Is Your Training Social?

You may be interested in using Yammer as a training tool for your organization, but perhaps you are unsure of where to start. Where should you post training content? What types of content should you post? Should you use a training group in your Yammer network or should you have multiple training groups? Or is there another way? When we started developing our training program internally at Yammer, we had the same questions as you.

Recently, Yammer’s Learning & Development team presented and exhibited at ASTD TechKnowlege, a national conference for learning and development professionals, where we showcased our internal training university, “YammerVersity”. At the event, many L&D professionals expressed interest in hosting their training university on Yammer, thus this blog post was born.

There are a few things to consider when creating your own training environment on Yammer. First, you need to decide whether you will train within your existing network or build another network specifically for the training university. As there are benefits and drawbacks to both options, we’ll take a closer look at each.

Training Group: A training room – everyone is invited

By creating a training group (public or private) in your main Yammer network, you are simplifying the process but sacrificing robustness.

Pros – By conducting training in your main Yammer network where the students already exist, you simplify sign-up and join-in process. That still begs the question – whether to create a public or private training group? By building a public training group, you remove the separation between the training department and everyone else. Within Yammer, anyone can see the content being posted, thus creating visibility for the team and the programs being created. On the other hand, a private training group creates some privacy for users while still keeping them within your main network.

Cons – If you are doing a lightweight training program, building a group may work well. However, if your goal is to build a full training program, a group may not provide enough functionality. If you have multiple courses running concurrently, a group may become overwhelming and confusing for students. Creating exercises that point back to the group — for example, posting answers to questions and looking for specific content — may become difficult as more people join the group and post in it. Furthermore, because this is the ‘real’ network some user may fear posting. Just like in a classroom, you need to gauge the comfort level of your students and provide a private space for them if they need it.

Training Community: A set of training rooms for maximum flexibility and custom privacy levers.

A second option is to build an external network specifically for training, with multiple groups.

Pros – When you build your training network, you do so with the goal of building a safe place where students don’t fear making mistakes.  By creating an external network focused solely on training, you provide a safe environment for users to ask questions, connect with trainers and complete their training without distractions. You can then create different groups within this network for each training class or track. This makes it easy for students to post questions and find content based on how far along they are in their training.

Cons – If you do not invite the entire company to the network, your team’s visibility may be impacted. Some employees may not see the content in your external network.

YammerVersity: A case study

As you can see, there are pros and cons for creating a training university internally and externally. At Yammer, we chose to create an external network specifically for training. The internal Yammer network is flooded with around 17 thousand messages a week, which is very challenging for a new hire to navigate. With YammerVersity, we have created a private and secure environment for new hires to begin navigating Yammer, learning the company culture and completing their training. We are able to invite new hires into this separate external network, YammerVersity, prior to their start date so that they could start to casually internalize Yammer culture

When building YammerVersity, we first created groups around class offerings and topical training areas. Most groups are pretty straight-forward: “product knowledge” or “CSM Certification” while others are a bit more creative like our onboarding bootcamp we’ve named “YamCamp.” Next we seeded appropriate content into each group. Yammer allows you to upload files and add links allowing us to use training content we had already created. We were able to add the appropriate training materials to the corresponding group. That way, users have all the material they need to complete the training, right on Yammer.

A question that was asked many times at the ASTD TK12 event was whether we used a special version of Yammer to create YammerVersity. The answer is no. You can set your training university on Yammer today, either as a group within your existing network or as an external network. Yammer makes it easy to switch between your internal Yammer network and your external training university, and you can see notifications no matter what network you are on.

When setting up your training university you don’t need to recreate the wheel! Use it as an interactive portal for the content you already have, then build from there. Once we finished filling YammerVersity with our pre-existing content, we moved on to thinking of new ways to present new content to our employees. The first thing that popped into mind was to create a space for our internal Subject Matter Experts to share information with the company – so we create the SME-gasbord group! This group acts as our internal Youtube channel where we take quick videos (no more than 10 minutes long) of our SME outlining and explaining a topic. These videos then get posted to the SME-gasbord group, where that SME monitors the conversation for any questions that arise. Our employees can then quickly view the content and ask questions directly to the SME, which allows for complete understanding of the content. See here for an example:

You can also create fun groups within your training university! At Yammer, we created a book club. If your work force is geographically dispersed, this is a great way to connect everyone. Use Yammer polls to pick a book the group is going to read. Post questions in the group about the book and use yammer #topics to track each book. There are a lot of great ways to use Yammer to elevate programs you are currently running, like book clubs, and easily create new programs your students will be excited to join!

Now that you’ve seen how Yammer created our training university with an external network, we would love to hear your thoughts! Do you see this as a reality for your organization? What would you add to your training university?

Photo source: Leo Reynolds