business

Facebook Morale joins with Stock Price

Facebook
Inc.

FB 1.44%

A difficult year demands the morale of the employees, with several important measures of internal sentiments that have taken a strong turn in the past year, according to people familiar with the issue and reports that have been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Despite a fall in the share price, continuing unrest on leadership and critical media coverage, more than half of employees said they were optimistic about Facebook's future, 32 percentage points lower than a year earlier, according to the survey, that was taken by nearly 29,000 employees. . 53 percent say that Facebook makes the world better, 19 percentage points lower than a year ago.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg immediately addressed the survey results during a question and answer session in early November, some of the people said, and said he and other senior officials were taking measures to address the underlying problems.

The dark mood within the social media giant is partly visible because the staff was resistant to other difficult patches in the past. This also applies to the period after the 2016 presidential election, when many critics blamed Facebook because fabricated news articles could penetrate the platform.

But many people within Facebook say that this period feels different, partly because of the unusual turbulence at the top of the company, which has trouble responding to the various internal and external controversies. The falling share price has also put morale pressure on employees for whom stock options are a big part of their compensation, say current and former employees.

The current data crisis of Facebook involving Cambridge Analytica has angered users and initiated government investigations. To understand what is happening now, you have to look back on Facebook's old policy from 2007 to 2014. WSJ & # 39; s Shelby Holliday explains. Illustration: Laura Kammerman

"It was a difficult period, but we see people coming together every day to learn the lessons of the past year and build a stronger company," said a Facebook spokeswoman. "Everyone on Facebook has a share in our future and we love to send great products and protect the people who use them."

The biennial "pulse" poll asks employees to assess how strongly they believe in Facebook's overall mission and whether they believe the company has a positive impact on the world, say people familiar with the surveys. It also requires measuring their satisfaction with their individual managers and the balance between work and private life.

These kinds of polls are becoming increasingly common, because companies try to gauge employee confidence and identify any problems before they go crazy.

There are about 30 questions about the Facebook survey, which is held every year in April and October.

Employees said on average that they planned to stay with Facebook for another 3.9 years, a decrease of 4.3 years a year earlier. About 12% said they planned to stay for less than a year. Former employees said that these figures usually increased.

In survey responses, some employees expressed concerns about the sharpened focus of Facebook on growth and frustrated about a "lack of innovation" within the company. Employees also questioned the company's higher emphasis on the main Facebook platform via Instagram, WhatsApp and other growing services owned by Facebook.

In July, Facebook scared investors with stiff growth projections that tumbled stock prices. The shares have not recovered and have dropped by more than 35% over the past four months, putting the company on track to undergo its first annual price drop since it became public in 2012.

Facebook is one of the few major technology companies whose inventories have declined significantly over the past year, while rivals like that

twitter
Inc.

have jumped and Google parent item

Alphabet
Inc.

has remained largely flat.

Morality has also been hit by an almost constant stream of criticism from outsiders about its lax data privacy practices, growth-oriented culture and a role in arming violence in volatile countries such as Myanmar, say current and former employees.

Guiding unrest is another factor. For most of its nearly 15-year history, Facebook's leadership has been remarkably stable, but close to a dozen high-profile or senior executives have announced their departure this year, including Facebook's top lawyer and former policy leader and associate. founders of Instagram and WhatsApp.

The number of employees of Facebook was 33,606 at the end of September 2018, an increase of 45% compared to the previous year. Many of the new employees work in the field of safety and security and are currently on stock options that are now worth less than a year ago.

The broader employee sentiment about the company has been declining for almost two years, according to surveys. The overall score of the favorable score, or how Facebook measured a wider sentiment to the company, was 70% in October, a drop of 73% a year ago, the survey shows. At the start of 2017 this was 74%.

Seventy percent of employees said they were proud to work on Facebook, a decrease of 87% a year earlier, according to the survey.

In some areas, the sentiment of Facebook employees remained stable. About 81% of employees said it was important to fulfill Facebook's mission to "empower people to build community and bring the world closer together" – roughly in comparison with a year ago.

Some current and former employees say that sentiment has begun to reverse after the mid-term election last week, when the company seemed to have prevented major disasters. Mr. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg set up employees two days after the meantime to think about the lessons of 2018, told a person who was familiar with the issue.

Some employees indicated that they were cautiously optimistic that the company was heading in the right direction after more than two blue years.

That turnaround is not yet reflected in the survey data. A year ago, 84% of Facebook employees said they were optimistic about the future of the company. At that time, Facebook had just revealed that actors with a Russian background had bought advertisements and spread disinformation on Facebook using false identities.

That fell to about 67% in April, shortly after the company announced that an academic broke the rules of Facebook and shared user records with the political analysis company Cambridge Analytica.

It now stands at 52%.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com

.