Research question 1: Does using a microblog in the workplace allow employees to become more aware of what each other is doing?

If what a knowledge workers is doing became visible through microblogging by asking questions and answering Yammer’s question: “What are you working on?” it would highlight what kind of learning and performance support would be most appropriate in a given moment, considering the task at hand, in a way that has never been done before with previous technologies.

Before the research could focus on this first question, another question had to be answered and that is: How much do employees use Yammer to share information on what they are working on? Therefore understanding the landscape of uses across organizations was important to figure out how frequently users share what they are working on.

Participants were asked to share a typical, a good, and a bad experience they have had using Yammer. However, participants also shared a variety of experiences as part of answers to other questions. All experiences were coded as typical, good or bad.

Yammer Experiences

Figure 3: Yammer Experiences Mentioned by Participants: What people read about and post

Participants were also asked to rate how valuable they find the tool given their experiences on a 5-point scale: 1=not at all, 2=not very much, 3=somewhat, 4=very much, 5=extremely. Their experiences were analyzed and coded into a list of different types of uses. See the list of Yammer uses in Figure 3 and Table 10. The most frequently selected values are displayed in the star shapes.

Table 10: Yammer   Experiences Mentioned by Participants, What people read about and post Frequency Percent Value*
2. INTERESTING   INFORMATION (news, articles, events) 20 80% 5
3. WORK ACTIVITY 17 68% 5
3.1.   what a person/team is working on 16 64% 5
3.2.   meeting updates, follow ups 3 12% 3
4. KNOWLEDGE (tips,   best practices) 13 52% 5
5. OPINIONS 11 44% 4
5.1. feedback   on products and services 4 16% 5
5.2.   complaints 4 16% 3,5
5.3.   praise for a job well done 3 12% 4
6. REPORTS during a   real-time event 6 24% 5
7. LOCATIONS 3 12% 5
8.1.   personal information 2 8% 5
8.2.   jokes 1 4% 4
9. YAM JAM threads,   live chats 2 8% 4
10. INTERESTS,   opportunities people are seeking 1 4% 4
* The most frequent   (mode) value participants assigned to each type of experience: 1=not at all,   2=not very much, 3=somewhat, 4=very much, 5=extremely
Bold=Good and typical   experiences, Not Bold=Good but not typical experiences, Italics=Bad   experiences
Note: There weren’t   any typical experiences that weren’t also good experiences, in other words,   all typical experiences were also good experiences

Given that Yammer asks the question: What are you working on?, it was surprising that only 64% (16) people said they use the tool to share what they or their team is working on. In fact the tool is used by 84% (21) of participants to ask and answer questions and 80% (20) of participants use it to share interesting information such as industry news, articles, and/or events. However, participants noted using the tool for other types of activities such as posting meeting updates and follow ups. Since these activities will also result in uncovering what people are doing, they were grouped into an overall category named: work activity. Note however, that often asking a question about work might give away what employees are working on, and we shall see later on that many experiences shared did in fact reveal this information. However, questions and answers were not considered part of the work activity category because conceivably there could be questions that are not related to what a person is working on. The same could be said for the location category. When people share where they are, this also may uncover what they are doing; for example if the person is in sales, and they say they are at a product expo then we know they are selling. However, even if this is the case, the notion of sharing location was not included in what was considered: work activity because not all locations give away what a person is working on.

Interesting to note that only one type of bad experience was mentioned. This is because people only mentioned one type of bad experience in the context of an example. The reason may be that when people read status updates and don’t find anything meaningful to them, they may not remember or think of these “non-experiences” as a type of experience. However, participants did mention overall challenges to using Yammer, such as the “noise” factor, see Table 29: Challenges to Maximizing Yammer’s Value. In addition, during the interviews, people struggled to describe “typical” experiences but when asked about good experiences the stories flowed. It is also interesting that all the typical experiences mentioned were also good experiences. Based on this, it is enlightening to review how participants’ responded when asked how often they have good experiences versus bad experiences. Table 11 shows that 84% (21) of participants said they infrequently or never have bad experiences, but 52% (13) of participants said they sometimes have good experiences. So, while participants only shared 1 type of “bad experience” example, it is likely that there are other types of bad experiences as well but participants didn’t think of them during the interview.

