Building Community in the Workplace with Abby Guthkelch

Summary

In this episode, we had Dr. Abby Guthkelch, Global Communications Solutions Lead at Workplace from Facebook on the show to talk about the power of creating a thriving community at work, what that looks like in practice, and how to use community to cultivate company culture in a remote-working world.

Resources

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Transcript

Kyla:

Good morning and welcome. I’m Kyla Sims.

Adam:

And I’m Adam Rayford and I’ve forgotten how to unmute myself. And you’re watching the Bananatag Morning Show.

Kyla:

But depending on where you’re tuning in from, this might not be your morning, it might be your happy hour, it might be your lunch, but regardless you’ll find us here Wednesdays and Fridays talking to communicators from around the world about what it’s like communicating during all of this. We’ll be getting them to share tips and tricks and hopefully connecting with you in the audience as well.

Adam:

Absolutely. Now we see a number of you in the audience. Hello. Hi Erica, Panacky, Casriona, Laura. Great to see you. Thanks for saying hi. And for the rest of you who are watching, say hi as well. And meanwhile, let’s get to know our amazing, amazing guest today. We’re joined by Abby Guthkelch. As GlobalCom Solutions lead, Abby Guthkelch is the Comms industry expert for Workplace from Facebook and their team globally. Her focus is on advising their high value customers on Comms best practice, trends and thought leadership, as well as working closely with their engineering and product management teams, specifically with their Comms customers in mind, cannot speak today. She also leads workplaces connected to the executive program, providing leadership engagement, coaching C-suite leaders and senior Comms teams to counsel them. Before Workplace, Abby held a number of senior level Comms and marketing roles, both on the in-house and agency side, most recently as the global head of social media engagement at HSBC, an Omnicom Agency, Ketchum’s UK Head of Digital.

Adam:

All of these amazing positions. Gosh, this makes me feel unaccomplished. Abby has over 16 years experience as a multi-industry, multichannel content strategist and was ranked among the top 25 marketing innovators in Europe, Middle East and Africa in 2017. Outside of work, Abby is an avid traveler and photographer, and has just visited her 46th country before all of the COVID stuff happened and is planning 47 and 48. Now, today she joins us from our home in London, UK. Please welcome, Abby Guthkelch.

Abby:

Thank you so much, Adam. Hi, Kyla. It’s so good to be here with you both. And I’m so happy, it’s not just me that forgets to hit mute.

Adam:

Only when it’s a live broadcast, right?

Abby:

I mean, it’s the best way to be, right?

Adam:

Goodness. So you and I met when you were keynoting at the IABC Virtual World Conference and I was emceeing. You did an amazing keynote. How was that kind of virtual conference experience for you? You must be doing a lot of that.

Abby:

Yeah. It’s firstly, the IABC World Conference is always such a great event. And I was so looking forward to being in Chicago for it. I think we said at the time, wouldn’t it be nice to sort of kick back after the keynote? Well probably not immediately after the keynote, as it was first thing in the morning with a glass of Rose and just catch up with what everyone’s seeing, but I thought they did a fantastic job in terms of pivoting it to a virtual environment. And yeah, you guys did great as the emcees.

Abby:

But yeah, my life is spent on video calls and webinars and in fact, I did a look back over the last half and really sort of the last quarter of being in lock down. I think I’m entering my 16th week of being in lockdown in my apartment in London. And I think I’ve done live webinars or keynotes to about seven and a half thousand people over sort of seven week periods. And I was like, “Yeah, you really feel it. You do get the fatigue at the end of it.” And I’m also very used to looking at myself now in the computer, which is not something I’d have really appreciated. I don’t really appreciate it now, but I’ve got used to it.

Adam:

I never considered Botox before all of these Zooms, but now I think it could be really nice. But speaking of not Botox and simpler things, as we understand it, there’s been a couple of recent developments in the UK that have maybe made online life a little easier, more enjoyable.

Abby:

Yeah. Without a doubt. So for any of your listeners, attendees joining from the US, sassy the 4th of July, obviously Independence Day, Britain or the UK got our hairdressers back, hope you’re appreciating my new haircut, because I’ve been having my hair tied back for the last, as I said, so many weeks and also pubs and restaurants opened again, obviously with social distancing, but I got to have my first meal out last night and it really did give me a whole new lease of life and ability just to have someone else pour you a glass of wine and cook for you. It’s just joyous.

Adam:

Yeah. A little taste of normalcy.

