Working with Yammer champions to embed social communication and collaboration
By Katie McIntosh
Encouraging people to make effective use of Yammer is an an ongoing process that requires a blend of consistency in support, encouragement, and training, alongside fresh, timely engagement activities.
While it may be your responsibility to roll-out Yammer, it won’t be your full-time job unless you work for one of the larger companies where ‘Community Manager’ is a dedicated role.
You’ve probably noticed there tend to be a few people who are particularly active on Yammer and keen to engage. These people, the de facto ‘Yammer champions’, are key to really opening your Yammer network up to everyone in the organisation. Think about how you can harness this talent to help you embed Yammer.
Who are your champions?
You’ll need to identify your Yammer champions. It could be as simple as listing out a few names of those you see as particularly active and engaged. Depending on the size of your company, you may need to look at the statistics Yammer supplies to see who your top contributors are (Yammer’s own reporting tool is fairly limited, but there are other ways to analyse the data). Try to find people from all levels and areas of the business.
Don’t leave anyone behind
Not everyone is an early adopter; not everyone can imagine the benefits of lightly working with people outside their immediate team (or indeed, their local physical location).
Culture matters; if in the early days, everybody on Yammer appears to be an IT whizz, then less tech-comfy people won’t identify with the conversation topics, even if they’re project related. It’s so important to cultivate a number of champions who appeal to a cross section of your colleagues.
When identifying champions, think about approaching people who maybe don’t seem that confident using the system; offer them whatever training they need, and help them to get their voice out there. Having lots of different types of voices advocating Yammer means you’re less likely to leave people behind.
I’ve found that people are usually willing to get involved if you explain that people want to hear lots of voices on Yammer, and that theirs would be particularly helpful. Ask that they commit to just a bit of time for you to train them, and then to doing a few posts a week / month. Dedicating a chunk of your time to training someone who will inspire many others is well worth the investment.
Do your champions know what’s expected of them?
It’s important to guide champions and make sure they are clear about what being a champion involves. They need to know that you see them as a fellow advocate for Yammer. You could ask if they are happy to be described in this way, and for you to occasionally reference them as someone able to help with Yammer. The role doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-term commitment; It may be that people are active for six months and then work commitments mean they move on, and that’s fine.
Different areas of your business may need to be engaged in a different way
Think about Yammer engagement and how it’s perceived in the business. Having lots of other voices endorsing the Yammer network through use, and repeating and discussing key messages within their own groups, teams, and friends, is much more effective than everything coming from you or your team. It’s boring for everyone if all Yammer engagement activity comes from one voice – that’s one-way communication, and not what Enterprise Social Networks are about. If your organisation is relatively big, having a ‘local’ champion for specific functions or places can mean that any engagement activity can be localised and made more relevant.
Are you giving your champions what they need to be effective?
Make sure your champions have the information they need to do their job. It sounds obvious, but even if someone appears to be very comfortable using Yammer they will still need updates on any changes that Microsoft push through, and will appreciate having this information in advance of other employees. It’s always good to offer ongoing training in case anyone would like to brush up on their knowledge generally. You don’t have to be the expert in all things, just be willing to be curious and encourage an atmosphere of continual learning within the group.
Bring your group of champions together in one space
Consider creating a Yammer group specifically for employees to ask Yammer related questions in (and for you to share any updates on Yammer functionality). Ask your Yammer champions to help you in responding to questions. Be open to the fact that your champions will sometimes know more than you about Yammer, and embrace it. The power of the group, or the network, is that we can learn from each other and learn together.
Say thank you
Be aware that this is additional work for people. Being a Yammer champion shouldn’t take a lot of time, but it is an extra commitment. Some organisations can make the role as a champion part of a person’s formal review. The accolade of being known as a champion is also in itself a sort of reward, especially if their job isn’t particularly visible otherwise – being seen and being a known voice can be valuable in lots of ways. Whatever value they place on taking this role, do remember to say thank you regularly, and be appreciative of the time they take to support the Yammer journey.
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.
Photo credit: Ninjacam.