Improve staff engagement with Yammer

Yammer is business social networking, a kind of Facebook for business. Use it to bring people together, to start conversations about work issues, reduce the need for meetings and enable people to find solutions to problems that someone else has solved before.

It’s one of those products that Microsoft liked so much it bought the company. And back in 2012 it paid a cool $1.2 billion for it. That shows how powerful social media is reckoned to be in today’s work environment. It is, after all, how the younger half of the working population lives:

“Facebook groups helped me a lot during University with all the projects I worked on. It was easier to keep track of progress without the need to hold meetings, and we never used emails unless we had to communicate with a lecturer.

“I think a good professional platform like Yammer would help us be more efficient in communicating effectively.”

The objective of Yammer is to have one place for wide and open conversations. By gathering all that thinking into one system you develop an informal knowledge base that gradually accumulates ideas, solutions to problems and the general brain power of your team. Because it is searchable, this informal database gives everyone a single place to discover knowledge and solutions.

“Hey, does anyone know if we can put 120g paper in the printer?”
“I need a recommendation for a quiet place to meet a client in Bristol.”
“I’ve started a new conversation about coordinating lunchtimes so there’s always cover in the office.”
“I want your thoughts on improving our marketing. Join the Marketing conversation!”

I’ve already got e-mail thanks

The biggest objection to a new tool like Yammer is that it makes more work and more places to look for stuff. Well, to an extent that is true, and the products definitely overlap. You can send messages in all three and you can attach files to emails and store them in Teams and Yammer.

This graph shows how yammer crosses over Teams and email

But there are large areas of difference. It’s up to you to decide if that difference is big enough to be of benefit to your organisation. Let’s look at some of the differences. 

Benefits of using Yammer

First up, e-mail. E-mail is both a blessing and a curse. It has revolutionised our working lives and rendered snail-mail obsolete. That’s a great thing in terms of speeding up communications and e-mail isn’t going to disappear any time soon. But the curse is that there is so much of it; junk mail is mixed up with vital emails from colleagues, you get cc’d into snaking e-mail trails that you really don’t need to know about, some people have an inbox like a teenager’s bedroom and others delete things without reading them. The truth is that e-mail can get out of hand and it’s less than ideal.

The second area of overlap is between Yammer and Teams. Here, Microsoft talks about the “outer circle” and the “inner circle”. Yammer is aimed at the outer circle; wide engagement of lots of people. If you are interested in a topic, join the group. If you want to find out about the topic, search through their discussion. For millennials it’s a bit like Facebook; for baby boomers it’s like popping into the pub.

Teams, on the other hand, is part of the inner circle. Use it to manage projects that involve small groups of people with more intense conversations that help to drive that project to a speedy and successful conclusion.

Getting started

Yammer is part of Office 365 so you might already have a licence for the Enterprise version of Yammer – you will need to check the Office 365 plan that you are on. You can install the Yammer application on PC, Mac, iPhone and Android. Because it is cloud-based you can also go to www.yammer.com from any browser.

To get people using Yammer, start with something topical that will engage lots of people. Maybe ideas for your next company event or a discussion about how to improve the office? Then let groups emerge organically. People will invite you to join groups where they want your input, or you can simply join a group that looks interesting. Join or leave groups as you want to manage your involvement and activity.

After that, start following people at work that have interesting things to say. And, as the conversations start to grow, you’ll find the search option useful to uncover those hidden nuggets of corporate knowledge.

Next steps

If you would like help to get started with Yammer, call Riverbank on 01235 426700 or e-mail enquiries@riverbank.co.uk