Yammer at Amec Foster Wheeler, a large global engineering and project management consultancy

MVP

In the candid interview below, Tereza Urbankova, Head of Corporate Communications at Amec Foster Wheeler, explains her role and how Yammer is progressing. 

 

Tereza discovered that to make Yammer a success was going to be more challenging than first thought. Then, three months after a merger they relaunched Yammer. In a matter of weeks Yammer was aligned to new strategic goals and started to seriously grow!

 

Just goes to show Yammer adoption can simply be down to simple strategic alignment and nurturing the right behaviours and values by leaders and employees who walk the talk -- in a short space of time with minimal resources.

 

Tell us a little bit about where you work and your role in the organisation.

 

I work in London for Amec Foster Wheeler, a large global engineering and project management consultancy. We support our customers on their projects in the four key markets, Oil, Gas & Chemicals, Mining, Power & Process and Environment & Infrastructure, all over the world.

 

I have gradually grown into my current role. Eight years ago, I joined the company as Communications Manager for the Power & Process division, soon I progressed to Head of Internal Communications position and later to Head of Corporate Communication.

 

My role also focuses on supporting and driving digital social adoption and collaboration, and one of our key tools to help us do that is Yammer. As a global business, we need to be able to build a culture of collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovation, which is a prerequisite to our success. In 2014 (still as AMEC), after much deliberation and hesitation (being a conservative engineering company), we launched Yammer; we then relaunched it when we merged with Foster Wheeler and became a new business, Amec Foster Wheeler, in 2015. 

 

  • How did the first launch go?

It did not go so well. We soon discovered that to make Yammer a success was going to be more challenging than we had thought. Lack of active engagement from the top as well as from critical parts of the business, and staff reluctance to be open, was hindering proper adoption. Almost all company was sitting on Yammer but not engaging enough. It was frustrating to see people getting no answers to their occasional questions. As I had a vague idea who might be able to help, I began responding by drawing subject matter experts into conversations. Sometimes it worked, other times it did not. It was time consuming but this way more people began interacting with others, personally experiencing the power and value of Yammer. However, engagement levels were still painfully low despite communicating and demonstrating benefits and use cases. We did not seem to be able to fully break through the silos built over many years and perhaps even a certain level of fear of sharing valuable expertise and knowledge. However, with the relaunch we had a different experience!

 

  • Did you do anything differently for the second launch?

In principle, we did not but I believe that the organisation was then more mature to be able to fully appreciate this useful tool. Naturally, we continued to communicate its benefits, encouraging people to get involved and recognising those driving conversations. We relaunched three months after we merged with Foster Wheeler and within a couple of weeks Yammer started seriously growing, in the number of members in general as well as engaged members. I believe we relaunched it at the right time and the main four reasons of better adoption were:

  • Our people finally recognising the value and benefits Yammer can bring to the company and individuals
  • The desire to get to know each other, to connect as a new organisation as we did not have a common phone book
  • The current challenging markets we operate in that call for efficiencies and better collaboration
  • The fact that collaboration became part of our new values and vision of a new business which our people co-created prior to the merger

However, the work never stops. We are not at the end of our journey and there is always room for improvement. First we are working on ensuring the leadership team engages more in Yammer conversations. In addition, one of our big tasks is to put in order many groups that we let grow without monitoring  we have many obsolete groups the purpose and existence of which need to reviewed. Being a project management company means a high turnover of workforce so we are now also looking at how to incorporate Yammer in our induction process.

In addition, I have noticed rallying people around a key topic, a core area that matters to the business, contributes to higher adoption and engagement levels. We have recently organised a Global Safety Week and it was extremely successful from the engagement point of view but what is more, many long-term "observers" took Yammer by storm and proactively engaged in posting and commenting. Last year we had a similar experience with our Diversity & Inclusion week.

 

  • What's the most rewarding part of rolling out digital services to your organisation?

The most rewarding part for me is seeing people recognise the value of Yammer and keep coming back for more as well as reading use cases where Yammer helped people to find skills, expertise, jobs or just simple advice. It is also a great recognition tool. I know the best recognition is still a personal one from your line manager but if you need to recognise a team based in different locations who you have worked with but you will never personally meet, Yammer is the answer. It truly breaks boundaries.

 

Social collaboration is a different way of working that takes some time to embed; it is about changing the way we used to be and work, as that is not easy for everybody.

 

  • Given the rapid pace of change in cloud technologies and product updates, how do you stay up to date? What resources do you lean on most?

I think all of us need to keep up to date with the latest tools and technologies. I am not an IT expert so I look at the newest developments mainly from a communications and user point of view. I want to know what is out there, who uses it, why and how, and understand the challenges, benefits, value and potential fit with my company. I think general awareness is sufficient for what I do. I have made it part of my professional development.  There is so much I can learn from various websites, social media, such as LinkedIn, in conferences, workshops, and other events where I can meet and network with my peers and subject matter experts. Lesley Crook (MVP) you are one of them! I also find sharing case studies very beneficial and inspirational and that's why I am happy to share the Amec Foster Wheeler story here . And sometimes, it is just about hearing the confirmation that our direction is the right one.

 

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