Q&A: Facebook’s Fiona Mullan on digital engagement in the workplace

Head of HR EMEA at Facebook, Fiona Mullan

Fiona Mullan, Head of HR EMEA at Facebook, has revealed how Facebook’s workplace culture is tackling the fiona mullanissue of digital natives entering the workforce.

She also talked about the technology Facebook uses to keep employees engaged and communicating, and how it ties in to Facebook’s mission to create an open and connected world.

Fiona was speaking to HRD Connect ahead of her keynote session at the HRD Summit 2017.

HRD: What is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the HR profession right now?

Fiona: This year is the first year that people born in the 21st century will enter the workplace. This is a group that has grown up with technology, and don’t know a world without the internet or being connected. They have different expectations of the workplace, how they should experience it and what it can offer. They prefer a collaborative rather than competitive work environment, they want to be mentored instead of directed, and they want flexibility both with what they work on and with how they work.

Facebook was founded by a millennial, and our culture embodies what it means to be a millennial today – collaborative, transparent, connected, flexible and full of opportunity. We focus on people’s strengths, and we celebrate everyone as an individual. For us, this means we build roles around people, not people around roles, and have honest conversations about where roles are not playing to people’s strengths.

What is likely to have the biggest effect on the work of your HR team: business strategy, or government policy? 

Our company mission is to connect the world because we believe a connected world is a better world, and our people strategy is built on this. We hire people who can make an impact – those who have the ability to drive change, bring ideas to life, have taken risks and learned and who have an insatiable curiosity and appetite to learn. I think those things will remain central to us for years to come.

Where can HR make the biggest difference in your organisation?

Ultimately, our people strategy supports our mission of making the world more open and connected, and we do that through our culture. We encourage openness, deep connections and for our people to be bold in their work. We also use Facebook at Facebook to support these connections.

As a people-leadership team, of course we adhere to the usual legal requirements of regular people practices, but there is little else regular about the way HR is done here. We try to enable and support and not interfere and formalize. We give our people the opportunities and tools to engage in a way which is enriching the culture. We don’t have a rigid HR structure; we get out of the way, and focus on supporting people to help them be their best selves, and assist them when they need it most.

We remove hierarchies so that everyone works with everyone else and is encouraged to share, participate and offer ideas no matter their experience or seniority. The weekly company-wide Q&A with Mark Zuckerberg embodies this. It’s about us working hard to make sure everyone at Facebook has access to as much information as possible about every part of the company so they can make the best decisions and have the greatest impact. The Q&A encourages openness and input at every level of the organisation.

How do you make digital engagement relevant and accessible for all employees, not just younger or tech workers?

We know that CEOs are not happy with their organisations’ current ability to communicate and collaborate. In effect, Facebook has been a 12 year beta test, as we have seen how it keeps you connected to friends and family. By using Facebook at Facebook, we really live this. We now have a product called Workplace which is designed to do the same at work for our clients. And anyone, regardless of age or tech experience can use it, as it works just like a personal Facebook account with features such as News Feed, Groups and Chat.

Is the investment in technology and software worth it, compared to investing in consumer versions?

People are now increasingly on the move, teams now work together in different ways, and business leaders at the top of companies want their workplace to be more connected and decisions made faster. Our recent launch of Workplace is aimed at helping other organisations tackle these issues. It is designed to connect people and transform how teams get together, regardless of size.

It facilitates communication, decision making and information sharing amongst people for whom it’s most relevant. This could be in a major corporation to facilitate a two-way conversation with the CEO, or in a small business that wants to make their environments more open and connected.

Hear from Fiona Mullan about how your company can build a Digital Employee Experience at the HRD Summit in 2017.

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