Executive engagement – the key to a successful enterprise social network

The No.1 way to get employees engaged on a company’s Enterprise Social Network (ESN) is getting leaders to use the platform, according to communications managers at some of the world’s biggest companies. 

If a leader, including the CEO, is making the time to share ideas and connect on the social network platform, even the busiest front-line worker or middle manager would find it hard to explain why they can’t do so. 

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

“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?’,” said Syngenta’s Communications Manager and Yammer Channel Manager, Melinda Schaller. 

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

When global agriculture company Syngenta, one of Forbes’ top 10 multinational performers, wanted its senior leaders to engage on the company’s Yammer network, the internal communications team used SWOOP Analytics to benchmark all leaders. 

At Syngenta’s annual global leadership conference, Schaller and her colleagues showed all senior leaders the SWOOP list of the top performers on Yammer. 

“As soon as we had SWOOP we were able to benchmark all the leaders against each other,” Schaller said. 

“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’.” 

The leaders who were using Yammer had far superior engagement with their teams than those leaders who were not using it. 

Schaller said the leaders not using Yammer found it much more difficult to communicate with their entire workforce effectively because email or telecons don’t allow for personal connections the way Yammer does.  

“You see personality come through on Yammer, you don’t see that in email,” she said. 

The graphic of the SWOOP leader board shown to executives at the annual conference had a big impact.  

Syngenta CEO, Erik Fyrwald. (Courtesy of Syngenta.)

“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,” Schaller said. 

“Leaders came to us saying; ‘How do I get to be a top user and become a top engager?” she said, adding that they showed leaders the 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,” Schaller said. 

CEO of a global giant posts on Yammer every Sunday night 

One CEO who knows the power of connecting with staff on Yammer is Ivan Menezes, chief executive of global drinks company Diageo, the makers of Johnnie Walker, Bailey’s, Guinness, Smirnoff, J&B and many more spirit and beer brands. 

Some of Diageo’s products.

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. 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 in 2013 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 former Employee Engagement Channel Manager Ruth Kirkup. 

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

Executive sponsorship  the No.1 priority 

Like Schaller at Syngenta, Kirkup says executive sponsorship of an ESN is the No.1 priority if you want staff engaged on the platform. 

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

Diageo introduced Yammer back in 2013 when ESNs were fairly new. Kirkup said she and her team presented Menezes with research proving social companies are better performing companies.  

“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’ 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. 

Diageo CEO, Ivan Menezes.

“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 taking part, across a 32-hour time span. 

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, according to data from SWOOP. 

“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.” 

Some of Diageo’s engaged staff.

From broadcasting to collaborating  

Another leader connecting with his staff is Jon Black, managing director of TAFE NSW, Australia’s largest tertiary education organisation with more than 500,000 students, 20,000 staff and more than 130 campuses spread across the state of New South Wales. 

TAFE NSW managing director, Jon Black.

Black is busy building relationships with his frontline staff, whether they’re in the northern NSW beach town of Ballina, at the gateway to the Snowy Mountains in Cooma, or in the outback mining town of Broken Hill. 

Staff respond in their thousands to Black’s interactions, asking questions, giving answers, sharing ideas and innovating together. 

Black uses Workplace by Facebook to engage with the thousands of teachers, administrators and workers scattered across NSW at TAFE’s (Technical And Further Education) vocational education campuses. 

He often uses live video streaming, the same tool used by Facebook Live, which allows staff to ask questions online and Black can provide a live answer. It’s a direct connection between the classroom and the managing director. 

“Our managing director, when he does something, is guaranteed 100 per cent of the time, he’ll get engagement on Workplace,” said Brendon Walker, TAFE NSW’s former manager for Workplace by Facebook. 

“There’s absolutely nothing that our managing director does that people just don’t care about.” 

TAFE NSW managing director Jon Black with staff and students.

SWOOP data shows Black takes less than an hour to respond to 25 per cent of posts made to him on Workplace and within 24 hours he has personally responded to almost 40 per cent. 

Back when TAFE NSW relied on emails to broadcast news, Black was aware he may receive little to no response. 

Now, he has thousands of people engaged and rather than broadcasting, Black is connecting and responding to staff. 

