Falling in Love is an annual occurrence here at
WM Reply, and judging by the wealth of familiar faces in the room last Thursday, for a lot of you too. Yes, this is the story of our third annual Fall in Love with Yammer event, where we bring together Yadvocates, Yambassadors and fans, to tell stories and share tips on all things Yammer, learning from each other – and from a panel of those in-the-know – to ramp up the effectiveness of their internal comms and employee engagement.
This year, we covered a wide range of topics, from clashes with WhatsApp and Workplace through to exec buy-in and the ever-present question of ROI. If you weren’t able to make it, or you were there, but didn’t spend the whole event furiously scribbling notes, don’t worry, we did. Below you’ll find everything you need to know, even that specific URL that Microsoft’s Chris Slemp lauded as “a treasure trove of Yammer tips and tricks” (it was AKA.MS/YamResources by the way). What’s more, we’ve arranged all the content from the event into subsections, so you can dive straight into the things you found most interesting.
But first, a quick introduction to the panel, and a who’s who for the majority of the wisdom available below. On the panel we had:
Now for a look at the most interesting questions and themes from the event, as well as what the experts had to say about them.
Yammer vs. Teams
A point of some contention as Microsoft Teams has come onto the scene, is the crossover with Yammer, where the two might overlap and what truly divides them. Chris Slemp puts it this way: The potential cross-over that many people have recognised has actually been really helpful in sharpening the focus of Yammer. In a nutshell, Yammer allows organisation-wide engagement, community building and knowledge seeking across large organisations, and provides a social layer to Office 365.
The distinction becomes particularly obvious to anyone who’s been in a team of 100 people, a situation Chris sums up as “chaos”. Chat models and feed models work very differently and in Teams it’s only viable for a small group of people to collaborate. A good example is that the lifespan of a conversation on Yammer is many times longer than on Teams, because team conversations are much more direct and action oriented.
Shiny and New
Chris also spent some of the event laying out what’s new in Yammer, and what’s coming down the pipeline, so we’ve included a few highlights here:
WhatsApp vs. Yammer
Shadow IT is a term almost interchangeable with WhatsApp in the modern workplace. But the question from the audience was how to change that – how do we get staff off WhatsApp, and onto Yammer? Sophia Peacock had faced a similar challenge at Nationwide. The key she says, is in very clear messaging: WhatsApp is less secure, yes, but now, it also has less functionality. Moving across is a double win. Laura Jackson agrees, but also suggests that sometimes some gentle bribery helps people actually make the move. Running cultural campaigns, or even competitions and giveaways in Yammer can nourish a healthy amount of FOMO among those staff who are a little more sluggish in their embrace of Yammer and other Office 365 tools.
Workplace vs. Yammer
The challenge from consumer shadow IT in the workplace is one thing, but a very different question faces internal comms teams choosing what system to implement – most commonly, whether to choose Yammer or Workplace. The answer isn’t straightforward. Chris offered that if your staff are big fans of Facebook, Workplace will make sense to them because it’s similar, but therein lies its main flaw. It’s an adaptation of consumer software within the enterprise, yet the roots of all the technology lie in a different world, designed for a very different purpose and audience. Secondly, and most importantly, compatibility is key. Yammer picks up all the enterprise security and software interconnectivity of a truly enterprise tool, and that’s something Workplace will continue to struggle with.
Armin agreed, but adds that in his view, the choice of system, although important, is less important than how well it’s implemented. Thorough preparation and management buy-in are essential, and for Yammer that can be a little easier, especially when it comes to making the case to a discerning executive. Laura echoes that point, especially the fact that from the employee perspective, having a system that looks and operates differently to their personal social networks can provide a valueble dividing line between work and home as, to take one example, they may not want a joke they made to go viral in the same way within their company as they might among their friends.
Ready for lift-off
On the subject of preparation, a wealth of questions at the event centred around launching Yammer successfully, and in particular, finding the right balance between pre-planned and organic structures. Before straight up answering the question, Chris had a word of warning to offer around a group within Microsoft’s own Yammer, affectionately nicknamed “Curmudgeonville”. This group provided a focal point for moaning and gripes – albeit couched in humour for the most part – and so the community managers had to think hard about what to do, including possibly shutting it down. In the end they favoured free speech, and the choice paid off. The group quickly developed its role from a place to complain to a place to hack those complaints and generate good ideas about better ways to work. That was a change that took place organically within the group, and it quickly became one of the most value-adding groups in the whole network. Lesson learned, says Chris.
Laura followed up with an example that might provide something of a template for getting Yammer off the ground. For her the perfect balance was starting light, but providing key structure. She pre-planned ten or so core groups, allowing everything around those groups to form more organically. What were those ten groups? Mostly things that were bound to existing company structures important to staff, like CSR and culture focused activities. As a rule of thumb: anything that would have involved regular, company wide emails before. At the same time, Sophia notes that given the space, she’s seen staff take the initiative and build unexpected, but invaluable new groups to replace less efficient legacy systems, covering things like car sharing for example, and centralising them in Yammer to make everyone’s life easier.