Kyla:

It’s amazing how much we appreciate those little things now. Speaking of pubs and drinks, why don’t we talk about what you’ve got going on in your cup this morning?

Abby:

Yeah. So my cup, it does look like I have alcohol because it is gin brand, but it’s actually just some water because it’s five p.m. obviously in London. And if I have caffeine at this time of the night, I will never go to sleep. So I am definitely on the water for now. The gin will come after my next few meetings are over.

Kyla:

That’s great. And we have some comments in the chat here. Candice says, “Wow, what an impressive resume.” Couldn’t agree more. You’re intimidating everybody out there. And then Laura Richard says, “Quarantine hair is real. So feeling your pain, definitely.” That’s great. So today we’re going to be chatting a little bit about the power of community at work. But before we jump into that, let’s get to know you just a little bit better.

Adam:

That’s right, and what a fun new graphic we have. We’re very proud of it [crosstalk 00:06:35]

Abby:

You’ve got the reaction emoji, the liking, the heart. I love it. It’s very Facebook. Well done.

Adam:

It’s very Facebook, very Banatag, it’s just all work. Okay. So the way this works, we got 30 seconds on the clock and we’re going to pepper you with a bunch of questions. And all you have to do is just say the first crazy thing that comes to your mind. Sound good?

Abby:

Perfect, could go horribly wrong, but go for it.

Adam:

All right. Let’s dive in. First question. How many hours did you sleep last night?

Abby:

Four and a half, which is normal.

Kyla:

What’s your favorite snack?

Abby:

My favorite snack, crisps, chips for you guys.

Adam:

Okay. This is a good one. What’s your favorite time zone? You work in a lot of them.

Abby:

I love them all. I love traveling, as you know, for 46 countries, but I’m going to go a bit round and I’m going to go Australia because why not, Sydney is just fabulous. And I love being there. And ahead of time, in the future.

Adam:

We get lucky. Whenever we get to have them on the show, we prerecord it and we love it. Oh, it’s over to you.

Kyla:

Oh, what’s your favorite country to visit?

Abby:

So my parents lived for 13 years just outside Washington, DC. And they moved back to the UK 18 months ago and I miss the States just because you can do everything in the US, go to every single type of the country to get around.

Adam:

I love it. What’s the best app on your phone?

Abby:

And not just because I work here, but this two that I spend my life on, Messenger and WhatsApp.

Kyla:

Yep. Fair. Yeah. What does your last name mean?

Abby:

My last name? I just saw Rachel Miller pop up. Hi, Rachel. My last name, its German. My surname. It was, as you see it’s said, Guthkelch, Gut means good, H was put in to Anglo-size it, and kelch means Holy Grail. So DaVinci code, all that stuff, no ideas what my ancestors did, but I’m quite happy to kind of think that it was kind of something quite cool.

Adam:

Oh, I love it.

Kyla:

It is pretty cool.

Adam:

And the last question, because this is never actually 30 seconds, name a very British, guilty pleasure of yours.

Abby:

Complaining about the weather.

Kyla:

I love it. Oh, you’d fit right in here in Vancouver, it’s all we talk about, I don’t think we talk about anything else.

Abby:

I know. It’s either too hot or it’s too cold or it’s too wet. Do we actually like any weather? I don’t know.

Kyla:

I don’t know. Anyways, thank you for being such a good sport. Lots of fun. Now let’s jump in to talk about this little company that you work for. It’s like an up and coming, nobody’s really heard of it. You work for Workplace by Facebook. And as I understand it, it’s the only Facebook arm that actually is headquartered outside of the US. And one of the big areas of focus for Workplace is building community at work. So tell us a bit about what organizations that have real community look like.

Abby:

Yeah. So yes it is. The fun fact is that we are the only product to be headquartered outside of the US so it’s not strange to have me in a global role out of London to work for Facebook. So where’s to start on community? I guess, we believe the most crucial ingredient to employee experience has been really, really overlooked for so many years, and that’s connection. And people really have the same desire to have connection and build community wherever they are, not just in their personal life. Absolutely, that includes at work. So it’s something that Facebook and we’ve been championing since the inception of Workplace. And it’s a trend that we’ve really started to seek other speeds, particularly last year in the US with the business round table announcement that wellbeing of the people in their communities was more important than creating shareholder value.

