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On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company’s Workplace platform had reached a new milestone with 7 million paid subscribers. At the same time, the company also revealed a series of new platform features to enhance virtual collaboration in the age of remote work en masse. This includes new live Q&A capabilities, third-party integrations and more.

SEE: The future of work: Tools and strategies for the digital workplace (TechRepublic free PDF)

“Workplace, our business communication tool, has hit 7 million paid subscribers — a 40% increase in the last year. We built Workplace as an internal version of Facebook to run our own company, and it was so useful we started letting other organizations use it too, including everyone from Spotify to Starbucks to the World Health Organization,” said Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post.

“More companies are starting to use our virtual reality tools for work as well, and I’m excited to work on more new ways for people to work together that weren’t possible before,” he continued.

As Zuckerberg mentioned, Workplace is the enterprise-focused side of Facebook. It creates a collaborative space with the same design and function as the consumer version of Facebook that everyone is familiar with, but the two accounts can be kept separate.

Boosting the employee experience

In a blog post, Facebook outlined a number of Workplace features designed to boost the employee experience on its platform. One of these enhancements includes what the company described as a new live video “Q&A experience.” With these new capabilities, Facebook said presenters are able to click on employee-submitted questions and drag these question cards to the center of the screen. Speakers will be able to view employee profile information on these user-submitted question cards enabling presenters to “personalize” responses.

“These enhancements will make sure that every employee has the opportunity to feel seen and heard by leadership and help people gain a better understanding of how their role contributes to the broader company strategy,” the blog post said.

In an interview with TechRepublic, Ujjwal Singh, head of product at Workplace, walked through a hypothetical use case involving these virtual name cards and outlined the benefits for speakers.

“For me as a presenter, I get information on the employee. I get profile information, who asked the question, what their role is, so I can personalize my answer for that particular employee,” Singh said. “And what this leads to, what we’ve seen over and over again with customers is [that this] leads to employees feeling like they’ve been seen, heard, and leads to real connection.”

Webex upgrades and new integrations

Facebook launched what it described as “an easier to use and more seamless flow from Webex VC to Workplace” to enable video hosts to start videos in the Webex platform and deliver live broadcasts in Workplace. This launch builds on a partnership with Cisco that was announced in December.

Additionally, Facebook announced a series of new third-party Workplace plug-ins and integrations allowing people to share information on Microsoft SharePoint and sync calendars on Gmail and Outlook with Workplace events.

“We are a very specific tool that is built around connecting and engaging with employees and so we will integrate equally with any of the other suites that exist out there because we feel like we add a layer on top of those suites,” Singh said.

Knowledge Library APIs

The Facebook blog post also references other recent announcements including new API functionalities giving users the ability to bring content from external platforms into its Knowledge Library.

“This makes migration or consolidation of existing intranets easier and helps make sure people can access your most important company content in one place,” the blog post said.

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids’ education is a mammoth task. Here’s how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Diversity and inclusion efforts

Facebook also announced efforts focused on Workplace diversity and inclusion. For example, “starting this month,” the company said employees will be able to list their name pronunciation on their profile page and this information will be available during the aforementioned live video Q&A experiences enabling leaders to “address people properly and make that personal connection.” Additional features include new emoji skin tone colors and the ability to set these preferred options as defaults. (Slack already offers this as a default.)

“Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen a shift in working patterns from fixed work to a more fluid model of hybrid work. And [with] this model, we believe that Workplace plays an even more critical role in sort of making sure employees have the experience that they want or are asking for in this mixed-mode world,” Singh said.

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