With more than 150,000 employees and external staff, it's vital for Microsoft that everyone can effectively communicate with each other, regardless of time zone or location. Yammer, the organization's internal social network, is one of the Microsoft 365 applications that Microsoft employees rely on to connect at work.
Teams and individuals at Microsoft have been using Yammer since 2012 and appreciate the collaborative online environment in which colleagues can quickly learn from each other's ideas and experiences. Leaders use it to provide clarity around goals and strategy, model company values, and build trust with their teams.
Yammer community members can participate in open and asynchronous discussions from anywhere, at times that are best for their schedules and priorities.
Yammer enables cross-company communication
Hundreds of active Yammer communities across Microsoft facilitate a daily flow of conversation that spans social, professional, and technical topics. Depending on a particular community's purpose, its membership may be open to all Microsoft employees or limited to a specific group or role.
Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO) communications managers and service managers work together to roll out employee-facing applications, new product features, and changes in IT systems. We rely heavily on Yammer as a primary communications channel with our team and across Microsoft.
Because conversations are discoverable and persistent, information is easy to share and locate at any time. CSEO communications managers and service managers have found that Yammer helps them better understand global employee sentiment and trends. This provides timely input to product groups on Microsoft products and services before they're released to customers. It also drives higher adoption, more effective usage of IT services and apps, and increased satisfaction around updates and changes.
One highly active Microsoft Yammer community is Ask CSEO, administered by CSEO communications managers. This community has a broad membership base that includes all Microsoft employees. In this community, anyone can ask questions, get support, connect to expertise and best practices, and provide feedback on any CSEO service.
We include a link to the Ask CSEO Yammer community in all employee emails so it's easy to access and ask questions. Sometimes CSEO communications managers answer questions themselves, but subject matter experts or employees with experience in the topic often respond, which saves countless tech support hours. Ask CSEO has also decreased the number of per-capita support requests that come in as more people discover common questions and share information.
Community learnings have helped reduce resolution time on many issues. We closely monitor the Ask CSEO Yammer community to ensure that all posts are addressed within 24 hours.
Using Yammer to successfully land change
Yammer is a core part of CSEO's internal change management strategy and helps monitor employee attitudes and engagement. As stewards for change, CSEO communications managers enthusiastically participate in a variety of Yammer communities besides the technology-focused groups they own.
With automated Microsoft PowerBI reports based on Yammer comments, CSEO communications managers can quickly spot and analyze emerging trends. When it's time to roll out updates that are likely to have a significant impact on users or operations, we can craft messaging to the audience's needs and adapt aspects of their messaging when they find further explanation is required.
Yammer also helps to close the feedback loop. It lets service managers see exactly what adjustments to make to the service being updated. In contrast to anonymous feedback tools, Yammer enables direct responses among individuals within company usage guidelines.
We have found that advance sentiment measuring helps us proactively address issues that could disrupt a project. While many employees post their own Yammer messages and comment on others' posts, even more community members simply observe information shared on Yammer, thereby learning more than they would otherwise.
Recently, CSEO communications and service managers rolled out a Microsoft OneDrive for Business feature called Known Folder Move. This changed the way people save files at Microsoft so that they're always backed up and protected. In addition to communicating the change to employees through targeted email messages, internal websites, and digital signage, we shared the news in Yammer communities.
Employees wanted to save documents and pictures to their file folder system the same way they always have, so the product group and CSEO enabled that functionality. Now, when people save their content via their local drive file path, the content is also saved to Microsoft OneDrive for Business automatically. Deployment proceeded with minimal workflow and employee disruption with the help of consistent messaging about this change across multiple channels.
Best practices for Yammer administration
With over seven years of experience using Yammer, we have learned the importance of having a plan for the setup and ongoing management of Yammer communities. CSEO communications managers follow and recommend these seven guidelines.
Understand business objectives
First, identify the purpose of the Yammer community. This could be a single goal or a combination of several. Success metrics might include the number of active users, how many users posted about a topic, or the number of issue escalations.
At Microsoft, CSEO managers and others find Yammer communities helpful in modeling company values, bettering our understanding of employee sentiment, and building trust and engagement among teams and leadership. It also helps us drive the adoption of available apps and provides an opportunity to share valuable input with product development teams. Yammer has helped accelerate the time-to-resolution on support requests and improve overall user satisfaction around IT services and updates. Some best practices include:
- Defining and documenting clear goals for the community—start with a broad objective and detail the milestones.
- Developing consistent messaging and storing common answers in a FAQ.
- Identifying quantitative and qualitative success metrics and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs).
Identify roles and responsibilities
As part of an overall project plan's standard operating procedures (SOP) or responsible, accountable, consulted, informed (RACI) framework, project managers should first define the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for community administrators.
Take time to document how each role should engage with employees, including frequency and messaging. Determine which community channels to monitor and assign specific resources to manage them. Employees use the communications channels that work best for them, so be flexible and observe their actions and preferences. Community owners can close or rename channels as needed. Other best practices include:
- Preparing the community administrators by explaining the escalation plan details in advance.