Abby:

And our customers talk about this formula of happy people equals happy customers equals happy business. And when you think about it, you’re like, “What happy? Of course, I want to be happy at work, but how does that really translate?” And, so much focus has been on productivity and output and actually the recognition now is that output is a byproduct of culture, not an end product of work. So it’s not just a question of how much people do, it’s a question of how they feel when they’re doing it, because when you feel better about what you do at work, then you’ll probably do it better, which then sort of comes into better business results, et cetera. And with COVID-19 pandemic, that’s absolutely accelerated even further. But to answer your question of what the formula, I guess of how we could do it.

Abby:

We talk about a five-part formula. First and foremost, you have to have access, right? You have to give everyone in your organization, a voice and a weight and work together to become that community. And really that means that so many businesses need to stop enabling a them and us culture, where different worker types are on different platforms with different access to different information, because you really are not going to get the most out of your community or your workforce. Second one is around transparency. If you’re going to give everyone a voice within the organization and in a way to access things, it has to be underpinned by a culture of openness. There is zero point in bringing everyone into a community only to withhold information and access to the people. Which leads us into the third point, which to do that, you have to have engaged leaders.

Abby:

That culture has to be facilitated at the top by engaged leaders who not only understand the power of community and why it’s important to bring up everyone onto the platform, but also the active role that they need to play within the community. Fourth one is around integration. Not just tech integration, I’m not just sitting here saying, “Oh, come by Workplace.” I mean, please do. But it’s not just a tech integration where teamwork and collaboration is not just encouraged, but it’s built and designed for, but it’s about integration of parts of your organization have probably never even worked together. And it’s about them coming together to work on shared visions and outcomes in a way that they’ve never done or had the ability to do previously. And then the fifth one last, but certainly not least, is about putting your people first, right? Understanding that a company’s most valuable asset by far, is their people. So you have to engineer your business around this community, and you’re very understanding of work around your people to get the most out of your community.

Adam:

It’s so interesting. It is such a different conversation than we were having 20 years ago, 10 years ago even, and so true in that we feel the same way at ManTech, obviously everything should be internal first. That’s where it starts. One of the exciting things about talking to you today is working at Workplace for Facebook, you have worked with some very major companies. Maybe you can give us some examples of successful community building in organizations that you’ve worked with.

Abby:

Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, we have a fantastic group of customers, so everyone from Nestle, Walmart, Starbucks, Petco CIBC, Scotia Bank, Maple Leaf, I mean, I could just go on, there’s just so many organizations who have really, really understand the power of community and the need to really invest in their people, and I feel like a kid in a sweet shop sometime, or a candy store. I forget, I have to change my language to wherever [crosstalk 00:15:24]-

Kyla:

Even the Brits watching you, they’ve got you, yeah.

Abby:

Candy store. I usually can define this commercial and the adverts, I am multilingual. So there’s just so many incredible stories are being told to us on a daily basis, really through coronavirus where everything from where customers have had to pivot their operations, to remote working fairly seamlessly and enabling this connection to come together, and also to keep people informed and just to continue to get work done, but also through to organizations that we have on our books. We’ve got hospitality customers, we’ve got travel industry customers who have had to furlough large numbers of their organizations.

Abby:

And yet they want to keep their company culture going and really make their people feel supported. So one that springs to mind, which is EXP Realty. I think you guys have them in Canada, but they’re a US residential real estate company who have been using Workplace to connect their, I think it’s about 28,000 agents. And they have dispersed full time employees as well, I think about five, 600. And their agents regularly share their best practices in videos and posts from across the world. So they’re really bringing that sort of learning through and enabling each other, not just being to what their little district is, or their little pocket. And it’s about that shared part of community. But what I loved was during the pandemic, they launched a Workplace group, which they called EXP Kidz Korner spelt with a kid Zed and then corner with a K.

Abby:

And it was for caregivers who are juggling work and engaging with kids. So they created this group within Workplace, just purely for content that would work for their kids, the children of their people. And again, it’s not just about community at work, it’s about every single part that, that touch point. And I really love that example from them and Glenn Sanford, who is the chief executive and their founder, he’s actually encouraging all of the agents during coronavirus to get in touch with him via Workplace, rather than email, or message or, whatever it is because it’s to try and replicate that sort of instantaneous, off the cuff conversations that happen in the work environment. And we’re just seeing it here, and so many of these great stories come through from executives doing video updates, hosting weekly Q&A sessions.

