Last week I was put through my paces at work.
A colleague who I had worked with a couple of years ago to create Role Based Proficiency Pathways for the retail arm of her business came back from maternity leave and she sat next to me at work. We caught up with the “goss” and I learned about her new role. She was excited to be back at work after extended leave but also slightly anxious to be out of the business she knew so well and now in a centralised role in corporate support with Human Resources.
She mentioned that her many years at the coalface of the retail business would serve her well in this new role as she experienced the true challenges and opportunities that our staff face on a daily basis with our customers because she provided a ‘practical and pragmatic lens’ to the learning solutions that L&D were offering.
I was excited to be working with her again because of that reason. She was someone who openly questioned what we were proposing and made us explain how it would directly benefit the business, our people and our customers.
Let me explain.
I believe we need to have people like her. People who have many years in the business and who understand the problems, issues, challenges that face our employees every day with our customer, but who may need support from us to close a knowledge or skill gap in her people. She asks questions and makes learning professionals accountable for the solutions they put into place. She doesn’t do it to be deliberately difficult, she does it to make sure that the solution we provide is the right one for her people and her business.
To me, it shows that she cares and that she thinks through the application, implication, output and results of the solution to her business.
She asked me what I was working on and I told her about my new project, the Onboarding Program for the Retail business and the one I was using our Enterprise Social Networking platform, Yammer, as the main conduit to create a supportive community for the new people who join our organisation.
What followed was an intense hour of explaining what Yammer was and how it would benefit these particular employees and our organisation.
I’ll write down the questions she asked because they would be questions anyone would ask – who knows you may have come across them too.
So here goes….
Her first question, “Helen, I’ve heard people talk about Yammer, but really what is it?”
I explained that it’s a social collaboration tool for our business that we access through a website and we can create an account simply by using our organisational email. Yammer allows us to find information and people we need to speak to quickly and easily. I then provided an example of how I needed to find information about an induction course, I posted the question on Yammer and within a day, I had responses of various people who gave me names of people I could contact.
I’m not into Social Media and don’t have time for it. I have a Facebook account but I only have used it about three times in my life. I simply don’t see it is relevant for me and it wastes my time. Is Yammer like Facebook?
I’ve heard people explain Yammer to be “Facebook for the Organisation” but I hate using this term because I’m not a fan of Facebook but for lack of a better analogy, everyone seems to know what Facebook is so they use this to explain it and in so doing, probably create a negative impression.
I said that similar to Facebook, Yammer is a social collaboration tool that allows us to network with our own colleagues – but it’s private and within the organisation – although we can also set up groups with specific external networks such as our customers or clients or vendors if need be. People can share stories, links, photos, files and connect with others or collaborate on projects. You can create groups around mutual interests or work projects and create your own communities of people who have like-minded interests related around work (or even non-work) topics. In so doing, your networks across the organisation increase. In my experience, Yammer has not wasted my time. If anything, it has made me productive as I have had my questions immediately actioned or responded to.
She nodded her head. “This is a good thing. I know I have wasted a lot of time trying to find someone by phone or email. So you’re telling me that just by asking a question on Yammer, I get an answer?”
Yes, that’s right. The beauty of Yammer is that everyone in our organisation has a chance of responding to your question. In fact, you may even respond to answer questions that others may have online too.
But only if they’re on Yammer right?
Yes that’s right.
Mmm….I can see where this is going….
So what’s the difference between searching for my response on the intranet?
I explained that the intranet is a good source of information but Yammer provides a more personalised approach because it is centred around conversations. I showed her a question I asked on Yammer about induction and how I had received 42 responses of people’s personal stories of onboarding within a few days and this was something an intranet, email or phone or surveys would have provided me. Responses were rich, engaging, deep and had created a thread of dialogue and sharing of stories. This was powerful.
She nodded her head in agreement.
Yes, I can see how that would work for the business but if it’s so good, why isn’t everyone on it?
Good question. Ummmm…..Mind was ticking over – how was I going to answer this question?