- Creating a commitment to respond to posts within a certain timeframe.
- Getting to know the community by introducing the administrators early and regularly responding to posts.
- Using hashtags to mark posts for follow-up.
Set expectations with community members
Microsoft provides Yammer participants with specific usage guidelines to help maintain a welcoming, inclusive, and positive space for interaction. Let support staff and leadership know who is on point to respond to user posts, and how often.
Establishing desired response times and posting them in the Yammer group description is often helpful. Employees know when to escalate an issue to other support groups if they need a faster response. It also shows dedication to the customer experience. Consider creating a rotation schedule between team members to prevent confusion when urgent issues arise. Other best practices include:
- Creating a usage policy that spells out the guidelines and acceptable behavior for community participants.
- Using Yammer mobile to receive push notifications if a quick response or active listening is required.
- Setting notification alerts for new posts on topics of interest.
- Tracking response times against commitments.
We have also identified the following best practices for releasing services changes:
- Breaking up the audience for program rollouts and measuring escalations by segment.
- Rolling out changes in waves, depending on the number of users affected.
- Creating ”pause criteria” to address issues each wave experienced before rolling out the next one.
Determine frequency of engagement
When posts contain misleading or inaccurate information, or there are posts about support questions or process confusion, community owners should direct users to the facts, the Community FAQ, or other support options as quickly as possible.
Listening tools, like Microsoft Power BI monitoring, help community owners act quickly if posts go viral. Responding early is best to quickly clarify issues that can otherwise escalate. After addressing the initial posts, check for any further direct requests for information. Remember, some people like public debate and don't want or need a response to their post from the community administrators. Additional best practices include:
- Calling out and correcting posts that become contentious and violate usage guidelines—it's important to address those behaviors immediately.
- Posting responses for all to see to help share knowledge and understanding among the community members.
- Thanking each user for their post and always remaining factual and pleasant.
Have an escalation plan
When forming the project team, include key stakeholders such as the product group, support, or leadership. If a post requires an authoritative response, it can be escalated to one of these experts. Document the escalation paths and identify the subject matter experts to call for help when needed.
If you expect an increased volume of Yammer conversations, contact your corporate communications team early. It's helpful to monitor topics that generate both negative and positive sentiment—even projects that elicit complaints can be valuable if the response is proactive and benefits the user in the long run. Other best practices include:
- Checking with subject matter experts to confirm they're willing to engage with users on Yammer.
- Pulling experts into threads by @-tagging their alias or sharing the link to a post in need of response.
- Identifying the tone of posts manually or with sentiment monitoring tools to decide if they require escalation.
- Engaging in chats about company decisions rather than posting multiple paragraphs in a single response.
Extend reach through strategic connections
Yammer is just one of the communications platforms that can encourage employee engagement and readiness. By collaborating with communications leads in other parts of the organization, community owners can use Yammer to increase awareness of related services and initiatives.
Other key strategic partners might include people in the legal, privacy, or human resources departments. Engage with these stakeholders and corporate communications as early as possible to ensure that messaging aligns with other initiatives. More best practices include:
- Connecting with other communications leads.
- Building a network of partnerships to support communication.
- Checking often to make sure these professional connections are still active and in the same role.
Systematize reporting process and measure KPIs
Every community is different and has unique success metrics. You can quickly analyze traffic and posts by selecting the usage report on the community page. For richer analytics, use Microsoft Power BI.
Tracking and documenting common themes can simplify reporting and inform live discussions. Sharing verbatim posts with leadership can help communicate sentiment and message tone so they're prepared to answer any questions. Additional best practices include:
- Being consistent in reporting, keeping focus areas clear, and using tools to show trends over time.
- Calling out any watch list items in advance of expected Yammer activity.
- Documenting common themes to help inform programming and employee/leadership Q&A sessions.
Yammer has already provided an incredible level of visibility into the everyday experiences of Microsoft employees and external staff in all regions. It's fostering more compassion, trust, and patience in the company. Yammer has made it easier to bring more voices into decision-making and constructively expose incorrect information and assumptions.
CSEO communications managers continually update employees and community managers on new Yammer experiences as they become available. Recently, CSEO used Yammer to deliver these messages about feature enhancements and additional Yammer functionality:
- Custom images. Yammer community owners can now personalize their groups with a logo or icon and cover photo.
- Published posts. In response to feedback from Microsoft employees, the Yammer product team has created several plug-ins, apps, and web parts. You can now publish Yammer posts in other apps such as Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Stream, so they're visible within multiple work processes.
- Yammer mobile app. Yammer is the first external application developed with Microsoft's new Fluent Design System, and offers a fast, modern interface on the web and on mobile devices.
CSEO plans to keep using Yammer to have meaningful conversations inside the operations team and with people across Microsoft. The service continues to help Microsoft bridge gaps in understanding, address misinformation, and cultivate an atmosphere of open dialogue.
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