Abby:

And then my most favorite is a chief executive of an organization there in the UK, a burger chain, 98% of their organization got furloughed. And their CEO and founder has been leading high intensity training classes, HIIT classes from his living room, streaming it live into Workplace, dressed in his eighties exercise gear. So each time, he’s got something funny. But that’s the thing, we’re all in this together. And also work and personal life is so blurring at the moment. And, this concept of bringing your full self to work, I don’t think you have a choice right now. So for me, that’s actually apart from before I had the haircut, that’s absolutely fine. And that’s how it should be. It’s something that we’ve been advocating for such a long time. So, whilst I would have preferred it not to have a pandemic that had led to some of these behavior changes, I think people are really grasping that community has never been more important, not only at work, but actually in personal life as well.

Kyla:

I could sit and talk about community forever. We built our Comms Unity when COVID hit. And I mean, obviously it’s a totally different scale than what a lot of companies are using Facebook for, but it’s so interesting, the desire and the need and the necessity of community right now. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a need to have. Community is so important to us. And I think that through COVID and everything that’s happened in 2020, we are seeing how valuable it truly is. We have a question here from Rachel Miller that I’m curious about as well. She asks what is the biggest mistake you see companies making when it comes to building communities?

Abby:

Is thinking that the absolute worst is going to happen and then preventing them from actually doing what actually needs to happen. So everyone always starts the conversation with the what ifs, “Oh my God. What if, what if, what if, what if?” You create policies and guardrails and things like that to enable, but also people forget that actually you are coming into a community as your work self, and you’ve got an organizational chart behind it and you have your real name and you have your photo of who you are, and you can click on your profile and quite easily see who your line manager is, and da, da, da. So behavior, I always like to say, “Well, how many times have you been in the office and seen people running around naked?” It doesn’t happen.

Kyla:

If you’re lucky. Yeah.

Abby:

Or screaming obscenities, as they’re running through the office, it just doesn’t happen. So the same can be said within community. And I think sometimes people are really concerned about this awful behavior that’s going to happen. And actually just forgetting that, that’s not how it works. And so the worst mistakes is by locking everything down and being really restrictive about absolutely everything and thinking you can control. Why do we want to control a community? Actually, you want it to flourish. And the way that you allow it to flourish is by enabling people to repeat parts of it and create what they need to.

Kyla:

And that’s a really interesting point too, because these communities, one of the beautiful things that comes out of these communities is brilliant ideas coming from unexpected places. Now you’ve spoken about this before, how a good idea can come from anyone in an organization. Is there something companies can do to encourage that kind of innovation from anyone?

Abby:

Yeah. And you’re spot on. I think I’ve got a sort of a slide that I can say, “A great idea can come from anywhere.” And I really genuinely mean that, you don’t have to be the chief of ideas to be the person that comes up with all of the ideas or the chief strategy officer to come up with strategy. And ultimately, the first thing is you have to give people a space so you have to give them the voice, you have to connect them with each other, and then be listening to them, to when they share. So creating spaces for innovation, but also encouraging hackathons with star mentality within your company. I know I can say that at Facebook, but so really encouraging people to come together around common interests that’s not necessarily part of their day to day job.

Abby:

But there’s a really lovely example from Starbucks from a few years back. Kevin Johnson, chief executive of Starbucks, back in 2017 as they’d launched Workplace, told his annual shareholders meeting the AGM, this great example that came from within the store managers community on Workplace. And one store manager had posted that they were selling, I don’t know, outputs of 20 beverages of this particular item, but it wasn’t on the official menu. The way that people were discovering it was because it was on Instagram, you’ve got us to thank for this. But had basically posted into the group to basically say, we’re not sure if we’ve got the right recipe or not, we’re not actually sure if we’re giving out the best product that we possibly could do and within a 24 hour period, over 40 other managers had posted in to say that exactly the same thing was happening in their stores.

Abby:

And then that evening, the category marketing team happened to stumble across this post because it was trending in Workplace, picked up the chain and was staggered by how many of these beverages were featured on Instagram and they were selling in stores. And they brought that onto the menu the very next day. They rolled out the official recipe and that sort of came through, and that’s what you see. So, it’s not just about having a great idea. It’s about access to information from the front line, as much as anything and enabling them to push your business forward. It’s not always about having very structured innovation groups or anything. It’s actually just sometimes a place and a space for people to just bounce ideas off each other.

Abby:

But we’re seeing so much of that and also crowdsourcing of ideas through polls, through video, et cetera, and an example over in Spain with a global chief executive of a Spanish telecommunications company, Telefonica, they went out and asked three questions to their 100,000 employees on Workplace, what company do we want to be post coronavirus? What have we learned and what things do we need to change?