Engagement, from top to bottom
To launch Yammer successfully, engagement across the business is key, from the executive level down, and without neglecting key influencer groups like middle management. But that comes with no shortage of challenges, and the room was full of questions on how to successfully drive engagement across the whole business. Fortunately, answers weren’t in short supply either.
Senior stakeholders are a particular challenge. Everyone appreciates the benefits of their being involved – showing that Yammer is a way to connect with leadership, and be seen, as well as leading by example and cheerleading for key groups – but how to get them to that point is a stumbling block. Sophia advises a double pronged approach consisting on firm business logic and embracing their competitive spirit.
First, the importance of making a business case. This could be a question of their own efficiency, for example many leaders will spend time writing and editing long, complex emails in an effort to get the message out. How many people open them, and how many make it to the end is debatable, but the time commitment on the part of the CEO isn’t. Instead, they could spend less time filming the message they want to send out on a mobile and post it to Yammer. A much more efficient way of engaging more people, with more personality, more directly. What’s more it allows staff to comment, reply and continue the conversation without needing to resort to “reply all” or worse. The mobile friendly nature of Yammer also makes it easy for execs to check in and engage while, for example, on the move.
Secondly, competition between execs is very helpful says Sophia. You don’t need to get them all on board, and if they’re not taking to it after your best efforts, don’t try and ram it down their throats. You just need to engage a few key stakeholders, once they’re up and running and engaging with staff all across the business in colourful ways, the others will quickly see that they’re falling behind and recognise that they too need to up their game. A nice piece of advice for them, to keep it simple, is remember SWOOP Analytics’ 1/2/3 rule – suggested WM Reply’s host Jaci Neal: If they can like three posts, reply to two and post one of their own each week, then they’re officially Yambassadors.
Speaking of Yambassadors, another audience question asked: how can you ensure that you’re recognising who your key users are from among the wider workforce, and supporting the right ones to become fully fledged Yambassadors too? Chris would look to the community managers, who should have an eye on those Yammer stars, but for the real data, consult some of the tools available from partners like Swoop and tyGraph (we’ll talk more about those in the last section on analytics).
Demonstrating the value
Unsurprisingly for a tool centred in culture and internal communications, the ever present question is “how do you prove the value” and last Thursday was no different. It’s a complex, but vitally important question. For Chris, the question isn’t how do we prove the ROI, but rather how do we show the value, all the time. Tying it to key internal KPIs like engagement is a great place to start, and something that can be relatively easily measured, because once you start down that road it becomes possible to connect the data to staff turnover and productivity. The key is to decide what you, as a business, are most interested in and measure that, rather than zooming out too much to the full scope of the tool and looking to assess its holistic business value.
Armin adds that there have been good studies by the likes of McKinsey that show Yammer can create upticks in productivity of 20-25%, which is good to know, because there’s inherent financial value there, but on the other hand, productivity doesn’t get too many people excited. Where you can show direct value, with less difficulty, says Armin, is through a different kind of ROI – return on ideas. An example of a Sideways 6 project is a good illustration. British Gas ran a campaign called MAGIC – make a good idea count – through Yammer to ask staff on the ground for their advice on how to make the customer experience better. Tens of thousands of ideas and 60 policy changes later they were able to call on a wide swathe of metrics that pointed to undeniable value creation. Without that structure and opportunity, those ideas would never have seen the light of day.
If you’re looking for a more simplistic cost saving, says Sophia, then look no further than Yammer’s ability to effectively host company wide town hall events and forums, without the need to physically cluster everyone in one place (with all the travel and inefficiencies that involves).That allows decisions to be made more quickly, by more people, and more fairly too.
At the end of the day Yammer also has a huge amount of value that’s harder to measure, and that extends right through to one of the most fundamental assets of any company: its reputation. Yammer is a forum for a company’s culture, for better and for worse, but negative groups and conversations are no less of a sign that Yammer is delivering value. Remember that it’s better to be slapped in the face on Yammer than stabbed in the back on Glassdoor.
A few guests at the event had questions around reporting, and where to get the golden nuggets of insight they had been searching for. Chris was keen to point out that updated reporting metrics are coming on Stream soon and are being upgraded right now, but also that there are many layers to Yammer analytics, from Group Insights, which provides good short-term analytics through to Office 365 Usage Analytics which provides the longer-term view. But not forgetting that there are some Microsoft partners out there who specialise in delivering exceptional levels of analytics on top of those already within Office 365, companies like
tyGraph. If analytics is something you want to get your head into properly, Chris recommends watching a presentation he and several other Yammer pros presented called
“Mining Yammer data for gold using Microsoft Power BI” back at the end of 2017.
Thanks for reading and keep both eyes open for our next event. If you’ve been inspired by anything you read, or you’d like to talk to one of our consultants about your own Yammer journey, get in touch at wm@reply.