I responded that this was a challenge for our organisation. We do have many people already on it and it’s been around for 4 years but everyone uses it in their own way. Others may not be aware how to use it or if they are exploiting the tool more fully in their work and communications. It’s real power will come when everyone in the organisation uses it but for now it’s up to Yammer champions like myself to help, coach others to spread the message and to help my own learning teams consider how they can integrate the social elements of learning into the programs offered by our business. Of course, it would also help if our senior managers and leaders use this tool to promote and communicate their key messages.
We still had a long way to go. I felt I was losing her here.
I’ve just come back from leave and if I didn’t sit next to you, I wouldn’t have known about Yammer. I wouldn’t have known what it’s about. Why isn’t it actively promoted if it’s so good?
Another excellent question. My mind was working overtime. She was making me work hard.
I explained that in the initial years there was a lot of promotion and maybe to our detriment, we haven’t been promoting it actively, consistently and on an ongoing basis. Sure we have had Yammer lunch and learns, events, master classes in the past…but how were we promoting these? When were they on? Who was attending? How could you find our more?
I made a mental note to check back with our other Yammer champs and consider what else we could do to continue to promote this tool.
But where were they advertised? On Yammer? I won’t be able to see them if I’m not on Yammer.
Touche. Yes, we did advertise them mainly via email and the intranet and we rely on our Yammer champions to spread the word. It was becoming obvious that maybe we needed to revisit a Yammer campaign to get it back on the agenda.
I then turned my screen towards her and said, “Let’s have a go, let’s create an account for you. Go into Yammer and create your account”
We spent the next ten minutes setting up her account, editing her notification and privacy settings and posting and replying. I encouraged her to check out the groups that were related to her Retail business and join what she deemed relevant to her. She exclaimed surprise to see that Retail managers had their own group on Yammer and she agreed that this would have been a good opportunity for them to network with each other.
So why haven’t I seen any training packages or any e-learns on how to get on it and use it? Are we just expected to get on it and learn it ourselves?
I bit my tongue. I wasn’t going to say that “it’s intuitive” because really, nothing is intuitive to a first time user. I thought back to my early days where I panicked when I saw the hundreds of emails in my inbox coming out of Yammer because I hadn’t edited my notification settings. Many people who didn’t know how edit their notification settings may have had a similar negative experience with their first use of Yammer.
“Well, there are some e-learn simulations on the intranet and you have to find these by doing an intranet search on the term “Yammer” to come to a page with links,” I said. “Alternatively you can just Google it and see some videos online” I added.
The moment these words tumbled out of my mouth, I cringed. I could hear myself how this response sounded so illogical especially to someone who didn’t know about Yammer in the first place.
Right. This wasn’t going to be easy. Her questions were just beacons highlighting the gaps in how we promote and communicate this social collaboration tool.
Helen, are we expected to have Yammer on all the time? Most of the time, I’d forget to go into it unless I have a specific reason to.
I explained that Yammer is something that I have on in my internet browser in the background but it’s dependent on how people want to use it. We can set up notifications that you can have emails sent to you when someone posts on Yammer that is relevant to you. Alternatively, you can access it when you need it – there’s no right or wrong answer. Everyone uses it differently.
If I was at a branch, I simply wouldn’t have time for Yammer when I’m serving customers. Do you need to be connected to the organisations network to access it?
I explained that the beauty of Yammer is that you can access it 24/7 and through your device. I showed her my smartphone and the Yammer app and then proceeded to send her a message from my phone to her Yammer account. She saw the message instantly into her Yammer inbox. She smiled.
By the end of the hour, I felt that I had explained as best I could to her about the potential, application and function of Yammer and its benefits to anyone in her business to connect with others but I still felt a general unease about how else I could explain the concept short of them actually just getting on and using the tool for their own business needs.
I can explain the tool but I can’t actually motivate anyone to use it unless they see the true value of how it helps them be more productive in their own work and how open they are to creating and building networks themselves.
By Yammer.com (https://www.yammer.com/about/images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons