Alison Boothby speaks to the Digital Employee Experience Manager at NRMA about how he breathed new life into their Yammer network by focusing on employee experience.
Pete Johns, the Digital Employee Experience Manager at NRMA is, perhaps, a bit of a maverick. A champion of inclusion and an ardent avoider of bureaucracy, Pete sees his role as making complex work environments simple to work in. “Avoid dysfunction: just get on and do it!” he says.
“I came to NRMA 18 months ago. It’s a great business with a rich history and also a real vision for its future. But, like most businesses, it had some juicy challenges too. After running discovery research and analysis we saw opportunities to improve communication and knowledge sharing up, down and across the organisation. Like most organisations there were also areas where thinking was siloed and leaders felt detached from the frontline. In short, we had an engagement gap. We needed to nurture a culture of trust and frontline empowerment, where our people always put the customer first. In order to be more collaborative, we first needed to increase the connections between our leaders and employees and encourage communication and sharing.”
Pete looked at what tools they had available that could help tackle these challenges. Yammer had been sitting there for years, pretty much neglected, but he knew that it had the potential to unlock business value. The issue was to overcome the misconceptions and negativity surrounding it – ‘it’s just social media’ – and demonstrate that, used well, Yammer could improve the overall employee experience.
“I decided that we had to give Yammer a go. But importantly, I was determined that this was genuinely an experiment and not something that I was pushing onto the business. The hypothesis was that if we could use Yammer well, we would see an improvement in our employees’ experience – improved connection, easier and quicker information sharing, faster problem-solving and a sense of empowerment. All I needed was a test case…”
Working with Emma Harrington, NRMA’s Chief Customer Officer, Pete created a test case in the Group Customer Division. Emma was motivated to try it as the consistent message from engagement surveys was that frontline colleagues wanted more frequent communication, better access to the senior team and to have a voice.
All about the EX
“The first thing we did was work out how to measure our experiment, having put employee experience (EX) at the heart of it,” said Pete. A blog post Pete wrote for Microsoft details this well and also explains how they used SWOOP Analytics during the experiment to measure the real-time activity. Pete continues: “The aim of the experiment was to observe and capture how our people felt about the experience of connecting, sharing, problem-solving and innovating before and after the three-month trial period. We were genuinely openminded about the outcome. If our Yammer experiment worked, great. If it didn’t, then we would have still learned a lot about our organisation.”
Getting involved is better than getting it right
Key to the success of the experiment were the Community Leaders and Community Admins of the three distinct Yammer groups, each targeting a different type of community audience within the Group Customer Division.
Pete is not a fan of over-engineering the introduction, launch and roll-out of digital platforms, and certainly there was never a structured comms campaign with the accompanying razzamatazz and training roadshow that we often read about in our case studies.
“I developed a simple ‘community canvas’ tool – and met with the Community Leaders and Admins to workshop how to grow their active communities. It was a useful exercise in helping them see that the digital community is the same as the analogue community yet with the ability to unlock new ways of enabling people to interact and have conversations.
“The Community Canvas session helped me better understand my role as a yammer community leader. It’s not about directing or controlling the conversation, it’s about facilitating connection, opening up conversation and creating a safe-space where people feel comfortable sharing information. That’s where the magic happens.” Scott Doyle, Senior Sales Call Centre Manager
Pete continues: “In these workshops we focused on the purpose and values of the groups, which proved helpful when figuring out how to create engaging experiences for their community members. One of the most insightful values to come out of these sessions was that getting involved is better than getting it right. This has been picked up more widely across the organisation since and has contributed significantly to the shift in culture. It comes across clearly in this post about how being more intentional with Yammer has impacted Emma Harrington as a leader and as person at work.”
During the three-month experiment there were some light touch email communications and training tips on how to use various features in Yammer which were shared in the appropriate groups – more by way of nudging behaviour.
By encouraging people to join them in the experiment and using SWOOP Analytics data along the way to show what was working well, it was easy to recognise success. As people started to share more, ask more, contribute more and solve everyday problems it became exciting. Pete again: “One of my favourite moments was when a sales manager used #yammerpower in response to solving a customer problem in super quick time. Immediately others began to tag success stories showing how Yammer had helped them do something better, faster, more easily; so much so that #yammerpower is now a ‘thing’! I can’t think of a better way of explaining the impact of this experiment.”
Small idea: Big impact
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of NRMA’s Yammer story is that Pete chose a novel way to measure the experience. By measuring how people FEEL about the experience of getting work done, and by breaking it down into key components that link to clear business benefits they have been able to change mindsets and behaviours. It’s unsurprising that their Yammer-powered experiment was recently recognised on the global stage, winning the ‘Small Idea Big Impact’ Award at the 2019 Gartner Communication Awards!
Pete again: “Every interaction on Yammer is an opportunity to build trust and therefore seeing activity levels soar is brilliant. But we never set out to measure activity levels as the criteria of a successful Yammer experiment.
“We wanted to measure the change in Employee Experience and the results in just three months blew us away!”
The EX survey showed massive improvements in all areas with qualitative feedback reporting that people at all levels across the organisation felt better about coming to work, felt they had more fun at work, felt they were more connected to the organisation and their colleagues, and that the culture had tangibly improved.
“Yammer what can I say?!?!?! As a long term employee of the NRMA I never felt so connected with my work colleagues and the environment I work in.” John Rapira, Business Motoring Account Manager
Pete also saw a marked and sustained change in leadership behaviour with SWOOP’s data providing insight for each individual leader on their activity and engagement scores.
Stop knowing stuff and start doing stuff!
“I love creating a conversational enterprise where people get things done at pace. It has been amazing to see the impact Yammer is now having on the organisation and all because people were happy to give it a go. We now have hundreds of examples of solving customer problems faster and better because we are connecting, sharing and innovating,” Pete says.
“Yammer has completely changed the way we do things! The solution time is so much faster which means our members don’t have to wait as long for responses.”Gabi Knight, Sales Team Leader
Pete and his team continue to use the experimental approach to reignite Yammer across other parts of the business. “The organisation is opening up and we are unlocking the voice of our frontline workers. People are learning about how to work and share more transparently. We are fostering a culture of learning, sharing and collaborating and we seem to be igniting a renewed pride in the business too. And it’s Yammer that’s making it all possible,” Pete concludes.
About the NRMA
The NRMA is one of Australia’s most trusted brands and its largest Member organisation. With a legacy spanning almost 100 years, the NRMA was born in 1920 to keep people moving and this remains its purpose today. Around 3,000 employees provide a range of services for over 2.6 million Members. Its legendary roadside assistance makes it a household name but today The NRMA is about more than roadside. It’s a purpose-driven transport and tourism organisation adding value for Members across motoring, marine, accommodation, and future mobility.
About Pete Johns
Pete Johns is the Digital Employee Experience Manager at The NRMA. He is an organisational culture and employee experience expert, fascinated by how teams can leverage digital thinking to work together more effectively and get great work done thanks to more purposeful collaboration. Above all else, he helps organisations put people, not technology, at the heart of everything they do.
Pete will be joining us at Smilelondon in November to share his experiences live on stage. Pete has bundles of energy and you can’t fail to be impressed by his ‘stop knowing stuff and start doing stuff’ attitude. Book your early bird tickets here.