Authentic leadership in a time of personal crisis  

Former NBN CEO, Bill Morrow.

Newly departed CEO of NBN, Australia’s National Broadband Network, Bill Morrow showed authentic leadership as the #MeToo campaign took off, when stories of sexual abuse flooded social media. 

Morrow wondered if there were victims of sexual assault and harassment amongst his staff at NBN. Did they need help? Could he help break the culture of silence around abuse? 

How could the leader of a large national corporation find out answers to such a sensitive topic and let staff know he is here to help? 

His answer was the most obvious – ask. Offer to help. Engage in conversation. Show true leadership. 

Mr Morrow wrote an open post on NBN’s internal online social network, Workplace by Facebook, asking victims of sexual harassment to come forward, talk to someone – himself included if they felt comfortable to do so. 

Within seconds the post lit up. Support flooded in from all aspects of the business. 

Hours after Morrow posted his message, it topped the list of the Most Engaging Posts in the past three months on NBN’s SWOOP dashboard. 

SWOOP dashboard showing analytics from Morrow’s #MeToo post.

Before the end of the day, there were more than 100 comments to Morrow’s post, more than 1000 likes, almost 1000 employees engaged in the conversation and more than 4000 employees had seen the post, from a business with about 7,000 employees. 

SWOOP data showed one in every seven NBN employees across Australia was actively involved in the conversation and almost 100 per cent of daily active users on NBN’s Workplace network saw the post. 

With this post, Morrow addressed the important topic of sexual abuse with his organisation and role modelled how executive leadership can connect and collaborate with every employee using an ESN. 

Getting your leaders on board 

Research by SWOOP has discovered that asking a question on your ESN results in longer discussion threads, 250 per cent longer!  

Asking a question is an exceptionally powerful way to elicit conversation and engagement. Given 90 per cent of messages do not include any questions, there seems to be ample opportunity to ask more questions. 

Here are some examples we recommend you encourage your senior leaders to ask on your ESN. 

  • What’s the biggest growth opportunity that you see for our company right now? What are we not doing that we should be? 
  • What’s one project you’d love to focus on for an entire week but don’t have time to accomplish? Why? 
  • What are we spending a ton of time doing, that has the least impact? 
  • What was the most positive compliment you received about our company from a customer this week? 
  • What was the most common negative piece of feedback you received from a customer lately? 

For more ideas, we’ve listed 20 questions for you but beware; senior leaders should only ask these questions if they are willing to listen to the answers.  

If we want to give people a voice we need to give them the psychological safety to speak up, listen to them, and reply thoughtfully. 

More inspiration to get leaders using your social network? 

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

We have many more examples of how leaders engage staff on the company’s ESN, with the help of SWOOP.  

At KFC South Pacific, Managing Director Nikki Lawson is one of the top 10 most active users on Yammer. She regularly posts photos of her store visits and is constantly recognising and congratulating team members. 

In Mexico, digital transformation company Wingu Networks has a workforce almost entirely of millennials. Two days after current CEO Luis Enrique Sánchez Reyna was appointed to the top job at Wingu, he went live on Workplace to introduce himself and “meet” all staff, regardless of their location. 

He live-streamed his speech on Workplace and by doing so gave “permission” for all employees to use Workplace. 

Global real estate services company RealFoundations has been recognised by SWOOP as world leader of best practices for Yammer. A sign of RealFoundations’ Yammer maturity is the fact the CEO has been able to step back from being the most influential person on the network because using Yammer, along with Microsoft Teams, is now part of the company’s everyday culture of working out loud – it’s where people do their work. 

One of RealFoundations chief executive Chris Shaida’s early Yammer tips.

Australian Catholic University’s Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr Stephen Weller, set goals to achieve the four ‘Cs’ when the university introduced Workplace – Communication, Collaboration, Connection and Community. 

It has led to so many innovations at the university’s campuses, including reducing their carbon footprint. 

Step into the office of the chief executive of Australia’s oldest bank, Westpac, and you’ll see Brian Hartzer has a SWOOP dashboard where he can track exactly who, what and where people are connecting across his company. 

Read these stories and more at https://www.swoopanalytics.com/case-studies/ 

Benchmark your leaders 

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