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!
If you are looking to hire someone to join your company or to develop existing people who will regularly bring added-value (in the long-term), you need to think about more than technical or functional skills. In my opinion, the 9 following competences are absolutely key to sustainable success in today and tomorrow’s business environment…
THE CONSTANT LEARNER
It has been said for decades that the only constant is change. Clearly that hasn’t changed. If we cannot be sure about what tomorrow looks like, then the following three competences are important:
- Open-mindedness is the ability to receive and treat new information without overbearing prejudice. Many of us spend the majority of our waking lives on autopilot, doing things just like we did yesterday, set in our ways and thoughts. Open-minded people are able to put their own convictions on hold and see things differently in order to deal with new ideas. They are conscious of their own habits and convictions, they listen well and they tend not to mix up their own perception with reality.
- Self-learning is the ability to define, follow-up, deliver and evaluate learning goals in an autonomous way. Today’s workers must be able to acquire and assimilate knowledge, learn new skills and question their own attitude without the necessary intervention of a learning department or teacher. Specific skills here include goal-setting, self-coaching and identifying infinite learning opportunities.
- Problem-solving skills and scientific reasoning are required in order to figure things out where no answer currently exists. Workers must have the ability to correctly assess and define a problem. They must have a minimum of business acumen and creativity to propose multiple hypotheses and a sufficient scientific process to create “experiments” that will allow them to isolate, test and understand problem causes and potential solutions.
FUNCTIONING WELL IN TODAY’S UBER-SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT
In today’s working environment (the “New World of Work”) the possibilities are endless. We can gather and share information from and to everywhere in a click. We have unprecedented access to other people. We are mobile within markets and across functional and geographical lines. The following three competences are all about getting and giving the best in that environment:
- Personal Knowledge Management is a collection of processes that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his or her daily activities. Faced with the enormous noise of information coming in from everywhere in multiple formats, today’s workers need to be able to make sense of it all and put the noise to effective use for herself and others, today and in the future.
- Networking skills allow workers to effectively analyse, evaluate and improve their own networks in order to receive and give more value. With a clear long-term mission and good social skills, effective networkers can assess, create and maintain well-functioning networks. They know the right people (who know the right people..) and can establish trusting useful contacts over a variety of face-to-face and virtual platforms in order to achieve their goals.
- Commercial communication and personal branding. As businesses become more “intrapreneurial” and workers get involved in more cross-functional, multinational projects, the ability to understand the situation, values and needs of other people and position oneself and one’s work “commercially” in terms of benefits is key to being accepted and being useful. No-one can sit back and say that “sales” is for someone else. As Daniel Pink has said, to sell is human and we’re all doing it, whether we know it or not. The product/service branding approach of matching key messages to target audiences can today be equally well applied to individuals – effective personal branding helps other people to see your own value more easily.
BRINGING VALUE TO THE BUSINESS
A constant learner who is able to function well in an uber-social environment is not worth anything if he doesn’t really understand how business is happening and what can be done to achieve goals. He needs three additional competences:
- Business acumen or business intelligence is the first foundation for adding value to an organisation. In the past, only the management needed to worry about the universal drivers of cash, profit, growth, people and assets; everyone else could “just” focus on his job. But as environments, people, projects and processes change rapidly, there is more need for workers who truly understand their own work and how it influences the bottom-line and delivers on company strategy. If you don’t understand the core factors that make your business successful, you will not be able to identify opportunities, solve problems or articulate solutions that bring any value.
- Strategic thinking is the ability to identify priorities based on current position in relationship to the end-goal. Technical or tactical experts tend to have a good grasp on which is the best way to achieve a certain action, but strategic thinkers more easily identify those actual actions which really need to be taken at this time. Although top-management may be responsible for defining the company strategy, each individual needs himself to be able to regularly and effectively assess their own position (in terms of S/W/O/T etc..) and look for recurring themes and priorities. In this way, they can strategically choose relevant action and next concrete steps.
- Proactivity is the ability to stop, think and choose, rather than simply reacting to circumstance. A close-cousin of both strategic-thinking, open-mindedness and problem-solving ability, proactivity requires self-knowledge and a specific attitude, in addition to specific knowledge of the environment and mission. Faced with unacceptable results, the proactively-reactive person will assess the situation and processes/programs in order to create change which he or she believes he can orchestrate. And the truly proactive person will “in advance” take the initiative to assess risks to the mission and think about how to do things differently and how to have a maximum impact.
- “The Respect Effect” by Paul Meshanko – some important concepts on open-mindedness
- “Before all that self-learning, one last little training for everyone” – ASTD blog post about helping people get better at learning
- Learn about the “6 thinking hats” of Edward De Bono for ideas about problem solving and creativity
- Read Harold Jarche’s “PKM” blog
- “Analysing and evaluating informal learning networks” – blog post from ASTD2013 ICE
- “The only 3 questions that count” and “Be FAB to be heard” for ideas about commercial communication
- “Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand” on Mashable blog
- “If you want to show value, you’ve gotta have business acumen” blog post
- “Creating strategic action in 4 steps” blog post
- Read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
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Tags: ATD, Business Acumen, commercial communication, creativity, networking skills, open minded, personal branding, personal knowledge management, pkm, proactivity, problem solving, recruitment, self learning, social learning, social networking, strategic thinking
I need diversity in my personal network
To get creativity in my learning brain
I’ve been on Twitter this morning and Yammer as well
And all the chatter is exactly the same
If I hear 1 more time that #TellingAintTraining
Or get any more spam from some blow-job queen
I’m gonna trade my new iPAD for a Commodore 64
Turn off the WIFI or smash up the screen
I wrote a blog post last month on the Obama effect
And how true networking power has incredible reach
But seeing the same old faces saying the same old things
It’s well past time for me to practice what I preach
So, thank you Harold for a pertinent tip
In your Personal Knowledge Management webinar with Jane
It’s time for some unfollows and to widen my horizons
To ensure this repetition doesn’t rear it’s head again
So if you’re on the goodbye list, please don’t be offended
It’s not that I don’t like you and my interest hasn’t ended
I just want to bring some freshness to my daily Twitter stream
So I can get some new ideas and keep alive the learning dream