What makes a collaboration champion? The secrets revealed

At SWOOP Analytics, our goal is to help organisations become better and faster at collaborating. 

Nothing makes us happier than seeing organisations achieve better collaboration and, ultimately, innovation in their workplace. 

This year we are honouring these collaboration champions and sharing with you their best practices. We have introduced the inaugural SWOOP Awards for Outstanding Collaborative Performance in SWOOP’s 2018 Benchmarking of Yammer networks. We trawled through 12 million interactions between 1.4 million people from 74 different organisations to find these star performers. 

What is outstanding collaborative performance?

Academic research has identified two key performance indicators for successful collaborative networks – cohesion and diversity.  

Cohesion is about how tight the connections between people are and diversity is the spread of connections across the organisation.  

The SWOOP Awards have been given to the top small, medium and large organisations which have scored highest on cohesion and diversity measures. 

Drumroll please… 

The winners of the 2018 SWOOP Awards for outstanding results on Yammer are: 

Organisations with 100-1000 employees: 

  • Hall & Wilcox (Australian law firm) 

    Hall & Wilcox Managing Partner Tony Macvean (right) and Chief Operating Officer Sumith Perera (left) accept their 2018 SWOOP award from SWOOP Chief Scientist Dr Laurence Lock Lee (centre).
  • RealFoundations (global real estate services) 
  • The Union for Reform Judaism (North American non-profit) 

Organisations with 1000-5000 employees: 

  • Medibank (private Australian health insurer) 
  • Anonymous (Canadian financial services) 
  • Bankwest (Australian financial services) 

Organisations with 5000+ employees: 

  • KFC (restaurant chain) 
  • Telstra (Australian telco) 
  • Syngenta (Swiss agriculture company) 

We’ve spoken with all these champions to learn what works for them, in the hope you too can learn from the world’s best Yammer users. 

Some of the common themes for all these leading organisations include:  

  • Making Yammer part of everyday work.

  • A community manager to facilitate Yammer and engage staff.

  • Engagement from senior leaders and executives, ensuring front line staff feel connected with their leaders.

  • An emphasis on working out loud so everyone in the organisation can benefit from conversations and knowledge sharing, leading to innovation.

  • Engaging with what staff are passionate about, often in the form of social groups.

You’ll find aspects of these themes in the case studies on all our top performers in our 2018 Benchmarking Report of Yammer networks but we’ve picked a few to highlight.  

Making Yammer a part of everyday work 

At RealFoundations, Yammer is a part of everyday work. RealFoundations is a global professional services firm for real estate, so teams are scattered around the world. Each employee starts the day with a quick Yammer post and the hashtag #widt (What I’m Doing Today) to let the rest of the team know exactly what they’re up to. 

RealFoundations’ Director of Presence and Assets, Naomi Souza.

RealFoundations’ Director of Presence and Assets, Naomi Souza, is based in Dallas, Texas but she has five people in her team in India. By checking in on the #widt post there is total transparency about what each team member is working on, whether they’re off site, travelling overseas, working from home or at a conference, despite their different time zones. 

“We all come in and do the same thing and post what we’re doing to start our work day,” Naomi said. 

“It’s just a little thing but it makes you feel much more connected and when I finish something at the end of the day, to be able to pass that thread on and have them pick that up is invaluable. 

“To be able to work out loud in that way makes us definitely more productive. As a manager of resources across distance, it allows you to have your pulse on what’s going on.” 

Some of the RealFoundations team in Chennai, India.

With SWOOP, the #widt hashtag can be easily tracked on the Topics tab. Twice a year, Naomi runs a SWOOP benchmarking report for every employee for the previous six months which is discussed at their bi-annual review. It shows each employee’s interaction on Yammer and, combined with analytics from email and Microsoft Teams, can lead to discussion about how information would be better shared on Yammer and Teams so everyone in the company can benefit from accessing the knowledge and working out loud. 

Read more about RealFoundations’ tips for making Yammer a part of everyday work on page 33 of the 2018 Benchmarking report and in this case study. 

A community manager to facilitate Yammer and engage staff 

URJ’s Director, Network Engagement and Collaboration, Larry Glickman.

