Before I left my previous organisation for a life of freelancing, I conducted a webinar to graduates on the benefits of building and creating networks within the organisation through Yammer by “Working Out Loud”. You can read the background of what I did in the blog post, “Do Your Graduates Work Out Loud?”
Yesterday I met a couple of the Graduate Committee members for a coffee. They contacted me (via LinkedIn of course – see how this social media works?) to organise a time to tell me about the results of the idea I had proposed to them to have a “Work Out Loud” week in the last week of their job rotation in the Graduate Program. A week where many would have been reflecting their year of rotations, the projects they were involved with, the teams they worked with and the outcomes they achieved for the organisation.
My thinking was that in the last week of their rotation, they would be in the mindset of reflection but also hopefully with a clearer idea of what they would like to be doing, what type of work engages them, what team they would have liked to work with. More importantly, they would have been in a more confident and assertive position to work out loud rather than at the beginning of their Graduate Program when they were, in their own words, “green”.
(I believe that working out loud regardless of what stage you are on the Graduate program or indeed, any time in your career is acceptable. The situation was such that the request for Yammer training only came to me because of a need to have more people use the tool so that they can be more collaborative around organised Graduate work and fund-raising events but we see now that the use and function of social tools in our work has a much wider application and more impact).
In the email to me, they wrote, “The week has been a lot more successful then I anticipated, I can’t wait to share it with you.”
Right. Coffee was on. I had to learn more!
It was lovely to see R and V again, their smiles and enthusiasm infectious. Passionate about their work and working with the other graduates, they excitedly explained how they implemented the Work Out Loud week and explained how they added their “Graduate Twist” to make it more exciting for everyone. They had to come up with a memorable way to create a buzz around WOL but also devise some measures to compare results ‘before’ and ‘after’ so they could explain the benefit value of working out loud to their managers.
The measures they came up with were:
- A 30% increase in the number of graduates sharing their story on Yammer
- An increase of 70% from the current number of graduates using Yammer seen by an increase in interactions through comments; liking posts; increase in group membership and increase in follows of their colleagues
- Increased activity in the 2014 Graduate Cohort Group and the 2014 Grad Vine Group
- Increase in engagement with the broader Yammer community through posts written by graduates
How did They Do It? They “Yamminated!”
They chose nine streams according to the business units of the organisation and within each of them, selected a Yammer Champ to drive the initiative within their own stream.
The Yammer Champ shared a story/insight/learning/experience from their rotations to the “All Company” thread in Yammer and then ‘tagged’ (in the old fashioned sense of the word of a playground ‘tap’ on the shoulder; in the online sense of the word, it would be ‘Mention’) others in the stream to encourage them to do the same.
They used the concept of the “Yamminate” where one person ‘nominates/yamminates’ others to write the next post. The rationale behind this approach was to make it all inclusive for graduates by being directly nominated and to provide a topic which was adaptable and easy for everyone to contribute. They encouraged people to nominate more than one person in their posts so that there was volume of posts in the thread during the week.
Every post was tagged with both the #yamminate and #wol hashtags so that it could be filtered and a record of the conversations available for future use.
(I like how this sounds like “O-Week” – a typical orientation week at any university).
R and V were surprised with the enthusiasm of the graduates responding to WOLWEEK.
“We were amazed at the quality and the detail of the posts that were being posted,” R said. “After seeing the posts, we thought that the subsequent posts were not going to be of that quality but we were wrong.”
“What was surprising was that others who had worked in the teams had publicly acknowledged their work by replying to their posts and it gave the graduates acknowledgement of their work and participation in the project.”
V added, “The whole reason for doing this though was that we weren’t looking for praise but it was about reflection. However, through the posts, we got this recognition.”
“This has been a time saver for me. I used to get over 50 emails per day about a Grad event and it overwhelmed me. Now, we can have the conversation in Yammer, everyone sees it and can comment on it,” added R.
“Initially we thought that graduates were going to post into the Yammer groups but they started in the “All Company” thread and it was seen by everyone in our organisation. That got their work, the projects and the Grad Program exposure and everyone was able to reply to any post”.
“We now are seeing more activity in the Yammer groups from names we hadn’t seen in the past. Although some names are more active in specific groups than the general wider Yammer community but that’s okay,” said V.
“Yes, every time I go into Yammer now, I see more notifications, which is great!” adds R.
What Were The Results?
- The goal was to achieve at least 30% of graduates sharing their #Yamminate story and they achieved 22.5% (14/62 grads participated) with the quality and detail of posts exceeding expectations
- The goal of 70% for active participation came from a benchmark based on disengagement in other elements of grad programs such as social events, fundraisers and other projects) with the final result being 68% increase in engagement (41/62 grads active in the #wol week)
- Significant reduction in email as now all major fundraising updates for Grad Groups on Yammer are communication only through Yammer.
- “When this idea was initially proposed (to stop email), it was not progressed as it was believed the updates would not be received as people were not on Yammer. Having this (WOL week) as a “hook” – that is, I have to go to Yammer to get this information – has been effective in driving engagement.”
- Engagement with the broader Yammer community through graduate posts increased as was evidenced by the participation of particular groups within the organisation who were traditionally challenging to engage in the past.
