Yammer – The Living, Digital brain of Chaucer

Yammer is the living, digital brain of consultancy company Chaucer.

If you want to know what’s happening at this global digital transformation consultancy, you go to Yammer.

If a problem needs to be solved, ask on Yammer. It’s the place where you tap into the knowledge of the entire company. Questions will be answered, problems will be solved and ultimately it leads to a better service for clients.

But Chaucer’s Yammer network is much more than a knowledge sharing and problem solving platform. It’s a place where the company’s culture is reflected and celebrated, and that means celebrating every aspect of every person that makes up the organisation.

Sarah Parry, Knowledge Manager, Chaucer

“Yammer is the living digital brain of Chaucer and a lot of it is about sharing the knowledge and asking questions and; ‘How can I help my client do this?’,” said Chaucer’s Knowledge Manager, Sarah Parry.

“But then there’s the fun side as well. We really encourage everybody to bring their whole self to work.

“We don’t want people coming to work and feeling like they’ve got to hide some aspect of themselves, whether it’s gender or mental health or whatever else.

“Everybody has got stuff going on in their lives and so it’s actually saying: ‘When you come to work, you’re free to be yourself’.”

Bringing your whole self to work

One of the ways Chaucer champions the idea of bringing your whole self to work is with a Yammer group called “Outside the Office”, one of the most engaging groups on the network, according to data from SWOOP.

It’s where employees can share their pet photos, their holiday snaps, their LGBT+ pride stories. There is often a theme where employees are encouraged to share on a certain topic.

In July this year, Chaucer encouraged employees to join Plastic Free July, a global movement to reduce plastic pollution.

The Plastic Free July campaign kicked off at Chaucer on Yammer with a #PlasticFreeJuly hashtag, which can be easily monitored on SWOOP.

“Kicking it off, people began sharing ideas on how you can change your habits, easy things to go plastic free,” Sarah said.

The campaign was in response to the passion of employees to drive social change and improve lives, along with Chaucer’s commitment to social responsibility.

Suddenly, Sarah became more aware of the plastic in her life and at this time she found herself needing a new toothbrush.

“I was aware that toothbrushes are plastic. I went to supermarket and found bamboo toothbrushes,” she said.

“I hadn’t thought to look before if there was a bamboo toothbrush and then Plastic Free July jogged me and I found a bamboo toothbrush. I posted it on Yammer to make others aware too.”

Similarly, in previous summers a #WalktoWork campaign encouraged employees to take advantage of the good weather and get fit by walking to work and posting pictures on Yammer of what they saw along the way.

This year, a group of consultants came up with a campaign to #WalkThePond.

The idea was to walk the distance from the UK to the US, bridging the gap across the Atlantic and helping US and UK colleagues feel part of one team.

“This year we totally smashed it out of the ballpark. We did a walking challenge to walk the pond, working out how many miles it was between the UK and the US and we had a number of people counting their steps to see how close they could get to America.

“They did it. Using the hashtag #WalkThePond they clocked up the miles to make landfall in Miami.

“It was one of those fun things and having a target to get to, meant people were regularly posting every week.”

These are all examples of how Chaucer encourages staff to bring their whole self to work.

“If you’re doing something in the real world, let it manifest on Yammer as well because it creates that environment that we are a company where we understand how valuable applying our knowledge is and we have a community where you can feel comfortable to participate,” Sarah said.

For those who see these posts and think they have nothing to do with work, Sarah has an easy answer.

“You don’t have to join the group,” she said.

“Join the groups that are right for you, there are lots to choose from, or why not start one of your own?

“That’s my advice to everybody. There are loads and loads of groups: a runners’ group, a photography group, even a reading group for suggesting and discussing work-related books.

“And, of course, there are work groups for particular subject matter expertise.”

Using Yammer to welcome new employees

When a new employee starts at Chaucer they receive a Yammer account as part of their O365 suite. The day they start on the job, Sarah will personally welcome them on Yammer.

The new employee is encouraged to write an introductory post. The idea is that it’s an easy introduction to using Yammer and to immediately make some connections.

“Straight away they get replies. Everyone is very welcoming. Someone with the same name will point out they share the same name, that sort of thing,” Sarah said.

“If I say to them: ‘Welcome’, that’s a very easy thing for them to respond to, just to let them try Yammer out. If they’ve not used Yammer before or if they haven’t previously had a good experience with it, this is a nudge to respond.

“Whether they just like it or whether they say; ‘Thanks’, it’s an easy way to get over that first hurdle.”

The importance of measuring collaboration

Chaucer began using Yammer in 2014 when it became part of Microsoft’s O365 suite.

It started with a small Yammer group of 15 people as place to chat and ask questions.

Before long, those initial 15 began inviting others into groups and forming new groups. Now, there are over 200 active Yammer users at Chaucer.

“It all happened very organically,” Sarah said.

“We’ve always said, ‘If you want to set up a group, as long as there isn’t already a group on that topic and as long as you’ve got a lot to say about it, go for it and set it up’.”


Fast forward to 2019 and while Yammer is the hub of knowledge sharing and problem solving at Chaucer, there was no way to track what was actually happening with data.

Were all employees engaged? Were some people slipping through the gaps? Who were the influential people on the network and what were people most engaged with? They needed analytics and data.

“When I saw SWOOP, I was watching the video and just went: “Yes! Yes, I want that!’,” Sarah said.

“Every single person in the company that I’ve shown it to, they immediately got it. They’d say: ‘Yes, this is what we needed to see’.

“Having SWOOP there means that if somebody says: ‘Can you show me how this hashtag is doing?’, it’s there and it’s instantaneous.”

Sarah said while SWOOP is able to identify the most influential people on Chaucer’s Yammer network, it’s also useful for spotting who is not engaging.

“If you’re trying to reach a particular audience and they are not yet using Yammer regularly, I can look on SWOOP and see who could act as a change agent to encourage them to participate,” she said.

Looking ahead, Sarah plans to make SWOOP accessible to every employee in the company so everyone can see their own online behaviours.

“We are really good at collaborating, but there is always room to improve, so now that we’ve got these analytics, we’re excited to see how we can use insights to make a difference,” she said.

The collaboration is so good at Chaucer, they reached No.1 overall performer in SWOOP’s 2019 Benchmarking of Yammer networks, the world’s largest analysis of Yammer communities.

The fact Yammer is a part of the everyday culture at Chaucer makes it no surprise they topped SWOOP’s measures for two-way relationships, diversity and participation.

Murali Sitaram, General Manager Microsoft Yammer + O365 Groups, presented Chaucer’s Dani Lindley with a SWOOP Award, along with SWOOP CEO Cai Kjaer in London.

Yammer and Teams

Along with Yammer, Chaucer also uses Microsoft Teams for its day to day work.

Sarah said there was no blurring of the lines at Chaucer as to what platform to use when.

“For a little while, there was a little bit of: ‘Why do we need Yammer and why do we need Teams? Why do we need both?’ I’ve been very, very clear and this is the message I stick to,” she said.

“Teams is great for collaboration when you’re in a team and you know who your team is. You set your team up, you know exactly who’s there, you’re collaborating live on documents, you cut out a load of email and you have a lot of stuff going on in the team that you keep within the confines of the Team.

“That is very different to the use case for Yammer. Yammer is very open, none of our groups are private, this is knowledge to be shared. You search for something and you find an answer. That’s what Yammer is all about.”

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