Larry Glickman sees himself as a “facilitator” rather than a “manager” of the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) two Yammer networks. As URJ’s Director, Network Engagement and Collaboration, Larry oversees the URJ’s internal Yammer network of 400 users and the external network called “The Tent” which connects the URJ’s almost 900 congregations, with 12,000 users. 

Each week, Larry uses SWOOP’s data to identify the top five Most Engaging Posts. He then shares the post on Yammer and @mentions people involved, which he says never fails to result in comments and more people engaging in the post. 

“I’ll tag those who were involved in that post or I’ll say what we learned from the post,” he said. 

“We all want a sense of community at the end of the day and I think people feel that when they’re in the Yammer network.” 

Larry uses SWOOP data to encourage staff to improve their online personas and updates the internal and external URJ networks each month with new analytics so everyone can track the health of the network.  

Asked the secret to URJ’s success, Mr Glickman pointed to three factors.  

The first is URJ’s willingness to employ a community manager to grow the network, in this case Mr Glickman and his staff. 

“I’m just trying to keep people engaged and more and more, the staff is falling in love with it,” he said. 

One of URJ’s Working Out Loud circles.

Larry’s second tip for success is the fact URJ’s internal network has employed Working Out Loud Circles. These are small peer support groups in which you build relationships related to a goal, using simple structured guides over 12 weeks. Over that time, you develop habits and a mindset you can apply to any goal.  

Larry’s third tip is to give the network time.  

“You’re not going to get engagement in a month,” he said. 

“You have to really be determined to make the space work or to at least give it time and to lead the way. If you don’t use the space wisely, nobody else is going to. 

“We just didn’t give up. We are finding more and more teams throughout our staff organisation use Yammer as the place where they share information, where they connect with one another each week.” 

Read how Yammer is building community and connecting URJ members across the world in this case study and on page 35 of SWOOP’s 2018 Benchmarking report. 

Bankwest’s Senior Manager Digital Channels, Matt Dodd.

Bankwest’s Senior Manager Digital Channels, Matt Dodd, also acknowledges a community manager is needed for a healthy Yammer network but he prefers to call himself as a “community engager” rather than someone who manages the network.  

He wants to get people engaged and give them the opportunity to think in different ways and share ideas. He also wants to create a safe space for people to ask the hard questions and get answers, where people are commended for asking difficult questions. 

“With everything going on in financial services we need to make sure our culture stays strong and people feel they can speak up and say whatever they want to say in the group,” he said. 

“I see my role is to engage and educate rather than delete and discipline.” 

Matt says Yammer is “part of the furniture” at Bankwest. It’s become part of the company culture – a place to test new ideas and products and to share news and information. 

Read more about what makes Bankwest one the world’s best Yammer users on page 39 of our benchmarking report and in this case study on Bankwest. 

Engagement from senior leaders and executives 

Syngenta’s Head of Global Engagement Programs & Internal Communications, Sven Fritzsche.

The No.1 tip for a healthy Yammer network is to get leaders involved, say Syngenta’s Head of Global Engagement Programs & Internal Communications, Sven Fritzsche, and Syngenta’s Communications Manager & Yammer Channel Manager, Melinda Schaller. 

“As soon as we had the leaders on board, everything else became a lot easier,” Melinda said. 

“The No.1 way to get more people on board is by saying; ‘Your leader is there, or your CEO is there, why aren’t you?’” 

Syngenta is a leading agriculture company. Based in Basel, Switzerland, Syngenta has offices in 90 countries with 28,000 employees around the world. The company has 16,000 Yammer users with an impressive active user rate of 30 per cent, according to SWOOP. It also has external Yammer networks with partners, suppliers and agents, with about another 3,500 users. 

Yammer was launched in October 2015. The network really kicked off when the then head of Production and Supply (P&S) began doing regular YamJams. A YamJam is a live Q&A held on Yammer where anyone can ask questions and the panellist answers and discusses users’ questions for a set period of time. 

“He really started a trend with that,” Sven said. 

“People started following those YamJams and people started talking about him on Yammer, or just in general, and word got to the other leaders about how great this leader was because of what he was doing and how much better connected he was to employees all over the world. Other leaders took note and thought, ‘Maybe I should do that’.” 

