Yammer is a tool that looks straight forward to many communicators. It is an employee communication tool so we can use it to broadcast to employees. This mindset is why so many communicators focus first on the number of employees on the platform and the communication features available. Employee engagement matters and so do the breadth of features available. However, highly valuable and strategically powerful use of Yammer is about more than numbers and buttons wrapped around broadcast messages. There is a critical opportunity that simple broadcasting to employees in Yammer misses. Yammer is both a communication tool and a collaboration tool for communities. This two-way potential opens up new opportunities for interactions and new power to your communication strategies.
This two-way potential of Yammer is critical in this time because it highlights how we need to respond to the uncertainties and challenges facing our organisation. Rather than pretending they don’t exist or ironing out differences in the name of security, we have the opportunity to leverage our whole organisation’s talents and capabilities to navigate and adapt. That’s ultimately what we come together in organisations to achieve. Yammer magnifies the power of organisations to leverage talents and capabilities. The communicators in organisations play a critical role in supporting this process.
Communicators are very familiar with planning broadcast messaging in an organisation. We work from the audience, through objectives, to the message, delivery and call to action. In thinking about the power of the two-way communication opportunity, communicators can use similar questions. It begins with understanding who is in the community and what purposes they share. That planning develops by recognising the the process forward is a two-way interaction. Communicators need to think through how to start the conversation, how best to engage that community and ultimately the work that they want achieved together.
Planning for a successful collaboration must also leverage the understanding of communities in the Value Maturity Model of Collaboration. Communities are comprised of people who come together to share purpose and build trust. Organisations are comprised of many overlapping groups like this. If you want to engage these groups on Yammer or any other collaboration tool, you will need to work through how those people connect in purpose, share sufficient context to work together and begin to solve common problems with the capabilities of the organisation. Psychological safety, working out loud and the degrees of freedom to make change become critical accelerators of value on that journey and what ultimately powers the value of the work. The Value Maturity Model Canvas is a tool to enable anyone planning a collaboration to work through questions aligned to this model.
At a high level the role of the canvas is to map our the key questions aligned to the Value Maturity Model: who needs to connect, what do they need to know to solve what problem. Even these simple questions can guide a communicator in thinking about how they can better leverage Yammer for greater value in their organisation.
Planning in this way is important for communicators who want to leverage the benefits of Yammer because it will enable them to adopt more valuable use of the platform Yammer offers an organisation and also support other leaders that they advise to do the same. Swoop Analytics has mapped out a range of personas of user behaviours that reflect different value in the use of Yammer. You can see how these personas move from passive, to communication only and ultimately to two-way interaction that fosters the wider network.
In its recent Yammer Benchmarking report for 2020, Swoop Analytics has also identified that groups in Yammer move through a very similar continuum. This reflects the fact that network collaboration is often fractal with patterns repeating at different level. The pattern is so similar that I have adapted their image for personas to reflect the different types of groups moving from inactive through to value multiplying. Communications professionals in organisations can play a key role in helping groups to interact in more valuable ways. If you are planning to leverage groups, remember announcements and sharing groups are useful but the real value comes from a deeper two-way interaction.
No two organisations are the same. No two groups are the same. No two employees are the same. You will get the sense that there is no one pattern for success in Yammer for communicators. In fact the uses are extraordinarily diverse and reflect the growing value of two-way interactions through the maturity journey for individual users and also for the groups together. Whether you use text, images, video, GIFs, Q&A or something more to start your interaction, you are only just beginning a journey of change together with the employees of the organisation.
As role models of communications best practice and as advisors to senior leaders, communicators can play a key role in enabling all employees in a Yammer network to understand how best to leverage the platform. While Yammer may support organisational top-down messaging, two-way means it is also powerful as a vehicle for peer-to-peer and bottom-up conversations, work and change initiatives. Fostering productive mindsets and behaviours across the employees, groups and organisation will help power this change. Those mindsets have been described on this blog before. Importantly, these mindset challenge traditional communications models of trying to get a message and its delivery perfect every time. Because you are planning for interaction and engagement, there is a chance to improve the messaging and its understanding over time. Thankfully there’s also the ability to edit typos in Yammer these days. Open, generous and purposeful listening and engagement from all employees whether senior leaders or frontline employees will be the foundation of the kind of trust that multiplies value and speeds organisational agility.
The two-way potential of Yammer as a platform for communication and for collaboration is what enables it to play a key role in helping organisations to adapt to change. Open communities, groups and a culture that enables employees to foster change will help lead that transformation. Ultimately an organisation’s success depends on how well it aligns its people and leverages their known and unknown talents and capabilities in performance and needed change. We can’t know everything all the time, but we can create a platform that enables people to share what they know, do what they can do to help and campaign for necessary change. The communicators in organisations have an important role to play in taking Yammer far beyond an employee communications platform to an open platform to leverage talents and capability for strategy and change.
If you are interested in how best to leverage Yammer in your organisation, reach out to Simon Terry and request a copy of the Collaboration Maturity Model canvas to help with how you and your employees can create greater value through everyday work.