Executive leadership fostering a culture of employee engagement

Imagine joining a prestigious 200-year-old global publishing company and within hours of starting your first day at work, a seventh-generation family member of the company’s original founder is personally welcoming you on board.

Not just any family member but the Chairman of the Board.

Wiley Chairman, Jesse Wiley, personally welcomes new employees on Yammer.

That’s exactly what often happens at John Wiley & Sons, a global leader in research and education publishing.

Chairman of the Board, Jesse Wiley, keeps his finger on the pulse of the company by regularly reading through the company’s Yammer network to welcome new employees, engage in discussions and share updates.

In fact, according to data from SWOOP Analytics, Jesse Wiley is almost always among the top 10 Most Influential People on Wiley’s Yammer network, which boasts more than 8,000 members.

“We’re a company that’s over 200 years old and the Wiley family is still directly involved in the day-to-day business,” said Ron Perazza, Director of Communications at Wiley.

“In fact, Jesse Wiley, the current Chairman of the Board, is a direct descendant of John Wiley, the founder of the company.”

And Wiley’s CEO Brian Napack is even more prolific on Yammer. SWOOP shows he is consistently at the top of the list for Most Influential People on Wiley’s Yammer network.

Wiley CEO, Brian Napack.

“Brian is committed to employee engagement,” Ron said.

“He takes a personal approach to how he uses the platform, posting organizational updates, milestones, and even his #BigWileySelfies from business trips and office visits. That sort of connection and authenticity is very important.”

Measuring the impact with SWOOP

SWOOP verifies the high level of engagement Brian Napack receives on his posts.

SWOOP enables employees in an organisation to see their own online persona, identify influencers and assess the levels of engagement.

At a glance, anyone in an organisation can see which departments are well networked and identify the prominent and active groups.

“We’ll often use SWOOP to track global or cross-functional communication campaigns,” Ron said.

“We can establish specific Topics that allow us to track how many people are actually engaged with conversations throughout the company. By tracking the Topics and comparing that to locations or areas of business, we’re able to see what people are talking about, regardless of which specific Yammer groups those conversations are taking place.

“In addition, the Influencer Risk score on SWOOP is helpful because it allows us to see who is engaged in the conversation and whether or not that conversation is impacting a small or large group of people.”

Launching Yammer at Wiley

Wiley launched Yammer in September 2017 as part of a move to Microsoft’s Office 365 suite. A new SharePoint site, known internally as The Wire, would replace the old intranet and Yammer was embedded throughout the site to help everyone connect. The deployment was fast-paced and the initial approach was very informal.

Ron Perazza, Director of Communications at Wiley, speaking at SWOOP Chat NYC.

“We just blasted it out there and added everyone in the network to the ‘All Company’ group. One day there were zero members and the next day there were thousands,” Ron said.

Because Yammer was on the intranet homepage, by default, people began interacting.

“Everybody jumped into the deep end all at once, which presented some challenges,” Ron said.

“In retrospect, it was probably not the ideal way to launch. We immediately faced user adoption challenges – it was a new tool and there was a lot for people to learn.”

Ron, who is based in New Jersey, and the intranet development team addressed some of these concerns by visiting key offices around the world to show colleagues how to use Office 365, including Yammer.

They travelled to Oxford and Chichester in the UK, Paris, Singapore, Boston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Orlando, as well as other locations in the United States, to hold multi-day sessions on how to collaborate, engage, and increase productivity using Office 365 and the new intranet.

“We organised our visits as if they were sessions or classes,” Ron said.

“Each class had a name and itinerary based on what we hoped to teach; for example, Collaboration Station, The Wire and Friends, or Telling Your Story with Sway, Stream, and Yammer. We also hosted more informal Q&A sessions at the end of each day.

“We created a Yammer group specifically for Office 365 and asked everybody we spoke with to join. The entire team made a point of being in that group every day to chat and answer questions. We’d tell people that as long as we’re not in an airplane or asleep, we’ll respond!

“That Office 365 group became a hub where people that we met from each of our office visits would gather to share information and ask questions.”

Early adopters quickly became Yammer champions.

“What ended up happening was really kind of amazing,” Ron said.

“Power users from office locations around the world would start to evangelise within their locations. We’d wake up back on the East Coast in the US and see new Yammer activity from Singapore or the UK or Paris.”

Straight away, experts in their fields began to emerge on Yammer.

“Someone might have posted a question, but another person would already have jumped in and answered it before our day even started,” Ron said.

“That behaviour just snowballed, key people started to get a reputation for being helpful or being an expert with this or that application, people started to get to know one another even though they were in different office locations or departments. It was great to see!”

Come to Yammer for the Cats, Stay for the Work

Employees very quickly began to create their own Yammer groups, most were work-related, but many were not. Soon there were groups for photography, bookworms, Lean In, Brexit, LGBT Pride, Pokémon Go and, of course, the inevitable cat and dog groups.

The ‘Wiley Cat Lovers’ group was becoming very popular with employees posting photos of their feline friends so the ‘Wiley Dog Lovers’ jumped in with a group of their own because, as Ron says; “We can’t let the cats win.”

“These two groups very quickly became popular because of the sheer number of people that can identify as, ‘a dog person’ or ‘a cat person.’ It was all in good fun but of course there were naysayers who dismissed Yammer as a place where people only post pictures of cats.”

However, Wiley immediately saw the business benefit of these social groups.

“We quickly realised there’s no reason to discourage people from interacting with each other about a common interest,” Ron said.

“If talking about cats gets people to connect with one another, meet new co-workers, and learn a little bit about who does what in another area of business, then that also helps the business.

“It helps improve overall connectivity and gets people engaged throughout the company with the tool in ways we weren’t expecting.

“They come for the cats but then they stay for the work.”

Another recent social campaign on Yammer also fulfilled its intention of connecting employees across the company, no matter their geography.

On World Photography Day employees began to share a photo of their workspace, or the view from their desk, or their co-workers on Yammer, along with the hashtag #WorldPhotographyDay and #DayInTheLifeOfWiley.

“People shared photos of their co-workers and offices – simple, quick phone shots – it really conveyed a sense community,” Ron said.

“You were very quickly able to get a sense of the vastness and the global presence we had and at the same time the connection we all shared.

“It was a simple way to engage people throughout the world.”

Wiley was identified as one of the top performers in SWOOP’s 2019 Global Yammer Benchmarking Report, the world’s largest analysis of Yammer networks.

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