The title of my blog is admittedly hokey, but nonetheless, my hope is that following the completion of reading this you will consider the use of an internal social media tool such as Yammer as you explore ways to communicate effectively with your employees.
Effective communication skills are vital for leaders to possess and demonstrate. The communication between a leader and others should be transparent and encourage dialogue and participation. Westman, Bonnet, and McAfee (2014) stated communication must be authentic in nature and be consistent with the vision and mission of the leader and the organization they represent. The authors of Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, also encouraged the use of an internal social network to describe change, improve process and again, encourage employees to share feedback and ideas openly. Yammer is one such tool that allows employees and leaders to communicate in a independent space and creates opportunities for collaboration.
I recently accepted a position at a university, leaving behind a place I called home for over 17 years. I find myself at a new institution with a new team and, I am desperate to find ways of communicating in an efficient manner. I have a vision of what we can be and what we can accomplish. In the past, I have been open and shared information freely, and on more than one occasion I have found that perhaps I have shared more than I should have. In my new role, I have been cautious of what to share and what not to share as I find my way. However, Weinberger (2011) explained that individuals do not fear having too much information, they are frightened by the thought of not having enough information. He went on to express that our social networks are the new filters, and our networks are those in which we gather information. Technologies such as internal social networks are creating new possibilities that can enhance the way we do business, things that were not possible in the recent past (Westerman, Bonnet, & McAfee, 2014).
Yammer is an internal social media platform utilized by 85% of the Fortune 500 companies. It is currently the leading enterprise social media platform with the purpose of driving organizational collaboration and transformation. The product launched in 2008 and quickly grew in popularity over the next several years before Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012. In 2014, Yammer was incorporated into Office 365 where it resides as an application with the product as an organizational private communication tool. Microsoft boasts that Yammer works seamlessly with Office enabling users to easily share files and enhancing Office 365 with internal social media capabilities. Similar to Facebook in look and navigation, the tool allows for groups to be formed and work to shared with the entire organization, groups, or individuals. There are suggested people and groups to follow as well as the ability to like and share ideas and comments other users have posted. Yammer offers access from your desktop and laptop as well as through mobile apps. The accounts are connect to the organization’s email domain. It is meant for use internally; however, external groups can be created which can be useful when working with customers or in collaboration with partners.
There is much to consider when deciding whether or not to implement the use of Yammer. Advantages and disadvantages may depend on the leader and the organization. The topics I have identified as items to consider.
- Does it build community or create cliques and silos?
- How will the use of the various offices be decided?
- Are you prepared to deal with legal issues?
- Who on the leadership team will be contributing?
- How often will you be prepared to post and respond to others?
- How will you respond to other’s suggestions and questions?
- Will you incorporate a moderator?
- How will you ensure your message is clear and understood as you intended?
- How are you going to measure the effectiveness?
- The intent of Yammer is to create a community of open communication and sharing of work and ideas. Some may be quick to adapt to technologies such as Yammer and some may not. Be cautious not to isolate those not comfortable with the new tool and be prepared to assist them in learning.
- Westman, Bonnet, and McAfee (2014) explained how a company had separate platforms for different departments which created silos. Additionally, the use of groups can be wonderful in building teams but beware of cliques and having the creation of silos. How will you ensure this does not happen!
- It would be wise to include the Human Resource Office in creating adequate and expectations. A message meant for one person can easily be sent to the entire organization, even the less than desirable messages. What will the organization’s stance be on what is appropriate and what is not?
- It may be worthwhile to identify which members of the leadership team will be sending messages and work on having consistency in the message, especially when it comes to vision and mission of the organization.
- A consistent presence on Yammer will be important. Simply posting once or once in a great while will minimize the effectiveness of Yammer. If you are going to use the tool, be prepared to be committed to it to maximize the return. Implementing Yammer and making sure it is a transformational tool requires the leader of the organization to be one of the driving forces (Westerman, Bonnet, & McAfee, 2014).
- Are you prepared to respond early and often to those posting questions and ideas? A quick response time with answers and comments will be expected. If ideas are going to be shared, those sharing their ideas will expect that at least some of their ideas will be implemented. If you are not prepared to listen to ideas and implement them, the effectiveness of the tool and the participation of the employees will dwindle.
- It might be wise to have someone in the organization monitor the company Yammer account to filter questions to you as the leader or to others so that they can respond. If postings are not appropriate according to the expectations set forth by the Human Resource Office, the comments can be removed promptly.
- Make sure that your message is reviewed by others. Is it conveying the message you want? The written word can be interpreted in different ways by the reader. There is a risk of someone feeling there is an unintended tone or read into it further than intended. A clear and concise message is important.
- The effectiveness of the tool should be assessed on a regular basis. This can be done through monitoring the activity on the account for example. Determining the ROI is advised.