Virgin Atlantic

How Virgin Atlantic used Workplace from Facebook to great advantage during the pandemic

Virgin Atlantic was an early adopter of Workplace from Facebook. We find out how the collaboration tool has supported the airline throughout the pandemic

Virgin Atlantic has been using Workplace from Facebook for a number of years as an enterprise social media platform.

Describing the role of the platform, Megan Buck, channels and social manager at Virgin Atlantic, says it was as a segregated platform connectivity tool when the company took it on, but the airline’s strategy is to “make it a productivity tool – an enabler to help people to do their job easier”.

As an example, she says it is looking to move some intranet functions onto Workplace from Facebook, such as crew rosters. For instance, airport team shifts, which used to be organised on WhatsApp, are now being managed via the Facebook platform.

Prior to the pandemic, Buck worked in the social media team at Virgin Atlantic, mainly focusing on CEO messaging. She was among the 85% of staff the airline put on furlough when governments imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. The airline continued to run a skeleton team.

Buck says Workplace from Facebook became a key way to communicate with the staff who were still working as well as those who had been furloughed. “In April last year, our CEO began doing a weekly update on Workplace,” she says.

For Buck, this regular communication via the business-focused social media platform, covering subjects such as furlough and restructuring, was important in helping staff on furlough stay connected with the company. “I knew I had my Friday check-in,” she says, describing her own experience of tuning into the updates.

Social platform takes on critical role

When she returned to work, Buck took up the role of channels and social manager. While Workplace from Facebook had been used by staff at Virgin Atlantic before the pandemic, Buck says that when the health crisis hit, “it became business critical”.

As she recalls, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, everything was very uncertain, which led to a huge rise in the use of Workplace in terms of the percentage of staff logging in. Between April and October 2020, the airline saw 96% active weekly usage of Workplace, compared to pre-Covid, weekly usage of  around 76%. “We’re now back to around 76% weekly usage (taken as an average from January – April 2021), despite approximately 40% of the workforce on full-time or flexi-furlough.”

The social media platform was used to boost staff morale. “Last year, there was a difficult balance. We had a skeleton team under huge pressure. Then there were those people who knew their time at Virgin Atlantic was coming to an end and those who were on furlough,” says Buck.

Along with corporate messaging to keep everyone informed, the platform was also used for well-being communication. For instance, a weekly “Well-being Wednesday” event was hosted on Workplace, offering different themes and topics to help staff keep busy, like making cocktails and yoga classes.”

With the return to air travel, Buck says Workplace from Facebook also provides Virgin Atlantic’s staff with information on where they can travel to and where to use their staff travel entitlements.

Using the social media platform to keep workers engaged with their employer during furlough has meant staff are more ready to return to work as air travel starts increasing.

Training and volunteering

Workplace from Facebook has also played a role in Virgin Atlantic’s human resources (HR) and recruitment plans. “We have an HR group called internal vacancies. [The focus of] this moved to people-sharing opportunities and volunteering roles outside Virgin Atlantic [during the pandemic],” says Buck.

Project Wingman was one of the notable successes, where cabin crew volunteered their time to support the NHS during the coronavirus crisis. “This led to massive group messaging and sharing of content and photos amid all the doom and gloom,” she says. “NHS volunteering was a perfect opportunity at the height of the pandemic.” 

Virgin Atlantic hosts leadership groups on Workplace from Facebook, which are used to share ways for managers to engage more effectively with the workforce and have meaningful conversations with employees. “We are hoping to move our learning and development programmes to a purpose-built learning platform on Workplace and offer additional content such as links to TED Talks on leadership,” says Buck.

When Virgin Atlantic first adopted Workplace from Facebook, Buck says people in the company were very familiar with the look and feel due to their use of Facebook in their personal lives. Time and effort was put into bringing the leadership on board, because in a large organisation with thousands of staff, management sponsorship is key to success. It is an ongoing process.

Buck plans to provide training to help users manage notification settings and groups in Workplace from Facebook, for those who feel they are getting overwhelmed by social media notifications.

“Some business functions are very old school,” she says. “We still have pockets across the organisation where a senior leader isn’t keen on social media, and this filters down through the team.”

But with Virgin Atlantic having chosen Workplace as its communications platform, Buck says people do need to check into Workplace from Facebook to keep in touch with what is happening across the company.

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