Executive engagement – the key to a successful Yammer network

The No.1 way to get employees engaged on a company’s Yammer network is by 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’.” 

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

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.  

“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. 

SWOOP Personas.

“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. 

A selection of Diageo’s brands.

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. 

Diageo employees testing the product.

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 a Yammer network is the No.1 priority if you want engaged staff. 

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

Diageo introduced Yammer 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.  

“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.

Authentic leadership  

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

At KFC South Pacific, Managing Director Nikki Lawson is one of the top 10 most active users on Yammer, according to data from SWOOP.  

She is one of the most prolific to recognise and congratulate team members and regularly posts photos of her store visits or calls out a team member for their great work. 

Below is a post from KFC’s “Yammertime” group where Chief People Officer Rob Phipps stayed on Yammer for 90 minutes to give live answers to questions from team members. He even suggested a few questions of his own, such as advice on career pathways and an invitation to ask him personal questions. 

“(He) gives the opportunity to our team members to ask in real time, real questions and get authentic responses,” said KFC’s People Capability Director, Jonathan D’Souza, speaking at Microsoft’s Employee Engagement Summit. 

Embracing fun in KFC restaurants on Friendly Friday.

KFC leaders are big proponents of fun. They introduced “Friendly Friday”, where team members were given free licence 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,” Mr D’Souza said. 

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

KFC researched what it was people wanted when working at KFC. They wanted a voice and they wanted to feel connected. In 2015, KFC South Pacific launched Yammer to achieve the goal of connecting staff and giving them a voice. 

The impact of Yammer has been extraordinary.  

ROI from Yammer 

KFC’s SWOOP dashboard showing Active Users and Community Health.

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. Just as importantly, engagement across the business is up 36 per cent and team members are feeling connected, according to SWOOP.  

Data from SWOOP gives KFC insights into engagement rates, provides real-time data on who is connecting with whom, which teams, departments and restaurants are collaborating, it shows every employee’s online behaviours, identifies influencers and assesses the levels of engagement between executives and frontline staff. 

When Yammer becomes a part of day-to-day work 

Global real estate services company RealFoundations has been recognised by SWOOP as world leader of best practices for Yammer.  

Some of the RealFoundations team.

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. 

RealFoundations began using Yammer in 2014. Back then, it was driven by chief executive Chris Shaida.  

He would give weekly tips on how to use Yammer and would engage staff by posting, sharing, tagging and commenting. Five years later, RealFoundations’ Director of Presence and Assets, Naomi Souza, says she still refers people back to those tips. 

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

“He challenged us to think every time before you send an internal email,” Souza said. 

“Ask yourself, are you certain that everybody who might know the answer to that question is in the distribution list? Or are there people who might benefit from hearing this conversation, from seeing how these questions get answered. If you believe others might benefit from the exchange, don’t bury it in email but put it in Yammer. We challenge people to have those exchanges in either Yammer or Teams.”   

In the early days of Yammer at RealFoundations, Shaida was very active and led from the top but the network’s maturity has allowed him to step back. 

“If you looked at SWOOP two years ago, and today, Chris has definitely tried to step back so that others can step forward. He reads everything in Yammer still but that’s not apparent to everybody,” Souza said. 

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. 

  1. What’s the biggest growth opportunity that you see for our company right now? What are we not doing that we should be? 
  2. What’s one project you’d love to focus on for an entire week but don’t have time to accomplish? Why? 
  3. What are we spending a ton of time doing, that has the least impact? 
  4. What was the most positive compliment you received about our company from a customer this week? 
  5. 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? 

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

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. 

Bankwest’s Senior Manager Digital Channels, Matthew Dodd, says one of the keys to a successful Yammer network is having leaders displaying authentic leadership. 

“Let the MD be who he wants to be,” Dodd said at Microsoft Ignite. 

Bankwest employees showing they are #BrilliantOrange, part of a Yammer campaign.

Encouraging the managing director and senior leadership to be themselves, show a little of what they’re like as a person, not just a boss, post some photos or videos and share some ideas – that makes employees feel connected to their leaders because it is genuine. 

“That was the key for us. If you show nothing of your actual self, you’ve got your work persona on all the time, people will think it’s the comms team writing it for you,” Dodd said. 

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

Benchmark your leaders 

We’d love you to sign up for a free trial of SWOOP so you can see who is connecting in your organisation. 

Subscribe To the SWOOP Newsletter

Join our mailing list, we regulary keep you up to date on the latest industry insights and research into Enteprise collaboration.

Thanks for Subscribing to SWOOP's newsletter