Syngenta got more leaders engaged with the help of data from SWOOP. It has an annual global leadership conference and the internal communications team used it as an opportunity to benchmark all leaders on SWOOP and show them the list of Most Influential People. 

Syngenta’s Communications Manager & Yammer Channel Manager, Melinda Schaller.

“At our leadership conference we were able to show hard data about where successes were and so put the argument to them; ‘This is why you should be talking to your teams on Yammer’,” Melinda said. 

She said the leaders who were using Yammer had far superior engagement with their teams than those who were not on Yammer.  

The graphic shown at the annual conference with the SWOOP leader board had a big impact.  

“We also showed them the top performing leaders on Yammer and this ignited their competitive streak, which really made them think about how they too could be using Yammer in their day-to-day jobs to be better connected and work smarter,” Melinda said. 

“Leaders came to us saying; ‘How do I get to be a top user and become a top engager?”  

Melinda said she showed leaders their SWOOP personas and coached them on how to improve their online behaviours. 

“We really used those personas to try and motivate leaders and that worked really well. Many leaders wanted to become better and it resulted in our CEO doing a YamJam as well.” 

With so many leaders now active on Yammer, many more employees followed and engagement on Yammer began to soar. 

“That was the aim all along – to get leaders on board so employees could hear from them and connect with them,” Melinda said. 

Read more about the power of executive engagement at Syngenta on page 45 of SWOOP’s 2018 Benchmarking report. 

A Yammer post from KFC’s South Pacific Managing Director Nikki Lawson.

KFC South Pacific’s Yammer network, with 28,000 users, is also led from the top.  

Managing Director Nikki Lawson is one of the most prolific to recognise and congratulate team members. She is one of KFC’s top 10 most active users on Yammer, according SWOOP. 

KFC’s People Capability Director, Jonathan D’Souza, says KFC leadership uses Yammer every day for recognition, from the CEO to the in-store duty manager. 

“You may have a shift supervisor who recognises someone on Yammer and then it becomes viral,” Mr D’Souza said. 

He says senior leaders use Yammer as way for every team member to have a direct connection with head office. YamJams are also a favourite for leaders to connect with frontline staff. 

An emphasis on working out loud so everyone in the organisation can benefit from conversations and knowledge sharing, leading to innovation 

Yammer is such a part of everyday work life at KFC that most restaurants post their rosters on the network. And if someone needs to swap a shift, it’s done on Yammer for all to see. 

KFC’s People Capability Director, Jonathan D’Souza, speaking at Microsoft’s Employee Engagement Summit.

Jonathan recommends showing trust in employees by putting no limitations on how team members can use Yammer. 

KFC’s community manager, Emily O’Brien, says from a business outcome, KFC can directly link Yammer campaigns to a 28 per cent increase in safety incident reporting across its 642 restaurants in Australia.  

Engagement across the business is up 40 per cent and team members are feeling connected, according to SWOOP data. 

KFC uses Yammer to encourage healthy competition between restaurants, which is driving direct business outcomes. 

Embracing fun in KFC restaurants on Friendly Friday.

They hold Peak Speed Competitions, measuring the night’s average speeds on drive-through service and the store with the fastest service is declared the winner. Restaurants have “Friendly Friday”, where team members are given free license to go out and engage with their customers. 

“They dressed as super heroes and, I can tell you, not only did customer satisfaction get up on a Friday but all week round,” Jonathan said.  

“It becomes infectious to the rest of the brand.”  

Find out more about what KFC does to be the top Yammer performer for a large organisations on page 41 of SWOOP’s Benchmarking report and read our case study here 

Leading Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox practices Smarter Law, its response to disruption in the legal industry. Smarter Law means being imaginative, agile, tech savvy and collaborative to deliver greater value to clients.  

Hall & Wilcox’s Chief Operating Officer, Sumith Perera.

Chief Operating Officer Sumith Perera says using Yammer is consistent with Smarter Law by engaging people in servicing clients and ensuring the entire knowledge of the law firm is being leveraged, largely on Yammer.  

