How to run a successful Yammer network – tips from the experts

In my role at SWOOP Analytics I’m fortunate enough to hear how organisations across the world are using Yammer.

I love to share the success stories because we can all learn from what’s worked for others. But I’ve also heard plenty of stories of overcoming hurdles, so if your Yammer community is struggling, take heart – you’re not alone.

We benchmarked 74 organisations from around the world late last year and identified the top performers, based on diversity, reciprocity, cohesion and curiosity measures. These organisations represent more than 1.4 million users and more than 12 million Yammer interactions over a six-month period.

We identified the top three organisations in small, medium and large size enterprises and spoke with representatives from the nine organisations.

As I spoke with each of these top performers, common themes kept emerging. I’ve collated them to six key points:

  • Making Yammer part of everyday work.
  • A community manager to facilitate Yammer and engage staff.
  • Engagement from senior leaders and executives, ensuring front line staff feel connected with their leaders.
  • An emphasis on working out loud so everyone in the organisation can benefit from conversations and knowledge sharing, leading to innovation.
  • Engaging with what staff are passionate about, often in the form of social groups.
  • Analytics to measure success, benchmark leaders and groups, track campaigns.

Here are some best practices from the experts.

Making Yammer a part of everyday work

At RealFoundations, Yammer is a part of everyday work. RealFoundations is a global professional services firm for real estate, so teams are scattered around the world. Each employee starts the day with a quick Yammer post and the hashtag #widt (What I’m Doing Today) to let the rest of the team know exactly what they’re up to.

Some of the RealFoundations team in Chennai, India.

RealFoundations’ Director of Presence and Assets, Naomi Souza, is based in Dallas, Texas but she has five people in her team in India. By checking in on the #widt post there is total transparency about what each team member is working on, whether they’re off site, travelling overseas, working from home or at a conference, despite their different time zones.

“We all come in and do the same thing and post what we’re doing to start our work day,” Naomi said.

“It’s just a little thing but it makes you feel much more connected and when I finish something at the end of the day, to be able to pass that thread on and have them pick that up is invaluable.”

A community manager to facilitate Yammer and engage staff

Larry Glickman sees himself as a “facilitator” rather than a “manager” of the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) two Yammer networks. As URJ’s Director, Network Engagement and Collaboration, Larry oversees the URJ’s internal Yammer network of 400 users and the external network called “The Tent” which connects the URJ’s almost 900 congregations, with 12,000 users.

Each week, Larry uses SWOOP’s data to identify the top five Most Engaging Posts. He then shares the post on Yammer and @mentions people involved, which he says never fails to result in comments and more people engaging in the post.

“I’ll tag those who were involved in that post or I’ll say what we learned from the post,” he said.

“We all want a sense of community at the end of the day and I think people feel that when they’re in the Yammer network.”

Asked the secret to URJ’s success, Larry pointed to three factors.

The first is URJ’s willingness to employ a community manager to grow the network, in this case Larry and his staff.

“I’m just trying to keep people engaged and more and more, the staff is falling in love with it,” he said.

The second factor is the fact URJ’s internal network has employed Working Out Loud Circles. These are small peer support groups in which you build relationships related to a goal, using simple structured guides over 12 weeks. Over that time, you develop habits and a mindset you can apply to any goal.

Larry’s third tip is to give the network time.

“You’re not going to get engagement in a month,” he said.

“You have to really be determined to make the space work or to at least give it time and to lead the way. We just didn’t give up.”

One of URJ’s Working Out Loud circles.

Bankwest’s Senior Manager Digital Channels, Matt Dodd, also acknowledges a community manager is needed for a healthy Yammer network but he prefers to call himself as a “community engager” rather than someone who manages the network.

Bankwest’s rules of Yammer engagement.

He wants to get people engaged and give them the opportunity to think in different ways and share ideas. He also wants to create a safe space for people to ask the hard questions and get answers, where people are commended for asking difficult questions.

“We need to make sure our culture stays strong and people feel they can speak up and say whatever they want to say in the group,” he said.

“I see my role is to engage and educate rather than delete and discipline.”

