Inside story on Facebook

Inside story on Facebook


Social media is a team effort, “Get everyone to tell a story!”

Being a social network, Facebook is its people and they, in turn, are the company’s brand ambassadors. The organization is extremely flat, no hierarchy of positions or top management sitting in an ivory tower. Even Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, works in the open space and the only conference room they have is called the aquarium, because it has no solid walls but only glass. Being a company where people are at the core of what they do and represent, Facebook encourages its employees to be bold and open, to challenge and make a difference.

This is the image that Facebook conveyed to Universum in an exclusive one-on-one session with Matt Millunchick, recruiting programs manager, and Orna Holland*, EMEA recruiting manager, to get the inside story.

“The open office space is what drives productivity and team collaboration,” said Matt.  “If people want to focus, they can wear earphones.”

Yet, there is more to Facebook than just a bunch of people working in an open office. Both Matt and Orna were noticeably the perfect representations of what a brand advocate should be. They conveyed enthusiasm and passion for what they do in the way they spoke about the company–something they insist every employee feels at Facebook.

The importance of cultural fit

Perhaps this is the company’s true magical formula for success: Identify talented individuals, make them believe in the company, its products and services, and finally turn them into the ideal brand advocates. Unsurprisingly, 30% of their recruitment needs are done via referrals.

“Smart people know other smart people and that has helped us attract new talent to the company,” said Matt.

Similar to Zappos, reported as a perfect business case study by the Financial Times, Facebook also assesses cultural match of candidates as part of their recruitment process.

“How potential candidates fit the corporate culture is definitely important to us at Facebook,” said Orna.

More and more companies that excel in talent attraction and retention proactively work with personality targeting; a practice that Universum advises will provide most employers with a competitive edge.

Yet, with the rapid growth Facebook is currently experiencing, both Orna and Matt expressed their concern about the company staying true to its core values. Facebook has gone from 200 employees, when they first started, to over 2000 colleagues today.  To prevent the risk of losing part of its initial identity, Facebook sets-up new offices with cultural carriers – to make sure that Facebook anywhere will have the same feel as the initial Palo Alto office.

“We don’t want to be an organization that is bureaucratic and hierarchical,” Orna said. “To remain true to who we are will be one of our future challenges.”

Facebook’s popularity as a great place to work is impressive – the social network received a quarter of a million job applications in 2010 worldwide!

“It’s overwhelming to process and review each and every candidate,” stressed Orna. “But the team works hard to do so and we rely on technology to identify promising individuals. All candidates that interview with us conduct a candidate experience survey, which is important to ensure that no candidate experience is negative.”

It’s a best practice approach to consider, especially for organizations that struggle to manage the huge influx of applications.

A corporate culture that inspires action

Facebook is a company with an extremely strong corporate culture. It has five short and easy to remember values:

  1. Focus on Impact
  2. Move Fast
  3. Be bold
  4. Be open
  5. Build trust

The values permeate the whole organization, with posters on the walls reiterating the key messages, with employees writing their own personal tributes or even comical interpretations of the core values. In their corporate videos, which were shown during their presentation at the Universum Awards in Sweden, the viewer was constantly reminded by Zuckerberg and other representatives of their core values. One could almost walk away with a feeling of knowing the company without ever having worked for Facebook or even visiting their headquarters. A simple exchange with two ambassadors, a presentation and a few videos gave all the impression one needed.

Facebook is an organization that empowers its employees. Their videos showed that and Matt stressed that everything filmed was non-scripted and truly shows how people feel about their work.

“It’s an open and honest environment,” he said.

The corporate values represent the trust in their people to do great things and make a difference, and they constantly encourage their staff to be bold and make an impact.

Being a social network, you would expect it would be relatively easy for a disgruntled employee to write something disagreeable about the company, but again they are all about being open and they say it is not something that has really happened.

“We are authentic and true to what we say and we haven’t really had a situation of an employee experiencing otherwise,” insisted Matt.

Because of the transparent and flat corporate culture, Facebook really works hard to recruit people who have an affinity to the corporate culture. They allow their employees to dare to work on their own projects, provided that there is, of course, some sort of impact to what they are doing.

Creating great content is the cornerstone of their employer brand communications

From an employer brand perspective, everything Facebook does is focused on content and building connections with and between people.

“That’s our employer brand work in a nutshell,” said Matt.

Regarding any guidelines of what content they could generate, Matt said he had more or less free reign to do whatever he wished.

“When good content is created, it gets shared,” were his wise words of the day to other professionals in field.

How does Facebook measure its employer brand activities?

By the number of connections, interactions and sharing of content they make and build. It’s obviously something which is relatively easy for a social network to do, but perhaps harder for other companies that don’t have at their disposal the ownership of such a powerful communication channel. However, the most important message of the day, which Matt summed up perfectly for every employer, was the rule of three and being:

  1. Authentic
  2. Meaningful
  3. Relevant

And for companies that are willing to explore social media, he said that social media is a team effort, “Get everyone to tell a story!”

* Caveat: This interview was conducted in 2011 and has been republished. Orna Holland no longer works for Facebook and is currently Senior Director of Global Talent at King

“Smart people know other smart people and that has helped us attract new talent to the company.” – Matt Millunchick, Recruiting Program Manager & Orna Holland, EMEA Recruiting Manager