your team’s groups.

“We have these three or four different layers that we give people guidance on. It’s a really basic information architecture for the system.”

Looking ahead

Now that Workplace is embedded at NBN Co as a communications tool, Mr Devery said they are moving towards adding integrations to Workplace, such as expenses and annual leave bots where employees can submit forms all on Workplace.

To hear more about NBN Co’s Workplace journey, watch SWOOP CEO Cai Kjaer’s interview with Mr Devery.

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