Table 11: Frequency of Good + Bad Experiences Good Experiences Percent Bad Experiences Percent
Always 1 4% 1 4%
Frequently 8 32% 2 8%
Sometimes 13 52% 1 4%
Infrequently 3 12% 11 44%
Never 0 0% 10 40%

Now, let’s explore each use category to see what types of things people are posting and reading about and how many actually lead to a person knowing what another is working on to be able to provide learning and on the job support.

1. Questions and Answers

Participants, 84% (21), said they use Yammer to ask questions. It is important to notice from the quotes that when participants talked about asking questions, they referenced work-related questions, which, of course, help uncover what a person is working on:

We put a question out there, how do you do, who to call for X and we get an answer in minutes. I had a question about an IT issue and the contact in IT said ask Yammer and he got a response in 30 minutes.

Have we done anything for (company name) that uses business technology, or do we have any references in X sector who have used A technology?

One of the communications guys wanted to build a business case and he asked people how he can do that and posted on the microblog and people responded with their success stories.

I definitely reach out when I post questions, I am working on XYZ, what do you guys think of this idea/solution and they will respond, vice versa someone posted they are wanted to use a certain technology that they wanted to use for a client and I responded to let them know what I have experienced.

I yammered a question and someone piped up that one of our acquired companies uses this technology, so now we are putting together a plan to update the technology.

We have a lot of remote employees and the social platform replicates leaning over the cube and asking a question.

(Participant uses Yammer) If I have a question or a discussion topic that I don’t know who to email to.

2. Interesting Information (news, articles, events)

Participants, 80% (20), said they use Yammer to share interesting information, which is defined here as information shared that is not intended to help anyone directly with the task at hand, unlike the how to’s in the knowledge category. Quotes from participants:

For me it is like a newscast for my field…

I learned about a new technology through a link to an article that I have never seen before.

Half the time I want to share on yammer because it is information that is competitive and important for the group to know.

When we are doing research on client, we post and share.

It seems that sharing interesting information can be useful even though it doesn’t necessarily help uncover what people are doing, because it can effectively keep people updated on information that may somehow be relevant to them—to their jobs overall as demonstrated by the quotes above.

3.1. Work Activities: what a person/team is working on

When discussing their experiences, 64% (16) of participants said they use Yammer to share work activity updates describing what they are working on. Quotes from participants:

Very good for team building, I am noticing, you learn a lot about the work that people are doing that you would not know otherwise.

I frequently post updates on what the usability team is working on so people are aware and they can make use of the group, there is no other good channel to make people aware.

I think it has engaged our agents in a way that they have not been before; corporate leaders are able to see what agents are doing.

As we can see, participants did confirm that posting statuses about what people are working on, sheds light on information that was not previously visible through other methods/technologies. We will later explore if these messages resulted in learning and/or performance support.

3.2. Work Activities: meeting updates, follow ups

Yammer was used by 12% (3) of participants to share messages with meeting updates and follow ups. Quotes from participants:

After face-to-face meetings, we use Yammer to involve anyone who needs to be part of the follow up.

(Participant benefits from) Information people share that they got in meetings that I did not attend. Sharing relevant issues from meetings (is a benefit).

Meeting updates are work activity updates on projects, what was done, what needs to still be done and by whom. This information allows others to know what people are working on; therefore it is grouped in the work activity category.

4. Knowledge (tips, best practices, tools)

Participants, 52% (13), said they use Yammer to share knowledge such as tips, best practices, and tools—things that help people with their day-to-day work activities. The knowledge category is different from the interesting information category because in this case, the knowledge shared leads directly to learning and performance support opportunities and the intent people have when they share this kind of knowledge is to help others with certain tasks. Quotes from participants:

I read an outlook tip, a spontaneous tip… and the tip saves me in time for booking (meetings), but this happens all the time, at least one time a week; people give me an answer to a question I did not even know I had.

