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Mining the #Value of Microsharing

StevenguyenThis is a guest blog post written by Steve Nguyen, Technology Lead at Cargill, Inc. Steve specializes in the area of technology enabled learning. His skills and interest in social learning and social media are currently being used at Cargill, where their Learning and Development function is looking to transform the way people think about learning. Follow Steve on Twitter.

When implementing anything new in an organization, the question "What is the value?" invariably arises.  When it came to demonstrating the value of Yammer, we took that question directly to our users.  Like many organizations, our network growth on Yammer was grassroots and entirely word of mouth.  We were nearing one thousand users when it came time to decide whether to keep Yammer going, or to pull the plug.  We knew a big part of our recommendation to move forward had to show that the current population was deriving some kind of value.  It was far too early to show any monetary value, but we were sure there was something there.  So we asked our employees.

We engaged our employees outside of the Yammer network by sending an email to all current members.  We informed them that we would be making our case to a group of leaders at Cargill and needed their help by sharing what value they have gotten from their short time on Yammer.  This was also an opportunity to teach them about tagging, as we asked them to tag their response with #value so that all the responses were grouped together.  We also encouraged those that did not get any value to respond as well.

The responses poured in.  Some people who had never posted a message, actually took the time to post.  The lurkers, you know the ones, the people we perceive to get no value because they don't post.  Lurkers posted things like, "I hardly ever post, but I get a lot of #value from reading what others are talking about or learning from what others have to say."  Another person wrote, "Typically, I read posts more than I write posts.  I have gained useful information and in a way feel more connected to my global Cargill colleagues."

New employees posted that they were able to find and connect with people in a way they haven't been able to at other companies they worked for.  Finding people and answers to questions can be hard when you're new, and Yammer helped to facilitate some of those exchanges.  One person, looking for an expert on steam system design got responses from people in Iowa, Minneapolis, and Belgium. 

Others commented on how Yammer gave them a new sense of engagement.  One person shared, "It helps me feel that I'm more a part of a big, global company like Cargill."  Similarly another employee stated, "Reading the posts reminds me how large and diverse Cargill is, and it makes me feel connected and engaged in a way that I would not have felt without Yammer."

We learned a couple things from this.  We figured out that we can and should engage our network outside of Yammer itself.  It helps to rejuvenate people every now and again.  More importantly, we are learning as a culture that single people or silo-ed groups do not understand the true value of something until you go to the masses.  With the value information that we gathered, we went into our presentation armed with data that showed our employees were connecting, sharing, and learning from one another.  As a result, before we even began our presentation, one of our VPs said, "Do we know what the cost would be to our employees if we shut this down?"

Yeah.  They see the #value.

Cargill blog

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