A Facebook exec shares 4 strategies any leader can use to improve communication and camaraderie when working remotely

  • Christine Trodella is the head of Americas for Workplace at Facebook. 
  • Trodella has noticed a few trends in how companies are creating a remote-work culture.
  • Video, informal channels, and engagement data are some of the keys to building culture digitally.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook became a household name across the globe for its ability to connect people online.

In 2016, the company launched Workplace, a communications tool for companies that allows workers to connect via chat, live video, and groups. Workplace is used by more than 5 million employees at companies including Nestlé, Petco, Spotify, Walmart, and Virgin Atlantic.

The platform and its main competitors, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, have enjoyed a bump in usage during the pandemic.

Christine Trodella heads Workplace in the Americas at Facebook. She’s spent a lot of time thinking about the long-term influence remote work will have on company cultures and how communications tools play a role in creating a more sustainable remote culture. 

It’s a problem the tech giant is grappling with itself. Last year, Facebook decided it would allow many of its employees to switch to permanent remote work, and it is hiring a director of remote work to help with the transition. Other tech employers including Spotify and Salesforce have introduced hybrid work models that allow employees to work from anywhere they have an internet connection.

The rapid shift to more permanent remote work means employers have to adapt their strategies to improve leadership communications, employee collaboration, and training, Trodella told Insider.

“It’s the engine that allows you to amplify the change management, that leaders and stakeholders, need to effectively preserve culture, preserve community, and, quite frankly, just get work done,” she said.

In an interview with Insider, Trodella shared the lessons she learned from the past year and how leaders could use them to improve their company culture.

Encourage casual conversations

The exact ways companies go about maintaining community and culture may differ, but managers and business leaders could benefit from instituting virtual programming that is more informal. For example, Trodella said companies could create an internal chat channel for nonwork topics such as cooking recipes or home-office tips.

Face time is also important, Trodella said.

“One of the things that we’ve seen really strong adoption with is live video,” she said. “What we’ve found is that this is a really effective way for CEOs or other business leaders to connect either with their team or the entire organization.”

When employees see department heads in less formal attire and being joined by pets or children on these calls, it helps them bond over shared experiences, she added.

For example, Trodella said that an executive at one company got “#NoMakeupSelfie” trending on its Workplace network after she apologized for her appearance on a video call. Employees rallied to her support by sending their own pictures and using the hashtag.

Improve leadership communication

Leaders should also think more critically about their internal communications. Collecting data on this can be useful to measure employee sentiment, Trodella said.

“The analytics will help them understand what messages are resonating and potentially why,” Trodella said.

When executives or managers hold virtual town halls or team meetings, Workplace provides data on employee sentiment during and after these events. This allows leaders to improve how they interact with their teams, and it helps measure employee engagement. (A Forrester report on the return on investment of Workplace attributed about one-quarter of its value to “reduced leadership communication costs.”)

The tool can track how active the organization is on Workplace, how much content is being created, how many people are active contributors, group creation and activity, post likes, comments and views, and connections. 

Make information easily accessible

Trodella said her team had seen an increase in interest in Workplace’s “Knowledge Library,” a central place on the platform where companies can store content such as a list of company holidays, personal time off, remote-work policies, workplace safety precautions, and key contact information. 

“When people are remote, it’s great to have information that’s easily accessible, easy to find, easy to use, easy to comment on and iterate on,” she said.

This information is especially important for new employees. Trodella added that managers and leaders needed to be cognizant that remotely onboarded employees were not having the same work experience and may need more attention.

This can also apply to retail or frontline workers, who need easy access to workplace tools. For these workers, being able to quickly send messages to central corporate offices can help them in their jobs. It can also make them feel more included, Trodella said.

Invest in new technology

Facebook is betting that virtual reality will play a role in the future of remote work. It has already folded VR features connected to the company-owned Oculus headset technology into Workplace.

Other companies are also investing in this tech for training purposes. PwC, for example, teamed up with the VR company Talespin to use virtual reality to train workers on unconscious bias. 

Trodella said VR could create training environments that simulate in-person work. She’s also seen “empathy labs,” which train for inclusion by putting the headset user in the shoes of an employee from a different background to help them empathize with their experience.

“They’re finding it to be a very effective vehicle for training,” Trodella said.

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