For the past year and a half, I have been working part-time at a Danish software company. In March this year, they implemented Yammer as a companywide news channel. Yammer is a private social network for internal use in organizations. According to Microsoft, it is used by more than 500,000 companies worldwide.
Yammer is like a mix between Facebook and Twitter for organizations. It is built around networks (usually a company is a network) and you can choose who you follow within your particular network. You can use hashtags and @replies, share files and create groups. Microsoft claims that Yammer is loved by 85% of the Fortune 500 – seems promising right?
Right, but only if you can actually get the people in your organization to use it. The software company I was working at consists mostly of people over the age of 40. Many of them have been with the company for more than 10 years and are somewhat stuck in the habit of “this is how we have always done”. Therefore, it was not surprising that most of the employees could not see the benefit of implementing social media in their daily work life. The majority saw Yammer as noise and yet another communication channel (they already use phone calls, email, Lync instant messaging and SharePoint to communicate and collaborate).
From my point of view, one of the key mistakes the top management group made, when they rolled out Yammer was that they did nothing to encourage people to participate on the platform. They introduced Yammer by having the CEO send the following email to all employees:
“New [Company name] news channel in Yammer, for knowledge sharing and communication of news. All information sharing is based on you as employees deciding which groups you want to follow. Yammer provides an easier way for everybody in [Company name] to communicate internally – and to:
- Collaborate – use Yammer to make cross-team collaboration more dynamic
- Involve – enable colleagues to follow and participate in the debate
- Create relations – ask for help and find colleagues with the knowledge you need
- Develop ideas – share ideas, contribute to ideas and create new thinking
I hope you will welcome and explore Yammer already today by sharing good news, joining relevant groups or ”Liking’ good posts.”
It has been about six months since the launch and while there has been a lot of talk between the coworkers, the use of Yammer has not been addressed by management since. What is worse is that only senior managers -are actually using it. Any management book will tell you that change does not happen just because you want it to. You need to build consensus and motivate people to participate. You need to understand the culture you are trying to change in order to be successful. To me it seems like top management had forgotten that people in general are resistant to change and that most of their employees belong to a generation that did not grow up with social media. They were already overwhelmed by massive amounts of emails, phone calls and instant messages, so adding another communication channel only increased their feeling of information overload.
So what could they have done differently? Well for starters, they could have held seminars where they taught people how to use Yammer, what they benefits are and how they could eliminate some of the existing noise by using Yammer. They could have analyzed the organizational culture and have found key influencers within the different departments and created an incentive for them to start using Yammer, which would enable them to slowing encourage their fellow coworkers to use it as well. At the very least, they could have addressed the use of Yammer throughout the last six months.
My main point is that social networks can have a million benefits to your organization simply implementing them will get you nowhere; you need to create an incentive for people to use it.