Lessons in Culture from the Facebook Headquarters

As a strategic implementation partner for Workplace by Facebook, we were invited to the Facebook Headquarters for a partner summit immediately following their annual F8 developer conference. On the heels of exciting announcements of new integrations and capabilities for the platform, a group of partners gathered at the company’s main campus in Menlo Park to discuss the future of Workplace and the potential for changing the way we connect in modern organizations.

Workplace is the enterprise communication platform by Facebook. Essentially, it’s like Facebook for work with additional capabilities and integrations with other commonly used work-related tools and programs. Among other advantages, it requires minimal ramp up time and little-to-no training for implementation since so many users are already very familiar with its consumer-facing counterpart. We believe Workplace has the potential to be one of the fastest growing platforms ever created, and it most certainly will be a game changer for internal communications and connectivity within and across organizations.

The summit included a comprehensive presentation on Facebook’s culture, which provided an overview and insights into their values as well as the ways of working that reinforce their “hacker” culture.

While culture is extremely important for employee motivation and can impact a company’s financial performance, understanding how to influence it can be an elusive and complicated endeavor. Clients often want to know the “secrets” of organizations known for strong cultures in order to apply them at their own companies. What we’ve learned is that the secret isn’t in the what (which values, beliefs or symbols they subscribe to), but in how organizations build and reinforce their culture that matters.

Here are some of the most influential factors we’ve seen in common at Facebook and other companies with strong and effective work cultures.

  1. Ground the culture with clear and simple behaviors: Our approach to change management is to focus on behavior change to drive outcomes. In culture-related engagements, we help leaders translate their vision and values into a few impactful and observable behaviors. If you look at Facebook’s core values, you will notice that each one of their six core values is a clear action statement. Facebook’s values are:
    • Be open
    • Move fast
    • Be bold
    • Build social value
    • Focus on impact
    • Ship love (this is a play on “ship code”)
  2. Recognize and reward employees who live the culture you want: Facebook clearly aligns behavioral expectations with their values, and continually reinforces them by incentivizing and rewarding those behaviors. To inspire a focus on impact and recognize employees who move fast, the company hosts “hack-a-thon” events where teams have a limited time frame (~48 hours) to come up with a new product idea. Hack-a-thon events have produced some of the most well-known Facebook features, including the “like” button and live video.
  3. Role model from the top: We’ve seen time and time again the significant role of senior leadership in shaping the culture of a company. Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, role models Facebook’s value of being open. One example is the weekly live Q&A session where employees can ask him anything they want. While hosted in-person from headquarters, it is also broadcasted via live video so employees can participate from anywhere. This weekly ritual has elicited some unexpected and interesting inquiries at times, but it has proven to be a great way for Zuckerberg to talk to employees openly about topics they care about.

While simply replicating these values or applying one or two of the same tactics may not work for other companies, we can certainly learn a lot from how Facebook has utilized these three principles to build and reinforce a culture that aligns with their brand and business strategy.

Liz O'Connor, Associate Principal

Liz O'Connor, Associate Principal

Liz O’Connor is an Associate Principal at Daggerwing Group. She partners with global organizations to help them achieve their strategic goals through employee engagement, increased communication effectiveness and successful execution of change programs. Liz currently leads the partnership between Daggerwing Group and Facebook, supporting clients to successfully launch and engage their employees to drive business value through using Workplace by Facebook. Additionally, she is a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and serves on the Chicago Board of Directors for Step Up Women’s Network, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to prepare teen girls from under-resourced communities to become confident, college-bound and career ready.

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