How do you connect your employees and encourage them to communicate? Well if you’re Internal Comms Manager Suzanne Masters, you have Yammer to add to your mix of comms channels.

Suzanne works at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and yesterday she took part in a webinar organised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Inside group.

Yesterday I wrote about Mike Grafham from Yammer’s perspective on enterprise social networks, if you missed the article you can catch up here. Today I’m going to focus on Suzanne’s presentation and share her experiences.

ACCA is the global body for professional accountants and operates in 83 offices and ‘active centres’ . It has 1000 employees, 140,000 members, 404,000 students and it’s UK bases are London and Glasgow.

Suzanne said: “Within ACCA we have a matrix management, we work on different projects and cross-functional teamwork is fantastic but presents its challenges. We had a number of ways of getting feedback from employees, one of which was a question in our employee survey on whether best practice, good ideas and ways of doing things were shared across the company. The results showed we could do better and we introduced Yammer as part of the solution to this problem.”

Three employee needs were identified as issues:

  • Needed somewhere to go and find out who colleagues are and what they look like (Suzanne said their intranet fails in this area)
  • Wanted a platform to share information, to avoid duplication and starting from scratch
  • Identifying expertise – employees wanted to have a central base to share that information

In a smart move – seems a simple one but I think it’s often overlooked – Suzanne described how the existing channels were checked to see if there was anything in place that could achieve these needs. The company has an intranet, virtual events, ezine and face-to-face sessions. There were lots of channels but nothing to specifically tackle the needs bulleted above.

The company was using social media externally including LinkedIn to connect members. However it was not using it internally.  We’re all familiar with the terms Gen X and Y but there was a new one on me yesterday – Suzanne described ‘Generation C’ – for connected – to describe people who are coming into the workplace who wish to connect, communicate and work inside an organisation in the way they do externally.

Early adopters
Interestingly, Yammer was not rolled out from the internal comms team. An employee in the Glasgow office had chosen to use it (the basic set up is free and you just need a company email address). From there it went viral with early adopters choosing to use it as they saw the value for themselves and the reputation spread.

Suzanne said: “We did a quick survey on Yammer and asked ‘how is this for you’’ to gather feedback and ideas from employees. This was a low key start and the survey meant we were able to see if there was anything we needed to take into consideration before launching ‘offically’ internally.”

She developed a business case in order to have the paid-for version of Yammer, which includes an appointed administrator (tip – see yesterday’s article for a list of benefits if you’re looking to write your own business case), and worked with ACCA’s IT team, Legal team and HR. Suzanne says the key point for her was that they are a global organisation and want to work together more, but they didn’t have a tool that allowed this to happen.

It was given the go-ahead with an interesting twist, Yammer would be rolled out officially but could only be used for work purposes. Has anyone else done this or do you open up your social networks to include personal info and groups too?

Integrating Yammer into the company’s culture
An email from ACCA’s Strategy Director was sent to encourage employees to use it and know it was ‘allowed’, but participation wasn’t mandatory. It also had to be integrated into comms plans and never used as a sole piece of communication, but used alongside other existing channels.

Has anyone else done this? Lexis Nexis’ policy of putting some content purely on Yammer was mentioned, as they only post vacancies on there. I’d be interested to know how other comms pros use Yammer and whether you’ve introduced your own rules. Do get in touch if you think other people would find your story useful to share.

Suzanne spoke about the governance issues which have to be constantly addressed, e.g. removing an employee’s email address if they leave the company and ensuring only permanent staff not contractors are able to access Yammer (due to concerns over confidential info) but said overall they are seeing the number of employees using it growing steadily over time and that Internal Comms had the ‘admin power’.

Watch again
If you missed yesterday’s CIPR Inside webinar and would like to view it for yourself, you can do so here.

What is your experience of enterprise social networks? I welcome your comments – do feel free to share them below. Rachel.

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