A training participant asked yesterday: How should I use our new Yammer network and what value can I get from it? Here is my answer..
The value of Yammer (or other enterprise social networks) in a knowledge environment
In today’s working environment, there is a massive amount of knowledge out there. For people like my training participant who are working in an IT consultancy environment, on client-site, in a distinct business unit doing project work, the potential to lose all that knowledge is huge. Organising regular meetings across the business, with its travel and billable-time issues is not practical. Tools like Yammer can help. They won’t replace the need for face-to-face interactions within your network, but they can certainly help to spread knowledge and stay up-to-date. Eventually this leads to greater competence, more efficiency, innovation and improved business results.
Start using Yammer to share ideas, ask questions and stay up-to-date
If you want to start using your Yammer platform in your own business network (or LinkedIN for example) 5 simple individual actions are interesting, based on the golden triangle of networking:
- Ask a question to your network. If you are stuck on something or need some expertise, let your network know by asking for help. Who knows what you will get!?
- Share a resource. If you find something interesting for your network, share it. Be careful to first contextualise that information by noting WHY you find it interesting and consider tagging some specific people in the message so that they definitely see it.
- Answer a question. Do as thy would be done by, no? If you expect to get answers, be an answerer yourself…
- Thank people for what they share. This can be as simple as a “like”, or could be a comment or exchange of information.
- Have a browse around from time-to-time. The value of ” aimless wandering” in the business world is IMO massively underrated. Spend 5 minutes just browsing every now and again.
There is real value in narrating your work regularly
One of the big problems in the consultancy world is that people in the same company often don’t know what other people are doing. Sometimes they don’t even realise that the guy next to them on client-site is actually a fellow colleague! A good way to deal with this issue on platforms like Yammer is to get in the habit of narrating your work. This is easy and can being real business value. A simple way to do this is to regularly update your status or add a message to let the network know what you are working on. Examples:
- “I’m creating a training course on creating influence with a network”
- “Currently looking for ways to improve intra-participant interactivity on social media platforms between training days”
- “Interviewing the director of the EPHEC on her experience with flipping the classroom”
- “Developing my conference speech for ASTD TechKnowledge in Las Vegas in January”
- “I will welcome my 4000th human being (since going freelance) to training some time in December”
..these kind of status updates take literally less than 30 seconds, but they keep people informed on who is doing what and may even get you some spontaneous input from other to improve your work. Of course you can go further and start doing educational narration (“how-to” guides etc) or even implement a formal knowledge-sharing initiative like BT Dare2Share.
…but don’t expect to see massive results from day 1
I have seen some Yammer fails in some of the companies I work for. These are mostly due to poor vision about the tool, lack of communication or education and bad “change management”. If Yammer has just arrived in your company, you cannot expect everyone to see the value over night. This is for 2 main reasons, which seen interchangeably can lead to failure:
- Some people will simply not like it and not want to use it
- There will not be much content in the early days
If you are someone who doesn’t really “dig” social media platforms, then you will need to be convinced to get on the tool and start doing stuff. The trouble is that conceptual information about how the tool is great is not very inspiring. What you need is results. So, you go to the tool and …. … …find nothing.
Those who are active on the tool in the beginning are active because they do believe. But in a classical organisation of 500 people, you might only have 50 believers. Those 50 believers might not yet even be competent in getting the most out of the tool. So it takes time to see the value. And when the other 450 non-believers get pushed on the tool too early, they STILL don’t see the point. So they were right, right?
My ideas for passing this adoption-gap include:
- Try to encourage the right people to get started – not everyone, just the early-adopter types
- Know that even if there are no “likes” or comments, people may still be reading what you put on the tool – don’t be disheartened
- Educate people on the golden triangle. Its really key!
- Make sure key influencers in the organisation put an effort into using the tool. They need to walk-the-talk. If people see management and the “cool folk” on the train, it will be more appealing.
For more ideas on getting success from the tool, read:
- My interview “Making Your Yammer Community Work” with Yammer Learning Manager Allison Michels, on the ASTD blog
- My notes on “Online Community Management Tips and Best Practices”
- The early chapters of the free book “How to Really Use LinkedIn” (follow-link to download)
- Read Harold Jarche’s posts on “Personal Knowledge Management”
Thanks for reading!