Yammer – don’t worry about it, just do it

About three months ago we took the decision to introduce Yammer across Wakefield Council. A few of us had tried it out for a while, and once we’d convinced colleagues that there were genuine benefits and that using it wouldn’t lead to widespread negativity it was launched to the rest of the staff with online access.

For those who haven’t used it, Yammer is a free to use internal social network, that in our case only those whose email address ends in @wakefield.gov.uk can use. If you research it you’ll be told of numerous professional benefits, including sharing links, requesting answers to work issues, and bringing people together who don’t normally get to see each other.

These are all true, but so far it is probably the latter that has been most prominent on a professional level, with almost 800 people signing up and joining numerous groups on the network set up by colleagues. The groups have included communications, leisure, public health, and libraries, in other words mostly following service area lines, as you might expect at first.

Whilst an impressive number have joined, I think many have subscribed out of curiosity and are still waiting to see how it might benefit them. We have deliberately offered limited guidance on how to use Yammer, just enough to get people started, as we wanted to see what people would do themselves once they’d signed up.

The results have been fascinating, and with each passing week more varied posts are appearing. But although there have been many topics and events discussed in impressive depth, including public health, car parking, Christmas lights, joining the new library and much more, it is the social element that has most caught my eye.

In the short time that we’ve had Yammer, the most used discussion group has been around cycling, both cycling to work and in people’s own time, and a work based running club has also emerged. Born from Yammer, runners who are mostly based in our new building Wakefield One, now meet once a week after work to go for a run, which is just fantastic.

Bringing 1,100 staff into a new building where previously they had been in different buildings has helped, but the fact that Yammer is bringing people together both virtually and in person is a real benefit.

We’re still new to Yammer so no doubt there’s much more we will learn from each other, but I think we’ve made a good start. Hopefully people will continue to join and find what they are looking for, and hopefully they’ll be even more interaction.

If you haven’t yet tried Yammer because you’re worried it might lead to one big online argument or a barrage of critical comments, give it a go. It doesn’t work out like that at all. It is a simple yet effective way of bringing people together to help each other out through an online conversation, and in some cases bringing them together face to face to socialise. You can’t argue with either of those.


16 Responses to Yammer – don’t worry about it, just do it

  1. Great little case study, Simon.

    The inevitable question: the reaction from your friendly neighbour ICT team?

    We’ve tried this only to fall foul of the worries that we might compromise IT security, data protection and the office milk money. Jury is still out.

    • Simon Hope says:

      We didn’t get that type of response at all, as it’s a web based system it doesn’t compromise security. The main thing we discussed with ICT was how Yammer and Sharepoint, which some but not all colleagues have, would co-exist. But as Microsoft has now bought Yammer we should be able to bring the two together nicely in future.

  2. We introduced Yammer “bottom up” some two years ago. It spiked in terms of use to start with and then petered out. This is probably more a cultural thing with our organisation and people not feeling confident posting. With all social networks … how do you move it from the few people that are bound to post anyway to something that feels more inclusive? They who shout always shout.

    • Simon Hope says:

      We’ve had a substantial number of people sign up, but there is a hard core of regular users. We also have a historical cultural issue to address in terms of getting people to interact, but hopefully Yammer will help. It’s still very early days for us, but there are some promising signs.

  3. Alan says:

    We also introduced it “bottom up” and the membership has been steadily growing, though very few people actually post. I think there are two things going on: we have a culture of fear around internet use because of oppressive IT auditing, and it’s difficult for many to make the transition from consumer to contributor. Most people just lurk, or say they haven’t got time. However, I think it’s only a matter of time before more people jump in with both feet rather than just dipping their toes in.

  4. croperscc says:

    This is interesting stuff – we considered the free version of Yammer for our organisation but discounted it on the basis that it doesn’t allow any administration (eg, deleting inappropriate posts and housekeeping – or removing users who have left). Is this something that you haven’t found to be an issue?
    Have you done anything to stimulate discussion or just left to gro ‘organically?

    • We haven’t had a housekeeping issue, and if there were inappropriate comments we would have to rely on author removing them after being asked to.

      As for discussion stimulation, we occasionally try it, but with no great effect. The best subjects come from users themselves. Discussion and interaction could be more extensive, but it is early days.

  5. Simon, thank you for sharing your Yammer story. I love the headline of this post — got me excited to read. It’s refreshing to hear someone not afraid to dive in head first into enterprise social! Best of luck as you continue your journey!

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