Rose Nyameke wondered what would happen to her when, on June 22, a Presidential Proclamation in the United States placed new restrictions on visa holders living and working in the country.
Rather than get caught up in politicized social media and news coverage, the Microsoft data and applied scientist turned inward for information, joining the company’s US Immigration Yammer community so she could stay up-to-date on immigration policies and changes.
“The Yammer community offers a central place for employees like me to ask immigration questions and be reminded that we’re not alone,” Nyameke says. “I use it to navigate the immigration landscape and if these policies impact my ability to go back home to Ghana.”
At this juncture in our nation’s history, it’s a challenging time to be navigating the immigration system. Yammer has been an indispensable tool to get in touch with employees at a moment’s notice.
– Ivan Ariza, attorney manager in Microsoft Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs
Managed by attorneys and immigration specialists, the US Immigration Yammer community supports employees on work visas at Microsoft on their immigration journey by answering questions and sharing updates on important immigration developments.
“At this juncture in our nation’s history, it’s a challenging time to be navigating the immigration system,” says Ivan Ariza, an attorney manager in Microsoft Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs (CELA) who responds to employee questions in the Yammer community. “Yammer has been an indispensable tool to get in touch with employees at a moment’s notice.”
While waiting for the official news on Presidential Proclamation 10052, which restricted certain people with an H, L, or J visa from entering or returning to the US, Nyameke recalls feeling emotionally exhausted trying to separate the signal from the noise. She decided to uninstall the news and social media applications on her phone.
“I waited for Jack and his team to post about the impact of the executive order,” Nyameke says. “The Yammer community was my first source of information.”
Jack Chen, an associate general counsel in CELA who leads the US Immigration team, posted the initial guidance about Presidential Proclamation 10052 within 15 minutes of its release. As an open Yammer community, any employee in the company could find this information, member or not. More than 4,000 employees viewed that post, which some of the 2,500 members of the community and employees had found on their own. Ninety-six percent of the Yammer community members engaged with the post by reading, liking, commenting, or sharing it. Engagement by both community members and others rose dramatically as employees sought trustworthy information about what to do next.
“The number of views and responses is a testament to the fact that Jack and his team are in tune with our needs and anticipating the questions we will ask,” Nyameke says. “I appreciated that he took the extra step to make employees feel like the company had their back.”
Chen says his tone in the Yammer community has become more personal and empathetic.
“We’re in this line of work because we care about the people we support, and I try to let people know that through our words and actions,” Chen says. “It guides how we communicate on Yammer. Our empathy is genuine.”
[Read about the seven factors for successfully running a Yammer community at Microsoft. Check out how Microsoft enables its employees to innovate, create, and seamlessly collaborate with other teams.]
Keeping up with the changing landscape of US immigration
Before using Yammer, Chen and his team primarily responded to individual emails to answer employee questions. Although one-on-one communication is still necessary for individual guidance, reaching the entire community with agility and timely information can be crucial to addressing uncertainty and anxiety.
“Our team recognizes that US immigration policies not only impact the trajectory of our employees’ lives, but also their families’ lives, potentially for generations,” Chen says. “When sudden changes happen, it’s imperative that we provide clarity to our employees and share how we’ll support them on issues that impact their future.”
It’s great to have an official forum to disseminate critical information at a time when people desperately need it. Having open lines of communication has value that can’t be measured in dollars and cents or minutes saved.
– Frank Delia, senior program manager in Microsoft Digital
Chen and his team focus on being trustworthy, reliable, and customer-centric while supporting employees on their immigration journey in real time, and Frank Delia says that Yammer is a great tool to support this.
“It’s great to have an official forum to disseminate critical information at a time when people desperately need it,” says Delia, a senior program manager in Microsoft Digital who manages capabilities and guidance for Yammer communities. “Having open lines of communication has value that can’t be measured in dollars and cents or minutes saved.”
Recently, Chen posted another important update about potential changes involving US Citizenship and Immigration Services. More than 500 employees viewed the post within the first three minutes.
“The exponential growth in membership and engagement indicates that employees are getting value from it,” Ariza says. “We hope that more visa-dependent employees join the community as time goes on, but what’s most important is that employees can find the information they need.”
Chen, Ariza, and their team in CELA also use Yammer features like surfacing the most relevant information by pinning a post or consolidating concurrent conversations by closing threads and redirecting people to a single discussion post.
Other community members like Nyameke have been sharing their knowledge as well. When Nyameke sees an employee question that had been answered before, she’ll reply and link to previous posts from Chen and his team.
“I’ve been in the United States for 10 years, and I understand the anxiety of navigating changing immigration policies and requirements,” Nyameke says. “I try to resurface existing posts because that information has been verified by Jack and his team. Not everyone can stay on top of the stream of information, so it’s great to see others link back to previous content as well.”
Chen’s team appreciates the contributions of community members like Nyameke. “Rose is simply incredible,” Chen says. “She goes out of her way to help her colleagues through the platform, and her memory and grasp of the content are remarkable.”
The power of listening and empathy in a Yammer community
Delia encourages other teams and enterprises who manage Yammer communities to remember the power of empathy when communicating with users at scale.
“Jack and his team’s goals in this Yammer community have evolved over time to focus on being more empathetic,” Delia says. “Your community’s goals can directly affect the activities you choose to focus on, which could include hosting monthly Q&As, response language and time, automating answers to frequently asked questions, or pinning relevant resources.”
As an active user in this Yammer community, Nyameke agrees.
“Instead of just presenting the facts, the team acknowledges that the immigration process can be stressful and confusing to navigate,” Nyameke says. “They recognize that immigration policies are important to our livelihood and our ability to make long-term investments, which says a lot about them.”
Our [Yammer community’s] goal evolved from simply gathering questions, to improving the employee experience, and then to becoming a deeply trusted community for the clearest and most responsive information and facts.
– Jack Chen, associate general counsel in Microsoft Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs
Delia encourages teams running Yammer communities to set clear expectations about the goal of the community and ensure that your strategy aligns with it. This includes being clear on how long it will take for community managers to respond and what kind of information will be shared.
It’s equally important to listen to your community members.
“Our goal evolved from simply gathering questions, to improving the employee experience, and then to becoming a deeply trusted community for the clearest and most responsive information and facts,” Chen says. “We’ve made important strides, but our learning and improvement are ongoing. Curate a platform for the community, and your members will give feedback on the adjustments they need.”
Yammer communities also generate Microsoft Power BI reports with analytics about engagement, membership rates, and the average response time to posts. Chen and his team plan to use this data to guide the future development of the US Immigration Yammer community.
Ultimately, Chen and his team will continue to support the growing Yammer community, and he knows that the community members will support each other too.
“These are stressful times for people in the immigration process, and our team has the privilege of providing support for that part of their personal journey,” Chen says. “Tools like Yammer have helped us drive a modern digital transformation strategy, which has empowered us to make a bigger impact for our company and its most valuable asset—our people.”