Yammer: Tower Of Babble For Private vs Public Engagement?

In the world of Web 2.0, while corporations have struggled with just how much social media their employees should be allowed to engage in, opinions differ widely as to its usage. From strict guidelines that prohibit using Facebook, Twitter, G+ or even LinkedIn at all in the workplace, to companies like Zappos that encourage their employees to become company advocates and engage to their heart's content, there a wide range of human resource policies that address the issue differently.

Remember the Intranets?

The growing trend today is to move from the 'public' social networking sites to platforms that are built for private enterprise engagement. It's been reported that over 200,000 companies around the world use Yammer as their internal networking platform, including the likes of British Airways, Shell, DHL, eBay and many more. In fact, one stat indicates that over 85% of Fortune 500 companies make use of the platform. 

Corporations gravitated toward the installation of 'intranets' back at the turn of the Century, where a specialized private enterprise website was designed for employees to use separate from the 'maddening crowds' of the Internet. Like the Web, a business intranet was a tool for communication with capabilities that featured directories of employees, daily events, bulletin boards, chat rooms, breaking news alerts and organizational newsletters and updates. But unlike the larger Internet's global reach, the focus of an intranet stayed strictly local to the needs of the business it served. Yammer have evolved similarly.

Yammering is added to our Lexicon

It builds off of the intranet premise. It's a private enterprise version of a social network. Like intranets that replicated the Internet for smaller group activity, Yammer does the same on a social media playing field. In so doing, it allows for collaboration amongst employees to communicate across departments, locations, apps and devices.

With Yammer, employees can engage with fellow colleagues by sending instant messaging, posting on the company-wide social networking feed, conducting meetings within groups and so forth. And like the intranet that went before, all of this and more is obtainable, away from the public purview.

Oddly, the choice of the name, "Yammer" implies according to the Urban Dictionary as that which is "spoken incessantly about nothing" and infers to 'babble' or to utter "an incompressible stream of words."

Microsoft needed to get Social

Some criticized Microsoft in lacking the social media gene, since so many of its other tech giant competitors had joined the game long before, including even Google's many stop-and-go failures along the way. However, since Microsoft's acquisition of the company in 2012 for $1.2 billion, many critics now feel that the type of enterprise social networking they latched onto is not delivering genuine value for small businesses or large companies. Some have gone as far to say social business tools like Yammer "are not living up to their hype or potential."

Breaking Old Habits

One of the early issues that arose with the use of Yammer was a common cultural challenge most companies faced when moving to a social system . . . that is, trying to get people to move certain tasks off their old security blanket -- email.

That was and continues to be an internal public relations' challenge, as it takes a lot of communication at the gate to convince employees they need to gravitate to a new tool and make it part of their natural workflow.

For companies that still feel that social media equates to unproductive employees, Yammer is going to come in very low on their priority list. After all, it's hard to sell effectiveness and efficiency, the intangible fruits of social computing, particularly when they might view Facebook and Twitter engagement as a waste of time. Management that think quantitatively are going to have a difficult time understanding the qualitative arguments. Add the perception of everyone talking on top of each other, and it's easy to understand why there might not be a buy-in by a company president of CIO at the onset.

Benefitting from the Virtual Water Cooler

Like gathering at the old school water cooler of the past, Yammer should be the perfect place for employees to whine about one's workload or to derive empathy from a fellow colleague. But is it? Yes and no. If you're diplomatic, those types of outbursts even in the real world are frowned upon. They are usually deemed counter-productive. However when you're honestly seeking resolutions for your problems from your fellow employees and colleagues, that's when you can begin to benefit from Yammer.

For example, Deloitte Australia used Yammer to leverage creativity amongst its employees. Case in point, – sourcing for their new marketing tagline. Once an announcement was posted to the company-wide bulletin feed, within 24 hours, they obtained over 1400 suggestions. This enabled them to do away with expensive and tedious paper work and vitually eliminated the need to contract with a marketing agency to create this type of ad copy.

Taking the Temperature of the Room

Another company used Yammer to continually monitor employee sentiment. The tech startup Kanjoya developed a software program called 'Crane.' Its name conjures up the image of bosses craning their collective necks to see if their subordinates felt sad or happy - which, in essence was exactly what the program was designed to do.

Kanjoya then partnered with Yammer to develop the program. The subsequent process of how it works looks like this: Crane reads employees messages on Yammer, analyzes them for emotional sentiment, and displays the prevailing mood around the office on various topics to managers in real-time, right on their computer screens, as PC World described it.

While perhaps not an initiative for everyone, managers using Yammer and Crane can easily assess morale at any time of the day. All they have to do is open a web browser to learn which of 85 emotions are "trending" at the moment in their office. (Thankfully, groups of workers, not individuals, are tracked.)

Babel or Aloofness?

While such private enterprise social networks like Yammer are criticized for the 'talking head' component,' one other consideration companies might need to address -- before drinking the cool-aid -- is the gulf that sometimes exist between employees and their hands-off bosses.

Similar to the irony as to how public social networks like Facebook and Twitter connects us online at the same time they make many of us less social in real-life - the same dynamic could occur in a Yammer-sphere work environment.

While Yammer's goal is keep employees connected to their fellow coworkers, could it potentially allow the management staff of an organization to become more aloof - and less interactive with their staff? It's a question that's been asked and will need more case study investigation to determine how to overcome. Your thoughts, readers? Especially would like to hear from those who've been yammering at your workplace for a while. Please leave comments below as to your positive and/or less-than-positive experiences.

May 19, 2014
by Anonymous

Yammer is first generation

Yammer is first generation ESN. It sucks even free second generations ESNs, like Bitrix24 are much better (B24=Yammer+Skype+Dropbox+Basecamp.