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HR Guide to Using Yammer to Stay in Touch with Employees and Colleagues

August 30, 2009

Last Friday, I posted about collaboration and how we can use social media to encourage it.  Today I’d like to talk about a way I am taking my own challenge of trying something new.  I’m exploring ways to use microblogging to collaborate with my colleagues. 

One challenge I face in my job as a regional HR director supporting multiple offices/regions is staying “in touch” with what employees are working on.  Recently, I signed up for Yammer and I am already finding it beneficial in keeping me connected. Yammer

What is Yammer?  Yammer is a free social networking service based on employees’ answers to the question: “What are you working on?”  It is similar to Twitter in that you have 140 characters to give your answer, you can @ message specific followers, and you can use hashtags.  One interesting feature I have not used personally but I look forward to using is sharing attachments.  Yammer differs from Twitter in that it is designed to connect you only to people within your company.  It checks this by ensuring that each member of the company “group” has an email address for that specific company.  This is what makes it secure from other companies seeing what is being said or worked on within your company.

When I first signed up, my thought was to use this to stay connected with the employees I support.  After exploring and playing on Yammer, I learned that you can set up private groups that are accessed by invitation only.  I think this may be a good way for our human resources department to start using the site for our non-confidential internal communication.  We’ll be able to search through recent topics to see the progress on the various HR projects.  We can also give updates on deadlines, ask for input from colleagues, and much more.

I’ll see how this works and report back in several weeks.  In the meantime, if you are using Yammer and have any tips and tricks, be sure to post them for me in the comments.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2009 9:17 am

    Trish – I have used Yammer in three different contexts with varying degrees of success. I used a Yammer group for my students in one class to try and get them familiar with microblogging in a ‘private’ environment. As you said, the ability to create a private, password-protected group was key to support this use. Some students definitely did use the tool beyond the ‘required’ use in the course, and one did eventually introduce Yammer to her HR department in her company.
    I did try and get two or three HR folks in my college engaged on Yammer and have had very little success. The HR team is not at all ready or willing to embrace this form of communication, which is surprising to me in that they make extensive use of Instant Messaging today. There are many interesting use cases for Yammer for HR, ranging from simple status updates, ‘claiming’ of questions posed by employees, group discussions, and true sharing of files, images and other data without more e-mail clutter. But it will definitely require putting in the time to explain the tool, demonstrate some potential beneficial uses, and win over an influential champion or two, or I think you will find most folks will retreat back to e-mail or IM.
    Lastly, I did introduce Yammer to a technical group that has had a long standing problem with collaboration and cohesiveness. The people in this group tend to work on individual projects, and do not typically collaborate on their day to day tasks. Since Yammer was rolled out, the actual work processes really have not changed all that much, the nature and organization of the work is the same, and the presence and availability of Yammer has not really influenced this group at all. To me, the lesson is a technology by itself is not enough to effect meaningful change, there needs to be other, organizational drivers to make the change compelling. Sorry for the long comment, very interested to hear how your pilot turns out.

    • August 30, 2009 9:47 am

      @Steve- Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting that there were varying levels of use/interest depending on the group. I’m hoping that because my work environment wants us to embrace digital tools (and they specifically mention Yammer) that my HR group may be one to pull this off and really use it. Many of our employees use this to varying degrees, just not HR. I’ll definitely report back on whether it’s embraced or not.
      One interesting comment I received on Twitter was that it was working in a company until the exec team signed on, then participation dropped significantly. I’m keeping that in mind. Could present a challenge.

  2. August 30, 2009 9:45 am

    This is the first time I’ve really heard about Yammer in any detailed context. I will be checking it out as well per your recommendation. The benefits sound enticing. However, when I worked for a software development company we utilized Google Talk rather than Yammer. You have the option to have chats “off-record” and it doesn’t store anything anywhere like AOL Instant Messenger. Although that is a pro is most cases it proved to be detrimental in others when you could have used what was said in chat for various HR causes, etc. I’m excited to try Yammer out and see how it differs, the pros/cons, etc. Hope you post a follow up!

    • September 1, 2009 9:46 am

      @Stephen- I’ll definitely post a follow up. I already have 7 HR people in my department trying out Yammer in a private group setting. We’ll see how it goes for a few weeks and I’ll report back. Thanks for the comment.

      @TechWeb- I haven’t heard of Present.ly but I will check it out too. It makes sense to have a strategy about how to use the tool and if it could be customized it would be that much better. Thanks for the comment and recommendation.

  3. TechWeb permalink
    August 30, 2009 9:50 am

    Great comment Steve. We had very similar problems while implementing an enterprise social media/microblogging tool in our offices.

    What we ended up doing is we decided to go with Present.ly – this application is from Intridea, which is like a one-stop shop. They have services and strategy divisions in addition to application development, so they were very helpful when we needed strategic advice, and when we wanted to customize the tool based on our stategic needs.

    I think our experience was that technology by itself is not enough to create the impact you want to it create (like you said). Strategy and possibly customization is a must.

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  1. HR Guide to Using Yammer to Stay in Touch with Employees and Colleagues « HR Ringleader’s Blog
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