Executive engagement – the key to a successful ESN network

(This article is based on the presentation Diageo presented at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, September 2017. A recording of the presentation is available via Youtube).

How to you become one of the world’s best Yammer networks? The answer is executive engagement.

For global drinks company Diageo, the makers of Johnnie Walker, Bailey’s, Guinness, Smirnoff, J&B and many more spirit and beer brands, it’s all about leading by example.

Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes

Chief executive Ivan Menezes gets it. He knows that to keep his employees, who are scattered across the globe, communicating, connecting and innovating, he needs to lead the charge.

Menezes is the top influencer on Diageo’s Yammer network, according to data from SWOOP Analytics. That means that while he’s not the most prolific poster or commentator, he initiates conversations, he gets people talking and sharing which ultimately leads to innovation, more sales and a boost to the company’s bottom line.

Diageo launched its Yammer network four years ago and every Sunday night since, Menezes has posted a blog on Yammer talking about his week – what he’s done, who he’s met, what’s ahead, what needs to be addressed. He shares photos, earnings reports, asks employees for their ideas, their input.

The 30,000+ users on the Diageo Yammer network love it. The worker at the distillery in France has a direct connection to the chief executive, as does the salesperson in New York and the office worker in Melbourne.

“As soon as Ivan posts, he’s getting a response,” said Diageo’s Employee Engagement Channel Manager Ruth Kirkup.

“He’s a catalyst for our Yammer community.”

Kirkup told Microsoft’s Ignite annual conference that executive sponsorship of an enterprise social network (ESN) is the No.1 priority if you want engaged staff.

“It’s all about getting your leaders to walk the talk,” Kirkup said.

Diageo Employee Engagement, Channel Manager, Ruth Kirkup

“Ivan didn’t need much convincing. He got it straight away.”

This was back in 2013 when ESNs were still fairly new. Kirkup said she and her team presented Menezes with research proving social companies are better performing companies. They also set up a live chat between the UK and US offices, complete with photos being uploaded, so Menezes could see firsthand what it was all about.

“He was impressed and he got it,” Kirkup said.

“He understood that if we can get all of our employees talking and connecting, crossing time zones and crossing geographical boundaries, that we can be a better performing company and our employees can be better connected.”

When Yammer was launched across the organisation, it carried Menezes’ quote as an endorsement.

“I truly believe the best ideas in the business will emerge from sharing with each other what we think and imagine possible,” Menezes said.

“I so want us to move away from just top down communications and get more spontaneous conversation happening among all 30,000 of us.”

Kirkup said using Menezes’ words reinforced to all employees they were expected to take part.

The next step was to kick off with a Yam Jam, an online conversation, with all senior executives from around the world.

“Across 32 consecutive hours, we had leaders around the world, taking to Yam Jam for an hour each and talking to their employees around this topic,” Kirkup said.

“We got some incredible results.”

There was a 417 per cent increase in the number of messages posted and 247 per cent increase in the number of active users compared with the previous week.

“You could really feel an energy … employees were talking about this Yam Jam,” Kirkup said.

“Some were still perhaps a bit cynical about it … but others were converted and were talking about how it made them feel more connected to the company.”

The second step to a successful Yammer network, according to Kirkup, is communicating. Ensuring leadership messages, news, things that would have previously been sent in an email, are all now on Yammer, as well as making sure every internal communications campaign has some Yammer element to it.

Kirkup said training staff to use Yammer was another must-do on her list. This means training every internal communications lead on community management in Yammer, training the top 120 leaders and their personal assistants, and providing self-help to every employee on the company intranet.

Despite all of this, Yammer was still met with resistance from some and there were questions about just how well it was helping the company connect.

That’s when Diageo turned to SWOOP Analytics for help. SWOOP shows who is connecting with whom, which teams and departments are collaborating, it shows every employee’s online behaviours, identifies influencers, assesses the levels of engagement between executives and frontline staff.

Screenshot of slide shown at Microsoft Ignite, Lesson Four: Analytics

SWOOP will track sentiment in the network, tell you when people are posting, find the hot topics, show the health of the network, the most engaging posts and give every employee tips on how to improve their online collaboration.

“SWOOP has transformed our Yammer analytics,” Kirkup said.

“SWOOP has worked wonders for us in terms of being able to get data and information and insights from our Yammer network that we couldn’t get before. SWOOP has just made those insights so much more accessible.

“Every time I share SWOOP with an employee, or with our leaders, they look at it and they’re like; ‘Wow, this is incredible, the amount of information I can get just from clicking a couple of different reports’.”

SWOOP’s benchmarking of companies with more than 15,000 employees worldwide puts Diageo in No.1 spot as the most engaged Yammer network, with 38 per cent of people actively posting, replying and liking messages, many of whom are not in desk jobs.

Kirkup’s goal is to raise this to 50 per cent and she feels the company is on track, with 2,400 active groups – 390 new groups added in 2017.

Sam Fischer, Diageo President for Greater China and Asia, signs the pledge to never drink and drive at a road safety conference in Manila. #ProudOfWhatWeDo

She said Diageo uses Yammer for a group campaign every month including promotion of events like St Patrick’s Day, International Bailey’s Day (yes, that’s a thing), International Scotch Day where employees are challenged to buy someone they don’t know a scotch and post photos on Yammer with the hashtag #LoveScotch, and #ProudOfWhatWeDo to encourage employees to share what makes them proud to work for Diageo.

“Yammer engagement has been a steady rise,” said Kirkup, adding that it was vital to keep up executive participation after the initial launch of the network.

“We want to remind employees they can always go to Yammer to find their information. There really is a steady heartbeat of communications going.”

Kirkup gave an example of where using Yammer had resulted in direct benefits to the company’s bottom line.

Diageo has stock in warehouses all over the world. Some of this is surplus stock which carries the name SLOBS, for slow moving and obsolete stock.

Of course, the company wants to transfer its SLOBS into sales.

It set its sales team a challenge to reduce SLOBS by 25 per cent.

The team turned to Yammer and set up a group called The SLOBS Swap Shop.

Suddenly, every salesperson anywhere in the world could connect with warehouses or other sales personnel in search of what they were looking for.

There may be an excess of Guinness beer in Los Angeles but someone in Chicago needed it. They could post a message on Yammer and have an answer within minutes. Previously, this would have been a laborious trawl through paperwork to get the same result.

Did the sales teams meet their target of reducing SLOBS by 25 per cent? Yes, they did.

“That behaviour was a catalyst to changing the way that we work,” Kirkup said.

“We position Yammer as a place where employees can connect, collaborate and learn from each other in a single, online, open space.”

To hear more about Diageo’s story see: https://myignite.microsoft.com/sessions/53757

Hear more from Ruth Kirkup and Change and Adoption Manager from WMReply Baxter Willis who worked closely with Diageo making Yammer a success.