Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina

Going the distance: Senior leaders engaging employees with Yammer

It’s rare to find the Chief Financial Officer among the most influential people on a large company’s enterprise social network, engaging thousands of his employees in conversations.

At Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), the state’s largest health insurer, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mitch Perry is almost always among the top 10 most influential people on the company’s Yammer network, according to data from SWOOP Analytics.

That means Mr Perry interacts with a staff of almost 5,000 on Yammer. He initiates conversations, asks questions, listens to his employees and responds to them. It’s resulted in the CFO becoming someone staff feel connected with.

“Financial topics might not be the first thing employees would ordinarily want to read about. But our CFO is one of the most engaged executives in our company,” said Mark Stinneford, a communications advisor on the company’s Internal Communications and Employment Brand team.

Mr Perry’s posts include a popular one about the lessons he has learned from running.

“It’s in line with our wellness philosophy and it’s him making something conversational,” Mr Stinneford said.

“He does it a lot. He’s really a model in terms of making things interesting and relating it to our broader direction and his willingness to put himself out there. And it’s someone who would not naturally be a drawcard.”

When Mr Stinneford ran a quick enquiry on SWOOP to find the most influential people on Blue Cross NC’s Yammer network for the year to date, Mr Perry was No.7 from a network of 7,700 users.

“He was delighted,” Mr Stinneford said.

“We know that people might not be attracted to posts from a CFO but that you’ve gone out of your way to make it interesting and be engaged across our platforms, this validates his efforts.”

A screenshot from the SWOOP dashboard of Blue Cross NC’s Influential People on Yammer.

Perhaps what’s even better news for Blue Cross NC is that the CEO, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Chief HR officer and CFO were all among the top 10 most influential people on company’s Yammer network in the last 12 months.

The importance of this is that senior leaders at Blue Cross NC are building trust by establishing two-way conversations with their people, at scale. Trust in senior leaders is critical for implementing change at speed, and trust comes only through building relationships.

It is clearly working at Blue Cross NC. In a recent staff survey, Yammer ranked fourth overall as to the channel employees prefer to receive their communication for learning about topics relating to them or their job.

“30 per cent of our folks responding said it was the primary way to get information,” Mr Stinneford said.

“We found that really interesting and reassuring because it’s not the primary channel of communication, but it’s the preferred channel when we want executives to communicate with employees conversationally, or if there’s a topic that will generate a lot of conversation.”

Mr Stinneford said Blue Cross NC’s Yammer network is a continuation of the company’s culture. He said now Yammer is well established and an ingrained communication channel at the company, it is mostly self-managed.

“The biggest thing I have to deal with is making sure people are posting in the right place, or the right community,” Mr Stinneford said.

A screenshot from the SWOOP dashboard of Blue Cross NC’s Most Engaging Posts on Yammer.

A search on SWOOP of the top 10 Most Engaging posts from the past 12 months reinforces Mr Stinneford’s words that Yammer is a continuation of company culture, which includes putting people first, contributing to the communities of North Carolina, work-life flexibility, overall health and wellness and a sense of fun.

The top 10 posts for the past 12 months included topics about a $50 million commitment to community investments in North Carolina, a fun post “If your dog was on a dating website, what would their profile picture be?”, performance ratings from the Chief HR Officer, a personal growth post asking “What are your mottos?” and building playgrounds for communities in need.

“It’s a continuation of our communications culture,” said Mr Stinneford.

He said it was also reassuring that the Most Engaging posts were not reliant on senior executives but came from different parts of the company, something also measured in SWOOP’s Influencer Risk Score.

Nudging employees towards better collaboration

Mr Stinneford said SWOOP’s new “nudges” were helpful in improving employee’s online behaviours and especially bringing more leaders onto Yammer.

SWOOP nudges are small prompts for people to change behaviours towards better collaboration. For example, if you are not a member of a group, SWOOP will prompt you to join a relevant group. Or if you are an active user, but haven’t yet posted, SWOOP will prompt you to do so. As a community manager you can get the nudges that apply to a group of people, like senior leaders.

A “nudge” on the SWOOP dashboard.

“We’re finding new uses with SWOOP every day,” Mr Stinneford said.

“It’s a real revelation to people when I show them what they can learn about their group, the health of their group, the activity of their group and the nudge feature is really helpful.

“You can see what’s the recommendation for people’s next step on Yammer, which I think is a really nice insight.”

Mr Stinneford said Blue Cross NC uses data from SWOOP to put together a weekly status report for key communications, including the Most Engaging Posts on Yammer. He said he also relies heavily on SWOOP’s curiosity and @ mention indexes to see how people are engaging others in conversation and asking questions.

Some of the measures from SWOOP that Blue Cross NC uses for weekly reporting.

Another interesting use for SWOOP was when someone asked on Yammer when was the best time to post.

SWOOP’s Activity By Time widget shows the distribution of activities (post, reply or like) spread over the weekly cycle and the User Activity measures the average number of activities that these active users have performed.

“We weren’t surprised to find that Monday was a terrible day to post because we’re a customer-focused entity, and that’s our business call day,” Mr Stinneford said.

“We found Friday was a very good day to post. We found Friday had some of the most engagement. You would think on Friday there’s not as many people here but it proved to be a day that has some of the best engagements.”

Introducing Yammer at Blue Cross NC

Blue Cross NC introduced Yammer in 2016 after it identified a number of issues that needed addressing, including internal communications lacking real-time, two-way feedback with employees, executives being disconnected and employees feeling siloed.

The company’s New Media team built interest in the tool by recruiting Yambassadors. These were two dozen employees spread across departments and divisions who were tasked with things like encouraging conversations to move to Yammer, suggesting Yammer as a place for project management and welcoming new employees to the company on Yammer.

The Yambassadors were given training on navigating Yammer and on company culture online.

Some of the behind-the-scenes work of Blue Cross NC’s Yambassadors.

The New Media team also helped spur adoption by having some workgroups join before the official launch, including the Learning Design and Delivery department.

Fast forward three years and Yammer is the go-to place for important announcements, along with the company’s intranet.

“Executives post there and ask for people’s questions, we use it for company events and hash tags, where people can post fun stuff like in our Spirit Week, there are a lot of fun groups that people have established on their own. I think that’s a key thing. There’s a group around Game of Thrones, there’s a group around pets, there’s a group around running,” Mr Stinneford said.

“For executives, when we have a big corporate announcement the CEO will weigh in or if he’s been somewhere interesting he will post about what he’s been up to.”

Mr Stinneford said Yammer is the “conversational and social arm” of internal communications at Blue Cross NC.

“Part of the maturing process for us has been, if you want to get certain types of information or have certain types of conversations, Yammer is the place to go,” he said.

“We’ll always put essential corporate information on the internet and other places but if you really want to get good insights you’ve got to check out Yammer.”

For more information on how SWOOP can help you become better and faster at collaborating, please contact us.

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