Matt says Yammer is “part of the furniture” at Bankwest. It’s become part of the company culture –  a place to test new ideas and products and to share news and information.

Engagement from senior leaders and executives

The No.1 tip for a healthy Yammer network is to get leaders involved, says Syngenta’s Communications Manager & Yammer Channel Manager, Melinda Schaller.

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

“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?’”

Syngenta is one of the world’s largest agriculture companies. Based in Basel, Switzerland, Syngenta has offices in 90 countries with 28,000 employees around the world.

When Syngenta held its global leadership conference in 2017, leaders were presented with a table showing their own personal level of interaction on Yammer compared with their peers’.

Each leader was ranked in order, with those regularly engaging with their team at the top of the list.

Each leader had been benchmarked by SWOOP Analytics, with the data showing who was engaging with staff. It had a big impact on Syngenta’s leaders.

“We 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,” Melinda said.

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,” Melinda said.

An emphasis on working out loud so everyone in the organisation can benefit from conversations and knowledge sharing, leading to innovation

Yammer is such a part of everyday work life at KFC that most restaurants post their rosters on the network. And if someone needs to swap a shift, it’s done on Yammer for all to see.

KFC’s People Capability Director, Jonathan D’Souza, recommends showing trust in employees by putting no limitations on how team members can use Yammer.

KFC’s community manager, Emily O’Brien, says 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.

Engagement across the business is up 40 per cent and team members are feeling connected, according to SWOOP data.

Keeping employees engaged on Yammer at KFC.

KFC uses Yammer to encourage healthy competition between restaurants, which is driving direct business outcomes.

They hold Peak Speed Competitions, measuring the night’s average speeds on drive-through service and the store with the fastest service is declared the winner. Restaurants have “Friendly Friday”, where team members are given free license 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,” Jonathan said.

Leading Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox’s Chief Operating Officer Sumith Perera says using Yammer ensures the entire knowledge of the law firm is being leveraged.

“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.

Engaging with what staff are passionate about, often in the form of social groups

Telstra is Australia’s largest telecommunications company and boasts one of the largest Yammer networks in the Asia Pacific region, with more than 55,000 Yammer users.

In nine years of using Yammer at Telstra, the most discussed topic on the network was around Australia’s national postal vote on same-sex marriage, according to SWOOP data.

Telstra staff supporting Wear it Purple Day, an annual LGBTIQA+ awareness day.

Group Executive, Human Resources, Alex Badenoch, said through employee networks like Yammer, Telstra was providing open channels and opportunities for advice, support, information and engagement for LGBT+ inclusion.

“It’s around these issues that ignite personal passion in our people that our internal social network Yammer really comes to life,” she said in a Telstra blog post.

“Yammer is the voice of our people and as a company, we are committed to fostering open conversations in a way that ensures everyone can have their say, and be heard respectfully.”

Bankwest’s Matt Dodd says the power of social groups on Yammer cannot be underestimated.

When Bankwest’s Yammer network was first taking off, Matt would encourage staff to celebrate their co-worker’s birthday with a photo on Yammer or celebrate someone’s work anniversary and @ mention that person on Yammer, all with the goal of drawing new people onto the platform.

“It’s that low entry point that’s been critical for us and it starts to build that capability so that people feel they can take part,” Matt said.

“We went all-in on social groups and we really made a conscientious effort to encourage it to grow organically. Ultimately, we’ve let people be people. We’ve treated them as adults and they’ve responded to that.”

The power of analytics to measure success

All the uses above are backed by analytics. Without the data, there is no real way of knowing if the hard work is paying off.

A snapshot of how Mars uses SWOOP to provide data to employees.

At global confectionary giant Mars, Digital Collaboration Senior Manager Mark Parkinson stresses the importance of community members engaging, connecting and consuming content on Yammer to ensure a successful business while community managers and champions spread the word about the value of the community and manage content.

All of this is supported by analytics.

“Analytics underpins everything to make a successful community,” Mark says.

To learn more about how SWOOP Analytics can help your company become better and faster at collaborating, please contact us here.

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