Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox has changed the way clients are serviced with the use of Microsoft’s enterprise social network Yammer. No longer is it just lawyers working alone on a client’s problems, but the entire firm can contribute to helping on a client’s case. SWOOP data shows that through Yammer, employees are connected and collaborating. And all-company emails are a thing of the past.
Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox is providing its clients with more diverse thinking, better service and more successful outcomes – assets it attributes to using enterprise social network Yammer.
It’s no longer just lawyers contributing to solving client problems. With Yammer, every client has access to knowledge management experts from across the country, people with research and technology skills, project management skills and commercial skills, all of whom are working together to solve problems or provide ideas.
Using Yammer to communicate, connect, collaborate and innovate is a key component in Smarter Law – Hall & Wilcox’s response to disruption in the legal industry.
Yammer, along with data from SWOOP Analytics, also gives insight into Hall & Wilcox’s company culture, something that has allowed new staff to smoothly integrate into the business, said Chief Operating Officer Sumith Perera.
As for all-company emails, they are almost non-existent thanks to Yammer.
Keeping connected during rapid expansion
Hall & Wilcox is one of Australia’s leading law firms. In just four years, it has expanded from one office in Melbourne, Victoria, to six offices across the country with more than 600 people.
Yammer was initially introduced in December 2011 to connect the firm’s people, who despite being in the same building in Melbourne, were spread across five non-contiguous floors. That had an impact on collaboration and efficiency within the office.
“We didn’t have stairs between each floor and even though we were in the one building, we felt that there were culturally three or four independent firms emerging within the one firm,” Sumith said.
“We needed some way to keep people informed in the moment of what was happening across the firm.”
From broadcasting to collaborating
In the first 12-18 months after Yammer was introduced, Sumith says activity was fairly low. It was used more as a broadcast tool and some people questioned its worth. But as the company grew, so did the Yammer network.
With new offices in Sydney, Newcastle, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra, Hall & Wilcox’s Yammer network was the tool that connected them all.
Sumith says using Yammer is consistent with Smarter Law by engaging people in servicing clients and ensuring it’s not just a team of lawyers who are delivering the service or contributing to the solutions.
“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.
“We’re not just getting lawyers contributing to client problems. You’ve got people from a knowledge management perspective and research people with technology skills, people with project management skills, people with commercial skills, all putting in commentary into how they might approach a particular problem or providing ideas.
“People are getting more ideas and solutions on how to go about responding to a request.”
A window to company culture
As much as Hall & Wilcox’s Yammer network has helped deliver better services to clients, it’s been just as powerful internally to identify company culture.
“To really culturally integrate people and have people understand the firm that they’ve joined and get a perspective on the breadth, the depth, the capability and the philosophy and ethos and culture of the place, Yammer has been absolutely central to making that happen,” Sumith said.
Hall & Wilcox Technology Trainer Jason Soo attributes the company-wide success of Yammer to the engagement from Managing Partner Tony Macvean and Sumith, who both endorse Yammer as a tool for working out loud.
“If it was just a community manager shouting at people and trying to push them onto this platform that they don’t really care about, there’s only so much shouting and pushing you can do before people are like; ‘Leave me alone, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care’,” he said.
“But because we had the buy in from the very top, we had a lot more success.”
Tony and Sumith post a weekly Friday update on Yammer, usually a summary of what’s been happening across the firm during the past week. Sometimes they’ll record a short video on the phone and upload it, other times it’s a written summary and it usually includes photos from the past week.
Jason said the ability to benchmark leaders on the SWOOP dashboard and coach them in how they can improve or hone their engagement skills is one of his favourite features.
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.
To ensure every individual can understand their own online collaborative behaviour, SWOOP has identified five personas – the Observer (non-active), Broadcaster (someone who sends messages but does not engage), the Responder (prefers to react to conversation rather than initiate it), Catalyst (seeds conversation) and the most aspirational persona, the Engager (connects and sustain relationships).
SWOOP provides real-time data on who is connecting with whom, and which teams and departments are collaborating. It shows every employee’s online behaviours, identifies influencers, and assesses the levels of engagement between executives and frontline staff.
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.
Using SWOOP to track influential people
Tony is the most influential person on Hall & Wilcox’s Yammer network, according to data from SWOOP.
Sumith said as a result of Tony’s posts, many other partners across the business are following his lead, highlighting individual staff members, informing colleagues about visitors or updating everyone on an issue.
“There are a lot of mentions of people in all of those posts and it’s got a natural life. It’s been replicated across the firm in offices, in sections and so on,” he said.
Sumith said even 18 months ago, posts from himself and Tony were more “one-way” and often failed to engage staff. In an effort to boost the network, Jason presented to the executive leadership team and highlighted best practices, including asking questions and to find answers and praising staff. He also advised @ mentioning people in Yammer posts.
“Now we’re finding people are starting to contribute what’s been happening in their day or their department or in the office in which they work,” Sumith said.
The power of @ mentions and asking questions
Research by SWOOP shows you get 73% more replies when you @ mention someone. Those who @ mention others are much more active on the network, making and receiving on average far more posts, replies and likes and @ mentioning others has resulted in much stronger personal network connections.
SWOOP data also found that when you ask questions, the threads are 2.5 times longer than if you don’t. Asking a question is a powerful way to elicit conversation and engagement.
An example of a post full of @ mentions was when Tony offered his staff a day off work in exchange for reaching 400 likes on his Yammer post. The hashtag #Breakyammer and #Breaktheinternet went viral across the company.
“Everyone went crazy,” Jason said.
“I wouldn’t recommend a free day every time you want engagement but the usage on Yammer spiked, it was so active just because of that one post Tony made.
“There was a point where we were about 300 likes and people were saying; ‘Who is not liking this? We have to name the people who are not liking this post.’ It was one way to kickstart the network and get everyone on there.”
Teaching each other with Yammer
Jason says Yammer has been an unexpected social learning tool for staff.
They have a group called “Technology Tips & Tricks”. Over the years, it’s become a huge resource for information but few people were using it until more recently when staff began @ mentioning colleagues to alert them to a relevant tip or trick.
“It gets a second life of exposure to people who might find that tip valuable,” he said.
“So not only is that reusing the existing material, more people get aware of the solution and people are @ mentioning each other in the tips that they find useful.”
Goodbye all-company emails
Sumith said another objective for implementing Yammer was to reduce all-company emails. He said they have “absolutely achieved that”.
“The volume of all-firm emails is miniscule compared to what it was,” he said.
Hall & Wilcox has 70 per cent active users on Yammer, according to SWOOP, but Jason said it was only 12 months ago when that number was close to 45 per cent.
Despite the enviable number of active users, he says there is room for improvement.
He thinks running campaigns with hashtags that promote Hall & Wilcox’s core values such as #BetterTogether, and tracking those campaigns with SWOOP, could be an area to boost engagement.