Don’t feel like your Yammin’s quite jammin’? If you’ve been using Yammer for a while, and think your network could do with a bit of a shake up, here’s what you need to know. By Peter Hall, senior consultant at WM Reply, a company dedicated to building world-class intranets and solutions to help organizations overcome business challenges.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you’re not getting the collaboration and energy you hoped for within your network. Or perhaps a previous team did an unsuccessful launch a few years ago and Yammer didn’t get any traction. Every organisation is different and it’s normal for Yammer to take a while to bed in as expecting people to change their ways of working instantly just isn’t realistic. However, leaving a network too long can easily see it drift into inactivity, but there are relatively simple steps you can take to reinvigorate your network.
Take a step back
Before you start seeing your current iteration as a total failure, ask yourself “How are you really doing”? What might look like a so-so Yammer network to you may be what another organisation would see as a big win. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim higher, but it’s vital to remember to recognise the success you’ve already had and the opportunity that gives you to build on.
SWOOP’s 2018 Yammer benchmarking report suggests that if you have around 36% active users (users who have commented, liked or replied to content), you’re around the average, with the most successful Yammer networks having over 50% active users. If that’s you, then you can relax a bit more (but there is still always room for improvement).
Aside from looking at the numbers you need to really define what is important to your organisation, your exec and to you. The next question you should then ask is “How is Yammer going to help you reach those goals?” Linking your Yammer objectives to pressing and engaging business objectives is key to your success. It might be you’ve never linked the two before, or even simple that since your original launch, things have changed and you need to adjust accordingly. Either way, Yammer without a purpose is a wasted opportunity.
You should also see this as a chance to clean up your network and remove unused and duplicate groups, but make the mistake of thinking that anything social is surplus to requirements. Simply clear up the clutter so you can help your users get to the good stuff quicker.
Engagement is for everyone
Has your leadership changed since your initial launch? Perhaps you had a CEO who was totally onboard with all things Yammer and now you have someone who is more cynical about it? Don’t underestimate how important it is to get your leaders onboard. Even if your leadership hasn’t changed, taking the time to re-connect with senior management fairly regularly to make sure they are able to use Yammer, in some way, to meet their own objectives can make the difference between a network sliding or thriving. Used properly, Yammer is an invaluable tool so give them the skills to use it as its use evolves.
After senior leadership, arguably the most important people to your network are your Community Managers, who ultimately hold responsibility for delivering your organisation’s Yammer strategy. But it’s vital to remember that they cannot do it alone. Community Managers need to not only model good community behaviours but inspire others, nurturing early adopters and influencers as Yammer champions to help grow the network.
If your network needs a kick-start then creating a formalised champion community can do just that. If you’re using analytics to see who your biggest influencers are within your network, use your data to target these key people for the best possible effect. Yammer champions will help share the load and make Yammer relevant for their teams, so placing recruitment, upskilling and ongoing support and management of this community is imperative for long term success.
Take time to train
If you’re ever in doubt of the importance of training, remember the old proverb: ‘An employee trained in time, saves nine incredibly long email trails copying in 45 people instead of one dynamic Yammer post.’
Take a look at your training plan. Have you identified who your key groups, functions and areas of the organisation are and how you’ll reach them? Once you’ve done that, review your materials and think about developing some bespoke training to make sure that it really speaks to your colleagues, using examples relevant to your organisation and specific roles. It might seem like extra work, but taking a bit of time to develop effective training materials people can access in their own time will have a bigger impact, be more helpful and engage more users. Give users the chance to help themselves so provide some simple scenarios that will save them time and effort. Get their attention, make it relevant and close with something practical they can have a go at to get more out of the tool.
Your Community Managers are invaluable here, too, so make sure they are up to speed and use their feedback, such as how different teams are using Yammer effectively, to inform updates to your training materials. The more recent and relevant your examples are, the more people are likely to listen.
Make it meaningful
As mentioned before, you’ve got to connect your Yammer use to tackling real business problems, otherwise using the platform will just be another thing on a to-do list with no value attached to it.
Don’t forget that sometimes it can be hard to know where to start as a user. A general directive to ‘use Yammer more’ can be as helpful as asking someone to ‘pass me the thingy in the drawer’. If your users are having to scratch their heads to figure out how or why to use your network, it’s not integral enough in your day to day operations. If your users have to switch between platforms to get to Yammer, integrate your network into your intranet homepage, and other areas that are frequently visited.
And remember why you’re spending all this time and effort giving your Yammer network some TLC. Take a moment to appreciate the opportunity reinvigorating your network gives you. Remember that helping your organisation to collaborate better and faster is incredibly valuable, and what you’re doing brings tangible benefits in many forms, so make it as obvious and as easy as possible for people to get involved.
If you can do this, something you will likely also see is the huge boost Yammer can give to diversity and inclusion within organisations. Being able to communicate to your business more widely, and more importantly to listen and to be seen to act on this information, is hugely powerful and engaging. When managed properly, Yammer is truly co-owned, and everyone has a voice, especially those who maybe haven’t been heard from enough so far.
If things haven’t quite gone to plan and your network feels like it’s floundering, it can be tempting to resign yourself to defeat. But with Microsoft now investing heavily in Yammer and with further improvements to come, there’s never been a better time than now to double down on your existing network, re-visit your aims and training and get your network back on track.