Back in October 2015, food giant Mars launched social enterprise network Yammer across its global business with the goal of better connecting its 80,000-plus workforce.
Mars’ culture is built on empowering employees with information and forming strong relationships, both within the business, and with customers, consumers and partners.
It has more than 85,000 employees and boasts $35 billion in annual sales from six businesses: pet care, chocolate, Wrigley gum, food, drinks and Symbioscience with world famous brands including Milky Way, Snickers, Twix, Pedigree, Whiskas and Uncle Ben’s.
It’s the sixth largest private company in the United States and those at the helm believe their greatest resource is their staff, or Associates, as they prefer to call them.
Was Yammer the solution?
Establishing a social network to connect and collaborate seemed like the perfect answer. A place where every associate has access to information, where they can build relationships, share knowledge, collaborate with someone on the other side of the world, work as a team to solve a problem.
Two years into the Yammer journey, Mars’ Digital Collaboration Senior Manager Mark Parkinson says it’s been an incredibly successful tool for collaboration. Connections between departments are now strong, whereas pre-Yammer, they were little more than threads.
“Our business segments are far more connected to one another than they were,” he said.
“We’ve seen a big growth in connectivity across the corporation.”
When Mars initially went live with Yammer there were 8,000 people signed up to the network, with only 14 per cent actively using it.
Fast forward two years and there are 30,000 people on the network but the percentage of active users continues to stay about 25 per cent.
And there’s at least another 22,000 Associates that Mars wants to see join the network.
In summary, two years into the Yammer journey, Mars has hit a plateau.
Connected in unexpected ways
Speaking at Microsoft’s annual conference Ignite, Mr Parkinson said while the company’s senior leadership had its own ideas and ambitions as to where Yammer would lead, quite spontaneously, the network had taken on unanticipated roles.
“It gets used for engagement, for sharing stories, for those communication cascades,” he said.
“It gets used for remote teams such as field sales forces. It gets used by people building communities of practice, or expertise. It gets used for team and for project working. It also gets used heavily for social learning as well, it supports the training.
“People undergoing training courses collaborate and they talk with one another, they share their experiences. We use it to keep our alumni in touch. So, there’s a lot of different use cases it gets used for.”
How do we get more people connected?
The success experienced by those using Yammer has reinforced the need to get every Mars employee using the network to better collaborate and connect.
However, Mr Parkinson admits, while the network continues to grow, it’s growing slowly, and moving the needle beyond the 25 per cent participation rate has been a struggle.
“We’ve made great progress from where we started but we still want to get a lot more out of Yammer,” he said.
So, they’ve started shaking things up at Mars.
The change is coming from leveraging a successful community through good management, making use of community champions, using analytics to show people their own behaviors and cross-company behaviors, using sentiment analysis and bots – all with the purpose of providing the right information and connecting the right people.
We’re already great collaborators
Mars prides itself on its collaborative culture. That could explain why Mars was named No.4 on the World’s Best Workplaces list in 2017.
For such a collaborative company, surely there is no need to structure collaborative behavior, right? Wrong. Mr Parkinson said; “Actually, we do.”
“We are now trying to ensure everyone has the opportunity and the information needed to be successful in driving their communities.”
Get back more than you give
Mr Parkinson said the key to a successful community is to ensure participants get more value out of it than they contribute.
“Put 100 people in a group and everybody posts two messages,” he said.
“Everybody gets the benefit of 198 answers they didn’t post. By ensuring that you have broad collaboration and people contributing, everybody gets out of it more than they put in.”
That’s why Mr Parkinson stresses the importance of community members engaging, connecting and consuming content on Yammer to ensure a successful business while community managers and champions spread the word about the value of the community and manage content.
All of this is supported by analytics.
“Analytics underpins everything to make a successful community,” said Mr Parkinson.
Mars relies on SWOOP Analytics to provide data to every employee from the forklift operator in The Netherlands to the senior manager in Argentina.
See your own behaviors
Using the SWOOP dashboard, every Associate in the network can view their personal behaviors and SWOOP persona, see who are their strongest connections, which of their posts attracted the most attention, how they can improve their collaboration.
Within a group, everyone can see who is collaborating with whom, what are the hot topics, what time of day people are posting, who are the influencers, what posts have drawn the most attention, who are the most influential people.
All these and more can also be viewed at a whole-of-enterprise level along with sentiment analysis on posts, insights into which departments are connecting, the health of the community, how groups compare, what is the distribution of personas.
Mr Parkinson said providing analytics at a personal level through SWOOP had been incredibly effective. He used an example of a post with high engagement and another which attracted no attention, and therefore added no value.
“Providing Associates with data so they can see their behaviors in a lot of detail is far more powerful,” he said.
“It’s like bio feedback for the social network. Everybody can see what impact they’re having.”
What SWOOP Persona are you?
Mr Parkinson said the ability to see which of the five SWOOP personas you fit – an Observer, a Broadcaster, a Responder, a Catalyst or an Engager – was an influential tool for self-improvement.
“Who do I want to be? What works on my posts? What are my most engaging posts? Which ones do people like? Which ones are completely ignored? How do I compare to everyone else in the organization?” he asked.
“Provide people with their analytics and empower them.”
Mr Parkinson said it was important to provide community managers with a complete suite of SWOOP’s analytics including response rate, cross team collaboration, influencer risk scores, community health and activity by time.
“We create guidelines and examples for what to measure and what success looks like for different types of communities,” he said.
“It’s not one size fits all. What we’ll do is we have a community manager decide.
“But we give them a framework in which to operate. We let them decide – what it is you want to achieve with your community? Here’s how we’ve seen it be achieved before, here’s how you can measure it, here’s how you can be intentional with that behavior to drive your community forward.”
Mars also uses SWOOP data to make scorecards to drive collaboration in Yammer groups.
“We want to ensure participants receive more value than they contribute,” Mr. Parkinson said.
“We used the influence risk score as a key metric for that. It’s a very simple way for us to be able to check if the level of contribution focuses too much on a small number of people. If it is, as soon as that person stops contributing, your community collapses.
“It’s a great way to see if you’ve got broad balance on it.”
Sentiment analysis and bots
Mars uses SWOOP’s sentiment analysis to keep track of mood throughout groups and see what posts are “working”.
However, Mr Parkinson warned it is a guideline and negative sentiment is not always a bad thing.
“If you’re looking at a maintenance group or a group that finds issues and problems, it’s going to look like you’ve got very negative sentiment in the group,” he said.
“But that’s the purpose of the group, to find the problem. Use your intelligence to support it. Sentiment can be a very powerful addition to the armory of a group and a community manager.”
Mars has also been developing bots which can answer many simple questions in Yammer or lead an associate to a thread of conversation in which they may find the answer.
Mr Parkinson said adding additional technology tools to Yammer, like SWOOP Analytics and bots, is not meant to replace people but to facilitate conversation.
“Yammer itself is a tool … you can use additional tools to help support it,” he said.
“Make sure that you have the right conversations occurring your groups, don’t be afraid to make these technologies part of your overall Yammer tool kit.”
This article is based on the joint presentation Mars and SWOOP Analytics delivered at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando about how Mars is innovating with analytics, sentiment analysis and how bots are helping the community.