Yammer has now released its new post on behalf of other feature (‘POBO’). This feature has been controversial. My advice to anyone is that POBO doesn’t mean the world will end. I might personally prefer it wasn’t used it but in many network use cases, the feature will have value. This post will explain why.
What is POBO?
Posting on behalf of another is a feature of many social collaboration tools, particularly those like Workplace by Facebook that are focused on supporting the needs of employee communication professionals. As the phrase explains it enables someone, usually an communications profession or an assistant, to post on behalf of another person on the network, usually a senior executive.
The logic of the feature is that many senior executives are busy and reluctant to post. However, they can be influential in sharing messages and fostering engagement. Delegating their network activity to a team member is a way for those messages to be shared and engagement to happen.
The critics of POBO rightly point out that employees value genuine leadership engagement. The uplift in adoption from leaders’ participation in networks is a reflection of their genuine commitment to the network, its conversations and actions. People want to see leaders connecting, sharing, solving and innovating with them. POBO risks undermining that for not just the leaders who use it, but potentially creates suspicion on all interactions.
Using POBO is a decision on a spectrum for any community. There are risks and rewards. Undoubtedly, genuine leadership engagement is better. If leaders only delegate through POBO, the community will be weaker.
The Two Yammer Networks
Much of the energy around POBO is that it separates the difference between two ways Yammer Networks are used. Some Yammer networks are employee communication tools. Other networks are platforms for employee collaboration and leveraging the talents of the organisation to support strategy.
I have previously described the difference between a Yammer network run for communication and Yammer networks run for collaboration. The value of the latter is much greater and it is the basis of the work I do using the Value Maturity Model of Collaboration. With the exponential value potential of collaboration, I struggle to see why organisations do not work to make that happen, but I understand that may traditional organisational cultures do not support employees and leaders to have the freedom and safety to connect, share, solve and innovate. If the culture of the organisation is hostile to collaboration, you have a much greater challenge than launching a Yammer network to achieve collaboration.
Each organisations understands just how deeply they can commit to Yammer as a platform for collaboration. The more you have done so, the less value POBO offers. If your Yammer network is purely for communication, then the risks of POBO are much less and its use cases more evident.
Two Yammer Users
The average low engagement user of Yammer will never turn their mind to who posts a post. The feature is largely irrelevant to their experience of Yammer. To them, Yammer is another organisational communication tool, a place to go to get information on the organisation or the work of their colleagues who choose to work out loud.
Much of the energy around POBO comes from the most passionate users who are committed to personal engagement in Yammer networks. This group of passionate champions power community in your Yammer network to the ends of connecting, sharing, solving and innovating. This small group in your network are the employees who will help you realise the value of collaboration across your organisation.
Yammer is platform for organisations to leverage their talents to deliver their strategy. One thing it does incredibly well is help you filter the whole organisation to find those who have the capabilities and talents to drive collaboration in the organisation. Yammer acts a filter for yammer champions. These individuals tend to be passionate, committed members of the wider organisational community. These individuals bring critical network skills that can benefit your organisation well beyond Yammer and often outside of the organisation into stakeholders and the wider community.
Having worked with Yammer networks and in the global Yammer community for a dozen years, I can testify that these champions are diverse and talented bunch. There are few patterns to determine who gets the bug of helping their colleagues to connect, share, solve and innovate. The power of Yammer networks is to help you find these people and more importantly to help them find each other. I get extraordinary support, learning and capability from the global Yammer family that I have met through advocating for and working on adoption of this product.
You want to find these people in your organisation.