How to Give Yammer Purpose and Direction (and why it needs it)

Yammer and o365

Over 70% of organisations have an enterprise social network and more often than not, it’s Yammer. Many organisations, however, fail to drive adoption and engagement of these platforms. simply communicate’s Social Intranet Barometer finds that 58% of surveyed UK organisations using Yammer reported 30% or less of their workforce engaging on the network.

Sideways 6 have spoken with more than 100 large UK organisations about their Yammer networks, and identified a handful of common themes as to how and why some large organisations’ Yammer networks fail. These being:

  • Low adoption: Few people sign up for the network.
  • Low engagement: People sign up but then fail to engage in discussions.
  • Lack of business focus: People sign up and engage in discussions but social posting prevails over any meaningful collaboration.

In most cases, the underlying reason for these issues is a poor definition and communication of why Yammer has been introduced to the organisations. To both senior leaders and employees, it is often not clear as to what the purpose to engaging on enterprise social networks is. As they don’t know why they should sign up and engage, they tend to not pick up on it.

What is the purpose of Yammer?

Yammer has many undersold benefits. In very short terms, these are:

  • Higher productivity through quicker and easier communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Reducing time spent on e-mails, information gathering and more, social technologies such as Yammer increase worker productivity by 20–25% percent (McKinsey).
  • Giving employees a voice and engaging them. ESNs allow larger organisations to feel smaller, more connected and gives employees a platform to have ‘their say’ on the issues that matter most in the business. It is well-established that engaged employees are more productive and more loyal.

Communications through social technology How people internalise the purpose of Yammer

What is important to understand is that employees’ understanding of the benefits and purpose of Yammer is of a largely intuitive nature. Nobody is thinking “Wow, with Yammer I can collaborate faster, making me more productive!”.

Reasons to join Yammer

Getting people to internalise the purposes and benefits of Yammer requires a ‘pull’ approach that caters to their intuition-based thinking. At engineering giant ABB Veronique Vallieres went out to the population as asked them for 50,000 reasons to join Yammer. She linked to some use cases, toolkits and video interviews with senior executives discussing the value in adopting the tool. “For example, our Head of Operational Excellence spoke about using it to capture, share and spread knowledge faster within his team. Or the Head of Customer Contact Management talked about having a more transparent dialogue with his people who were spread in different regions.”

At Sideways 6, we know Yammer inside-out and how people tend to behave on it. What we have come to realise is that leadership and showcasing are king when it comes to getting people to sign up to Yammer, engage on it and use it for work purposes.

Accelerating Your Yammer Network

  1. Involve leaders. Leaders tend to be the most effective influencers. From experience and research (published with Harvard Business Review), we know that leaders’ use or non-use of enterprise social networks strongly informs employees’ behaviour. If employees see leaders engage on Yammer, people will recognise that (1) using the network is encouraged and that (2) there is a reason why they should be using it. However, if people don’t see leaders use Yammer, they are less likely to engage. Thus, if you want to accelerate your Yammer network, leaders will have to be part of it and lead the way. Ideally, this would be your first step and quickest win.
  2. Run structured campaigns — that’s the métier of Sideways 6. We started as a tool that allows organisations to leverage the ‘liveliness’ of Yammer networks for running employee idea campaigns that get maximum engagement. However, together with our customers, we quickly realised that benefits run both ways as Yammer networks, in turn, benefit from idea campaigns. Our customers’ Yammer networks saw significant increases in (1) adoption, (2) engagement and (3) work-related posts. Properly promoted and executed, all of these campaigns managed to instil a sense of purpose and drive up Yammer usage. Having said that, structured campaigns do not necessarily have to focus on ideas. We have seen a number of successful campaigns, run with and without Sideways 6, that focused on themes other than ideas: YamJams, social peer-to-peer recognition campaigns and corporate value campaigns.

Succeeding in enterprise social networking is, in essence, about pulling people towards it by defining and, especially, showcasing the purpose and benefits of the network.

by Armin Kammerlander