“We’re getting a lot more diverse thinking to client problems and we’re being able to source that either by people observing what’s happening across the firm based on the activities that people are sharing on Yammer, or by actually crowd sourcing answers to particular legal problems or situational problems that people want advice on,” he said.  

Every time a Hall & Wilcox employee signs onto a computer, Yammer automatically opens in a browser, removing any barriers to accessing the network.  

Hall & Wilcox Technology Trainer, Jason Soo.

Hall & Wilcox Technology Trainer Jason Soo uses SWOOP to benchmark leaders and some groups to help coach them on how they can improve or hone their engagement skills. SWOOP’s benchmarking tool shows individuals their current SWOOP persona and compares their level of contribution, as well as showing how others engaged with them.  

“Showing people the two-way interaction of their conversations helps people become more of an Engager or Catalyst and helps them change their behaviour once they get that snapshot,” Jason said. 

Find out more about why Hall & Wilcox was crowned overall Yammer champion on page 31 of the benchmarking report and in this case study. 

At Medibank, Australia’s second largest private health insurer, Yammer is recognised as a powerful resource for connecting its 3,000 people, launching campaigns, informing employees and welcoming and introducing new starters to the company. 

But Medibank’s former Internal Communication Channels Business Partner, Evita Puccio, says the real business value comes from problem solving. 

“When you talk about some of the aspirational ways that a business can use Yammer, there’s connecting and there’s sharing and then you come into things like problem solving and innovation,” she said. 

“Problem solving is somewhere where you can start delivering real business value for Yammer. We’ve got some fantastic knowledge sharing groups, like “Fix It.” 

She explains the “Fix It” group was initially a closed pilot for 700 frontline employees to raise any issue they wanted, whether it be a squeaky door to the shop front, software hiccups, and policy concerns – absolutely anything that impacted their ability to do their job. 

An admin team would triage the issue raised and refer it to the relevant team. So popular was the group it soon went company-wide. 

Evita said the Fix It group has gained a cult following because: “Every single item that was raised was actually managed and responded to appropriately”. 

“Problem solving is somewhere where you can start delivering real business value for Yammer.” 

Read more about how Medibank tracks campaigns with SWOOP on page 37 of the Benchmarking report. 

Engaging with what staff are passionate about, often in the form of social groups 

Telstra is Australia’s largest telecommunications company and boasts one of the largest Yammer networks in the Asia Pacific region, with more than 55,000 Yammer users. 

Telstra employees on Wear it Purple Day, an annual LGBTIQA+ awareness day.

In nine years of using Yammer at Telstra, the most discussed topic on the network was around Australia’s national postal vote on same-sex marriage, according to SWOOP data.  

Discussion about same-sex marriage and the vote was passionate at Telstra. Yammer was where employees could have their say.  

Group Executive, Human Resources, Alex Badenoch, said through employee networks like Yammer, Telstra was providing open channels and opportunities for advice, support, information and engagement for LGBT+ inclusion. 

“It’s around these issues that ignite personal passion in our people that our internal social network Yammer really comes to life,” she said in a Telstra blog post. 

“Yammer is the voice of our people and as a company, we are committed to fostering open conversations in a way that ensures everyone can have their say, and be heard respectfully.” 

It’s also the place where frontline workers feel connected to their CEO. Read more about how Telstra breaks down silos on page 43 of the Benchmarking report. 

Bankwest’s Matt Dodd says the power of social groups on Yammer cannot be underestimated. 

The very popular “Pets of Bankwest” Yammer group.

When Bankwest’s Yammer network was first taking off, Matt would encourage staff to celebrate their co-worker’s birthday with a photo on Yammer or celebrate someone’s work anniversary and @ mention that person on Yammer, all with the goal of drawing new people onto the platform. 

“It’s that low entry point that’s been critical for us and it starts to build that capability so that people feel they can take part,” Matt said. 

“We went all-in on social groups and we really made a conscientious effort to encourage it to grow organically. Ultimately, we’ve let people be people. We’ve treated them as adults and they’ve responded to that.” 

Learning from the best 

Our hope is these stories will give you some tips on how to improve your Yammer network through better engagement.  

We would love to see you among the world’s top Yammer performers in next year’s SWOOP Benchmarking report. Please contact us if you would like to be included. 

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