Abby:

And his rationale behind why… You can imagine somebody being like, “Oh, seriously, vulnerable here. I’m asking my company to give me the ideas that as chief executive, I should have myself.” But his rationale was, the problem in the hard times have affected absolutely all of us, and in slightly different ways. We should find the solutions and the opportunities together. It shouldn’t just be top down. So, I think it’s about encouraging people to share ideas that they have and then have some action out the back of it.

Adam:

I love that. We are going to ask you one more question about practical advice for companies who want to start to take steps towards building community. But first, we’ll come back to that, we are going to head into our last segment or the day, which is a tool tip of the day. And with that, perhaps you can walk us through your tip for our viewers.

Abby:

Yeah. So I was going to tell you about Canva, but Rachel Miller got in there the last time when she was on your show. And she’s told everyone about Canva, so I was like, “Ah, what’s my tool that I’m going to come out to?” So my tool tip is unsplash.com. So for those of you who have to produce decks, slides, potentially keep your communities like Workplace or your Internet’s, et cetera, going, and you just are like, “Who needs stock photography?” Which are just out of God knows what century and so staged and just look terrible, I think for actually communicating getting across that sort of message and that feeling.

Abby:

Unsplash is a royalty free, it is stock imagery, but it is beautiful. I mean, it’s absolutely superb. It’s got 110,000 photographers on there and you can use this photography across everything. They do ask you sometimes to just do a shout out too, to the photographer, but you do not have to purchase, all done through their license. So when I had my consultancy, it was my godsend because I didn’t have to buy photography, which would have bankrupted me.

Adam:

Unsplash is great, I got to use it on a project before too, and I can’t believe I didn’t know it existed before. So thank you very much. Very helpful. We have a few announcements then we’re coming right back to you, Abby, for some parting words of wisdom. We want to let you know that Friday on the show, we have another amazing guest Helen Deverelle, internal communication consultant. We’ll be talking about the communication style of world leaders during COVID-19, so excited about that, as well as how you can keep big projects moving during COVID-19. Beyond that, just a quick reminder that if you want to never miss a show, you can sign up for our insider list, get tips after each show and reminders for upcoming episodes.

Kyla:

And if you’ve been inspired by all this community talk today, there’s two very important things you can do. First thing you can do is join Comms Unity. It’s a community for people like you. We’ve got loads of experts and communicators and practitioners, and they’re all sharing advice, getting feedback. It’s really quite a special space. It’s quite wonderful. Ask anyone, if you’re in the audience and you’re part of Comms Unity, go in and throw in a props and then tell us what you love about Comms Unity, because it is a very special place. So if you’re looking for community, that’s the place to go. And if you are looking for something that you can do to cultivate more community at your place of work, why not get Bananatag? We now have pulse surveys and feedback features embedded inside of emails. So you can get real time feedback from your employees about what they want and what they need from your organization and your communications.

Kyla:

And this really allows you to give employees an easy way to use their voice and let you know how they’re feeling about what’s going on. Lots of our customers have been using it during COVID to see how people are feeling about heading back to the office, if they’re feeling supported at home in their remote work. And we’ve seen some really great stuff coming out of there. So if you’re interested in learning more about embedded pulse surveys in your email, go ahead and check out the chat. We’ll put a link to a demo there and you can talk to one of our banana fam about how it all works and what it can do for you.

Kyla:

So coming back to Abby, thank you so much for being here, great chat. I feel like this conversation could have been three hours long and we still wouldn’t have covered it all. It’s really great. So before we go, do you have any final words of advice for our audience about building community in the workplace?

Abby:

Yeah. Thank you and it’s been so lovely to chat to you guys, and I’m so passionate about this subject. I could have stayed on here all day, right? So, I think it’s just to kind of come back to those five points around community, because without all of those five elements, you really won’t have the most successful community. So it’s not just a case of getting everyone on there. You need to have roles established, have your leadership connecting with all parts of your organization. And you need to have that transparency, that openness about you wanting people to have a dialogue and enabling that conversation. Don’t restrict it. Don’t try and control it. The beauty is when you just allow a community to flourish and people work together that have never done it before. And that’s really when the magic starts to happen.

Kyla:

Beautiful. Empowerment over control, I love it. Thank you again, Abby. Thank you everybody for tuning in. We will catch you here on Friday. Don’t miss it. But in the meantime, keep calm, carry on. You’re doing great. You got this, and we’ll see you next time. Bye.

Adam:

Bye. This really was the Holy Grail of episodes.

Kyla:

Oh my God. Wow. Wow.

Adam:

And cut.