By Katie McIntosh
Yammer can be a brilliant tool. As a communications specialist, you know this. It cuts through organisational and geographical boundaries to allow employees with online access to connect; sharing ideas, joining groups, following colleagues, giving opinions or even just liking a post or two. People are inspired and ideas are flowing, or at least, that’s the idea.
The reality can be quite different. You may find that it’s always the same people commenting and, although conversations are taking place, a large proportion of your employees aren’t really embracing the technology.
Why is this? For some people it could be that they are unable to see a ‘way in’. How do they get started? What can they do via Yammer that will make a tangible difference to their work? This is where an online Q&A can really help; a pre-arranged time set aside for when a topic expert (or a number of experts) will be online to discuss a key business matter within a Yammer group. Yammer engagement by stealth! It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s important to get the basics right.
- Think carefully about the timing of your Q&A. If you have launched Yammer fairly recently, it might be worth waiting a few months for people to get their heads around the basics of the tool. You may want to coincide the session with key events in your calendar, for example, around the launch of a new product or project.
- Think about time differences. If you’re working in a multinational and wish your Q&A to be a global event, you may need to schedule in a few sessions to make it work for everyone. If there’s a big session run from London with no time set aside for employees in Singapore, it actually reinforces those geographical boundaries we’re trying to remove with Yammer!
- The topic for your Q&A needs to be clear. Is there a new marketing initiative you’d like some ideas on? Are there concerns about business performance that need to be addressed and discussed? Do people need to be realigned with the company’s mission? Don’t forget, this session has a dual purpose; it’s allowing you to get ideas and conversation flowing around your business topic, while also encouraging Yammer use.
- You need to think about a name for your session. You can include this in your invitation, and ensure that people use the hashtag within their comments and questions. It’s then easily searchable afterwards and you can review all the posts and comments you’ve collected. Many organisation use #Yammertime for every big Yammer conversation.
- Be extremely thorough in your organisation. Although spontaneity is the name of the game with Yammer, nothing will happen unless people know when and where the discussion is happening. Ensure you have your topic expert/s booked in to be online during the session well in advance. Consider sending an invitation via email, which includes a link to the Yammer group that’ll be used for the Q&A, to everyone you’d like to invite. It may be the whole company, or you might want to run it with a specific team or function. You’ll know what’s appropriate and right for you. Use any other news channel you have in house to advertise the session, and of course, you need to advertise on Yammer and the intranet too.
- You may want to include an offer to run some Yammer refresher training within the invitation to the Q&A – if people see a business topic they are very interested in, their lack of Yammer knowledge becomes a barrier to them getting the information they want. You could also mention training during the Q&A, or promote training directly after, as people who haven’t been using the tool much may now see its value after experiencing the session.
- Try to get someone visible and senior leaders to endorse the session. If possible, they should keep some time in their diaries to get involved. If they will have a big presence during the Q&A you could reference them in the invitation.
- Find some ‘champions’ you know who are confident Yammer users and ask them to be online during the session. Give them some details on what will be discussed and ask them to think about some comments or questions they’d like to make. If things go quiet, ask them to make a post to get things moving again. It sounds a little forced, I know, but, as long as their thoughts are genuine, it’s a good way to make others feel more comfortable in commenting. Ultimately, it will help you achieve your two goals (Yammer engagement and collecting ideas on your topic).
- During the session, you may want to have someone sitting with the topic expert/s to help ensure that each of their posts contains the hashtag (they can do this retrospectively of course if it’s missed). More importantly, they can make sure that every question or comment gets a response. This is really key. If people take the trouble (especially if nervous) to share their thoughts in public, they might well feel embarrassed or neglected if their comments go unheeded. A bad experience will be disengaging – the opposite of your goal!
- If there are lots of comments coming in and it’s just too hard to keep on top of them all, your reply doesn’t have to be instantaneous, as long as you respond within a day, that’s fine. But the sooner the better.
- After the Q&A, you may want to share a summary of what was discussed with employees. This is also an example of useful, tangible qualitative business data gained via Yammer, which is always helpful is converting those Yammer sceptics to engaging with your network.
Katie McIntosh, Employee Engagement consultant
Katie’s focus is all around employee engagement with digital channels. She has worked with Diageo Plc for the past three years to work on their intranet build, later migration to another platform, continual development and overall adoption and effectiveness. Her strengths lie in communications, writing engaging content, developing and delivering training for SharePoint and Yammer and managing creative/technical agencies.
She has also worked to coordinate a global network of around 500 community site owners to manage a platform migration smoothly, ensure they are comfortable in managing their sites, making all necessary updates and using the tools available to them effectively.