When advising on Microsoft 365 projects, I’m asked by my clients, "What does good look like on Yammer?" As Yammer caters to a variety of purposes, my usual answer is, it depends. It is important to first have clarity of what your organisation, a community or a group want to achieve from engaging our workforce.
When we break it down into several scenarios, we can explore what good looks like from the perspective of these three: senior leadership engagement, connecting firstline workers and active communities.
1: Senior leadership engagement
This is a common scenario for successful adoption of Yammer. Yammer’s success is particularly dependent on digital leadership: the visibility of senior leaders, managers and influencers to set the tone and the agenda.
Leaders can move beyond just broadcasting their messages to listening to employees. One of the most important behaviours of a leader on Yammer is to listen. It’s a place for conversations, discussions, and stories. Leaders listening and responding to the employees' conversations tends to lead to a more engaged employee.
We need leaders to be involved in Yammer to help get others talking. A leader responding or liking a post really makes an impact, their presence matters and sets the tone of the Yammer network.
As this research from SWOOP Analytics shows, if a senior leader recognises a post by liking or responding, the person affected increased their activity per day by over 50%. This is incredibly significant – this shows the power of leaders to engage us rather than simple to tell us.
Here’s what good looks like for leaders:
Respond more than you post. This shows you are listening and actively engaging with the workforce.
Ask questions. A question is the most powerful tool in digital conversations: it breaches the barrier between leadership and the workforce, it is a way of admitting that we don’t have all of the answers, it helps get answers in complex systems. And most importantly of all, a question starts a conversation.
Be human. Where leaders are open, honest and show their personality, they invite empathy and build trust. And what is the biggest barrier to people engaging with social tools, both enterprise and personal? Frequently, it’s a lack of trust.
Set goals. If we want to tap into the voice of the crowd – and want focused and relevant contributions – then let’s set some goals. What are we, as an organisation or department, focusing on? Visibility of our priorities means we get more helpful contributions and less cats.
2. Engaging with firstline workers
Yammer is one of my favourite ways of engaging firstline workers with the activities and, most importantly, people of the wider organisation. Firstline workers, often without access to corporate systems, are typically well out of the loop, relying on their managers to communicate matters.
Yammer provides a simple way to both connect and facilitate full circle of two way engagement. Organizations can get the perspectives from all roles, which becomes essential if we really want to get a handle on change and innovation in complex working environments.
If firstline workers experience a disconnect from head office and their colleagues, Yammer can be where they can connect with both. Yammer gives them a platform to share and to be seen – and most importantly, be encouraged to be heard.
Here’s what good looks like for firstline workers:
Activity is more than just views and likes. Yammer gives firstline workers a place to have a voice – not just connecting with leadership, but also with each other.
Engagement is seen not just between individuals, but between locations. Having conversations between individual locations and regions can create a sense of belonging. This can be done by running challenges on a location basis, such as campaigns run by KFC to improve safety incident reporting in stores by encouraging a competitive approach.
Being invited to contribute to organisation-wide programs. The crowd-sourcing of ideas based on the day-to-day experienced by firstline workers opens up huge opportunities denied to us by closed communications channels. Such programs, if carried out properly, can realise huge savings, such as this campaign run by Centrica which resulted in savings of £5 million.
Real-time knowledge is shared within communities. Posts are made based on observations from the firstline, often containing uploads of photos from mobile devices. Firstline workers –access to a huge amount of information that can be valuable to their colleagues back in the office, such as a change in local conditions or a new hazard that has been experienced. Reporting these back through Yammer gives real-time knowledge which can be far more valuable than submitting into a closed reporting process – by which time it may be too late.
3. Community Managers
Communities are the bread and butter of Yammer. And with Yammer groups being rebranded as communities, this reflects the natural position of Yammer as a place for community conversations, as opposed to specific team and project-based conversations.
Very simply, communities are where people come together through a common need or connection. With large and distributed workforces, Yammer is often the only place where we can all get together.
Once a need arises, communities can be incredibly powerful due to the diverse nature of people they comprise. Work-focused communities, ideally, are made up of individuals from completely different teams and business units who have a common interest or need.
The success of a community, however, depends largely on one thing: A community manager. The activity spreader, the network glue, the conversation catalyst.
Here’s what good looks like for community managers on Yammer:
Members span the across the organization. Community members are from different parts of the organisation and are not working together as a team or on a project.
Membership is open to all – it’s not closed for ‘secret stuff’.
The purpose of the community is clear – there is an obvious need or problem to solve that is known by all members.
Building community management early on. Communities may need some active management from community managers, such as inviting in relevant people and building conversations, such as by using @mentions
Communities have an even spread of activity. Conversations are not dominated by a small number of individuals, but rather are equally distributed among a diverse group of people.
New posts are written as questions as much as statements. Communities are great places to share experiences and ideas, but they are also perfect for getting help. Asking a question also generates 150% more replies – a great conversation starter if you want to build a thread
More than 25% of members are active. Anything less, and it largely becomes a forum for a small number of people to broadcast their thoughts.
Example network map from SWOOP Analytics of a Yammer community showing well distributed conversations, with most members responding to each-other relatively frequently.
So how are you doing?
You may only need a few tweaks to what you are currently doing to help evolve your conversations and communities in Yammer. By listening and learning from one another, you’ll be able to use Yammer as a tool to meet the needs of your organisations using their most powerful asset – their people.
And that’s what good looks like.
A diverse group of people meeting their needs and the organisation’s needs in one place.
I'm Andrew Pope, and my passion is helping medium and large organisations connect their technology with their people - finding new and important ways of work that meet everyone's needs.
I help improve collaboration and make digital working safe and purposeful through facilitation, strategy development and virtual card games. If you'd like a chat, please ping me at email@example.com