How Syngenta Leaders fell in love with Yammer


How Syngenta Leaders fell in love with Yammer

Melinda Schaller, Communications Manager, Global Engagement Programs and Sven Fritzsche, Head of Global Engagement Programs & Internal Communications Syngenta Switzerland have learnt more lessons about how to get Yammer right than most large organisations. With 25,000 people worldwide of which 17,000 have access to Yammer they have been working for the past 2 years to get usage up from 7% to 35% today.


“Digital transformation is a new world and traditionally, we are a conservative company,” explains Melinda. “Initially, people were worried that the introduction of Yammer would mean that email would eventually be turned off and everyone would be forced to share silly cat pictures. We had a big job to do in convincing the business that Yammer would actually be of help to our daily work, that there were benefits to the business and ways of working and that it would not be a distractor. Therefore, we built a case for Yammer around collaboration and productivity.”

Overcoming obstacles

Numerous obstacles stood in their way. “Governance was something that was very key for us. All of our policies to date had been about protecting our internal information and ourselves online. Then, with the introduction of Yammer, we had to rewrite the rules to encourage colleagues to share online – there was a lot of work to do in convincing people Yammer was internal only and therefore a safe environment.  As well as this cultural shift, there were practical challenges too: Single Sign On was difficult to achieve as there were the usual problems with legacy email domains that could not be combined and some work that needed to be done on our IT infrastructure. This took time and, looking back, something we should have focused on before launching Yammer to the organisation. We were starting on the back foot a little bit with these IT issues a bit of a dark cloud hanging over us and making our job of selling Yammer a lot harder.

“To combat these problems, we worked very closely with our IT function to find work around solutions and fix the problems we could as soon as possible. In some cases it meant producing detailed step-by-step guides helping people to log on; and frequent communications on our intranet and via email to update colleagues that we were working on these issues to give them the best experience possible. In the end, I would say this worked to our advantage, it served as a constant reminder to try it out.”

In a business spanning more than 90 different countries and many languages, adoption was patchy.

But Melinda and Sven persevered. They used the celebration of 15 years of the formation of Syngenta as a springboard for promoting Yammer with a campaign, #SyngentaProud. This was a catalyst for staff to share their moments and celebrations on the new platform for the first time. Being a campaign, and having a clear call to action meant that employees didn’t have too many barriers preventing them from sharing in this new way – it provided safe parameters.

Following the success of the initial launch campaign, to continue to drive uptake of Yammer, Syngenta eventually started to publish information on Yammer that could not be accessed anywhere else (no intranet, email, etc) and leveraged the social phenomenon of FOMO – fear of missing out.

What really gave their network a boost was when they were able to finally convince the leadership team of Yammer’s value. With leader endorsement, many more colleagues were willing to give it a try.

Analytics win over sceptics

Sven picks up the story: “It was hard to prove the case for Yammer at first as we did not have a reliable tool for analytics. But in 2017 we started working with SWOOP Analytics and then we were able to benchmark senior leaders’ online behaviour on Yammer in simple terms. We were interested in showing how our leaders were engaging with their global teams on Yammer and how their teams were responding. At the global leadership conference, leaders were presented with a table showing their personal level of interaction on Yammer compared with their peers. Those who were regularly engaging with their teams were at the top of the list. This had a big impact on Syngenta’s leaders. Now they were approaching us and asking how they could be a top engager!”


The first steps were to convince them to consider using Yammer instead of always defaulting to email and teleconferences with their teams. Using SWOOP Personas really helped in coaching them to improve their online engagement.  Gradually, they started to see the benefits and innovations like Yamjams – online townhall events where staff could question leaders online – began to get Yammer into the company’s bloodstream.

Adding value

Melinda again: “A big win for us is seeing leaders communicate directly with their teams on Yammer, answering questions, giving feedback and praising and thanking colleagues. Yamjams with our leaders have been very well received, and our group CEO Chat is a huge win in terms of engagement, building confidence in the  business and helping to build a culture of openness. It’s great to have a tool that fosters dialogue but also gives access. We are present in over 90 countries, and many of our colleagues will never come face to face with a leader to talk with them, voice concerns, share ideas. Yammer makes these connections easier and quicker.

“It’s also a great tool for knowledge management and resource sharing. We have seen examples of costs being saved because of people sharing resources that would otherwise have been developed again. We also often highlight best practice cases where we can clearly see a cost saving being achieved due to productivity, time saving, knowledge sharing, etc.”

“We started with the premise that Yammer will save you time. By working out loud rather than on email you can save time and money. We have proved it to the leadership team, and now staff have followed. We continue to gain even more engagement through individual campaigns around productivity and reducing the volume of emails.” explains Melinda.

“Our goal is productivity. We first promoted Yammer with a message of collaboration. Collaboration is the mother of innovation, which is the foundation of our company,” she concludes.

Now Syngenta is taking the next step on the journey towards a digital workplace and are looking to upgrade the intranet and further embed other O365 tools such as Microsoft Teams beside Yammer – integrating search across all the tools including SharePoint in the cloud.

Come along and hear their keynote at smileexpo where Melinda will talk about their journey and the lessons they have learnt along the way. She will discuss how they see Yammer fitting in to the bigger digital ecosystem of a new intranet due later this year. If you haven’t booked your ticket already click here.