Three Key Roles for Yammer in a Crisis

We are all working now in unfamiliar and unprecedented times. As we adjust to disruptions and working from home organisations are facing new needs to engage, coordinate and inform their people. Leaders need to lead remotely some for the very first time.

You know your Yammer network is a way to communicate openly with the organisation outside the small and closed working groups that might operate in Microsoft Teams. Here are three extra and important roles that Yammer can play in your organisation at this time:

Provide Context

As humans, nothing happens without a context. We use the context to understand messages, to interpret goals. to do our work and to make sense of changes. We need that context to be shared widely if we are to understand each other, communicate efficiently and collaborate. Organisations and employees don’t work well if they are constantly sorting out issues of missing context.

Yammer is the outer loop of your organisational communication. It is a place employees can go to pull context and to improve their understanding. It is also a place they can share their context. When the world outside is changing fast they may know more than you. Make sure your leaders are sharing their organisational context widely on Yammer. More importantly, ask each of your teams and employees to do the same. Working out loud, sharing working in progress with relevant others, is a great way to give people context on the work underway. When things are changing rapidly, continuously sharing context is more important than ever. This is the Share stage of the Collaboration Maturity Model in action.

Over-communicate context. Use Yammer to foster a questioning culture where people ask for context. Make it acceptable to clarify and understand deeply before racing into action.

Managing Coordination

In times of crises, hierarchies intensify their efforts at coordination. Improving coordination down a silo is important. However, coordination between silos becomes critical to preventing unnecessary waste and failures.

Coordination between silos is rarely best managed from the top. These issues arise when the top down plan fails in execution in specific locations or specific customer contexts. This is a time that the Solve stage of the Collaboration Maturity Model needs to be leveraged to bring people together across silos locally to address issues and develop new ways of working that fix the problem.

Despite the sense of crisis, in fact because of it, you will need to allow your employees the psychological safety and degrees of freedom to make these changes and to help the whole organisation to adjust. Your Yammer network can enable you to role model, reward and celebrate this effort openly and widely.

Build Community

People don’t make it through crises. Communities do. Managing a crisis draws on deep reserves in our organisations and in its external networks. You are likely to need support from customers, suppliers and others in your change journey as you manage the situation.

Use Yammer to build a shared sense of community across the many teams in your organisation. Share stories, share dreams, share successes, share challenges and more. Remember community doesn’t only depend on good news. Communities come together because the obstacles are the work. Your employees will discover their reason for working as they tackle these challenges. Give them the chance to share that.

A community is not a leader standing at a lectern supplying a sense of community to others. Community arises from the little every day gestures of concern, of care and of collaboration across your organisation. Use Yammer to foster this activity from the ground up across your organisation. Your community managers can find champions to lead the way using their existing Yammer activity (& Swoop Analytics profiles if you use that tool). Importantly you need to ask frontline leaders of all kinds to role model these behaviours and encourage others to contribute to community in this way. Nobody needs a training course on what community means. They just need an invitation to practice it. Community is innately human.


After sharing this, Matthew Dodd of Engaged Sqaured, another leading exponent of the Collaboration Value Maturity Model pointed out his similar post with great suggestions on using your network. Here is that post

On twitter, Jon Husband asked if the same approaches apply for other enterprise social networks and platforms. My answer is ‘of course, yes’. Many of my followers are Yammer users so I have framed it in those terms. Any other open platform will enable employees to take the lead in understanding context, creating coordination and building community. That same opportunity doesn’t happen in closed chat channels or tightly controlled platforms that don’t allow users degrees of freedom to initiate, to share or to work. This is not a communications challenge. This is a collaboration opportunity. The openness empowers employees and that’s where our focus needs to be at this time.

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