- “The responses to some of the #yamminate posts of colleagues expressing gratitude for the Graduate contributions was really positive feedback for the Graduates”
“WOL has been a success in our eyes because we have seen an increase in engagement in Yammer for graduates, but how do we get them ALL involved?” they asked me.
I explained the 1:9:90 rule of engagement in online communities and explained that you can’t force people to be social but you can educate them so that they will find use of the tool for their own means, context and workplace applications. The WOL week was just one simple, fun way for them to contribute and participate and if they are seeing an increase in engagement – even if it means engagement within the ‘safer’ group communities – then it is still considered successful.
(Even with the ‘passive participants – or lurkers’ they are still getting some value from observing the conversations although I don’t know what impact that will create for them in the long term when and if in future, their work is not evidenced in any way through this medium. In a world where potential employers are looking for talent and skills, if you have no online presence, reputation or activity this may detriment your future job prospects and recognition within and external to your organisation).
People will have different motivations and drivers for using it to get what they need. What we can do is show them how to use the tool so that it’s not an intrusion or additional to their normal work but to use it for their particular needs. We talked about the stigma of social tools but how this perception is slowly changing and we revisited the success measures and talked about how we can translate their measures into business measures that would be tangible.
For example, how much money has the organisation saved through R reducing her time to respond to over 50 emails per day? With this saving, how has she been utilised for other more value-based work?
And Let’s Not Forget the Stigma of Social
V added, “I don’t know why this is but every time my manager is behind me, I have to minimise the Yammer program quickly because I feel that they may be thinking I’m not working. It’s not the case really, but that’s just how I feel about Yammer. People think that you’re socialising.”
She makes a valid point and it’s one that I had been grappling with. It’s all about perceptions and educating those who haven’t grasped the true value of allowing their employees to connect with others and give them a voice.
For the last few years that I have been using Yammer, it has been promoted as the “Facebook for Companies” or using the word, “social” in a work context implies skiving off responsibilities and wasting time chatting to colleagues online.
Maybe we need to stop using these words until such a time that business accepts that humans are social. We will talk. We will connect with others and that employees do have a voice. By allowing the trust – and removing the fear of the use of these tools – their employees will be their best advocates to drive innovation through conversations that break down the silos and allow teams to co-operate with each other. (You can read more about Employee Activism in Weber Shandwick’s 2014 report, “Employees Rising:Seizing Opportunity in Employee Activism”).
Final Thoughts From Me
Overall, it’s been a great learning opportunity for me to work with the Graduates on this Work Out Loud week and see how they took one idea, rehashed it to make it their own and relevant to their needs and then used the tool as the connector. It’s been an open lesson to all the employees in the organisation as they’ve learned not only about the Graduate Program, or the grads themselves but it’s personalised the functions and responsibilities of all the parts of the business so that employees have an appreciation of the organisation they work for – in a way, the Graduates have personalised the organisation chart through their own stories.
So do you want to read some of the posts that the graduates have written? Here are some of the edited posts…
Hopefully you’re still dazzled by the wit and brilliance of all other grads before me in the spirit of #wolweek, let me tell you about my first 6 months as a Risk graduate! I’ve been working with the lovely and delightful Risk Reporting and Governance team during my first rotation…my initiatives which have aimed to increase efficiency and decrease rework have resulted in a saving of 20.6 days per year within that time but we’re expecting the total time saved to exceed as the new processes and procedures become embedded within the business….Most of my work during this rotation has primarily involved stakeholder engagement and project management which has really helped me grow in these areas….I’ve had a blast and learned a lot with working within Risk and in the spirit of #wol, let me nominate my fellow Risk grads to tell you about their experiences!”
“My turn to jump on the #wol bandwagon and give you an update on my rotation….I have been fortunate to spent my first glorious 6 months in the Products & Market team. …I have also gained a vast set of valuable experiences by spending time at the branches and contact centres. I have had too many coffees and now have got the most expansive collection of coffee loyalty cards in my wallet. I really enjoyed my time with the team and looking forward to my next rotation…..”
“This opportunity has allowed me to follow my passion for learning more about culture, diversity and inclusion and the benefits for those companies and societies that embrace it. Diversity + Inclusion = Innovation…..I would like to hear more from my fellow graduates, R, J, S, L and J about their experience….”
“Thank you for getting me involved in #wolweek. My reflection is a little different as I am an Industry Based Learning student on a 4 month internship as part of my Masters in Organisational Psychology, though also rolling off from my placement this week. I, like many grads have had a great time whilst on my placement. I have been able to learn so many new things and feel that this has definitely been my most beneficial placement of the three, in terms of learning and overall satisfaction. I have been very fortunate to work in a team with such lovely colleagues, who were always willing and available to impart their knowledge and help me throughout the journey. The culture [here] is very warm and friendly and it has been a wonderful place to work. I am very thankful for this experience and hope that this is the beginning of a longer relationship with the organisation. Now, I would like to #yamminate a friend, E who has recently rolled off the grad program, for his insights.”
Big thank you to R and V (you know who you are!) for inspiring graduates to work out loud and create a new habit for them to be successful in their careers. Thank you R for creating a detailed PIR (post-implementation review or report) that has been used in this post. All the best in your careers!