One gal that works in HR puts out career tips quite frequently which is awesome to have our HR people blogging and her message is to network and she gave us tips that I could use right away.

Somebody posted how you could do a video call with our VOIP messaging system with two people through a special trick–normally this is impossible–and I was very interested in the info even though I did not solicit it.

I have been looking for PM tools and people post links to things and tools that makes my job more efficient so that has been helpful in particular.

It (Yammer) gives our agents, who are technically not part of the organization, a way to communicate best practices back and forth.

When a colleague implemented a new feature in a software… I found out through Yammer.

As we can see from participant quotes above, this is valuable and actionable information, but it does not uncover what a person is currently working on.

5.1. Opinions: feedback on products and services

Sharing their feedback on products and services was a use mentioned by 16% (4) of participants. Quotes from participants:

We’ve just been rolling out windows 7 on a pilot basis and we are seeing a lot of good knowledge sharing on the good and bad is taking place in yammer and we are getting a lot of valuable feedback that we could not have gotten the other way which is the helpdesk system.

I am able to gauge people’s feelings about my internal products and services. I market internally to our employees. This really helps me in my role.

(Yammer) Gives us access to the voice of the (internal) customer that you may not get otherwise.

This category was very interesting as it emerged. The researcher never thought of Yammer as a tool that helps provide feedback on various things from internal customers, but as stated by a participant, it uncovers the unedited “voice of the customer.”

5.2. Opinions: complaints

When discussing their experiences, 16% (4) of participants said they use Yammer to share complaints and to vent frustrations. Quotes from participants:

Even for the people who are venting, to some extent, they are showing you things and perspectives you may not otherwise know and they are probably speaking in the name of others who are not.

We had a situation where I initiated a conversation, I wanted to know who was involved in a given project and someone jumped in and criticized the project and others ‘had their nose out of joint’ but from my perspective this was a good thing because we had a discussion we would have never normally had.

Interesting to note that participants mentioned the positives of a tool that allows people to vent and allows leadership a peak into what people are really thinking.

5.3. Opinions: praise for a job well done

Participants, 12% (3), said they use Yammer to give public praise for a job well done. Quotes from participants:

I typically use it to praise people about a job well done.

When does someone praise an internal tool without prompting? That means they have to be really impressed to actually put it into Yammer.

I write about success stories.

This is a very nice use for Yammer because employees can give, what is called a “shout out” and praise others in front of an audience of people who they might not feel comfortable emailing. It also assists with building morale.

6. Reports during a real-time event

Some participants, 24% (6), said they use Yammer to share reports on what is happening during a real-time event. Quotes from participants:

We can see things are going on in the city such as a student march/demonstrations or special events and we can report on it to each other really quickly and real time; it is useful for the people working out on the street.

A savings or ROI is when a person goes to a conference, but if you make it a requirement for the person to blog while they are there, that knowledge gets shared immediately.

We had a building collapse in (city name), no one knew about it until people logged in (to Yammer). (The microblog is) A great way to submit information and notify people when you don’t have access to a PC.

While reporting what is happening doesn’t lead to performance support, it does lead to effective real-time communication and may lead to assisting people overall.

7. Locations

Using Yammer to share their locations was mentioned by 12% (3) of participants. Quotes from participants:

We have a lot of people in marketing who post about events on behalf of the company and post where they are at what trade show and I will suggest great ideas of how to talk to people about our products (participant has insight from a trainer perspective).

Sometimes I let them (the group) know things like I am working from home; many updates are about where I am today and what I am doing.

This is another interesting category because in some cases, such as the example illustrated by the first quote above, sharing a person’s location does sometimes provide enough information for others to provide them with performance support. However, this is not always the case.

8.1. Non-work-related information: personal information

Sharing personal information was only mentioned by 8% (2) of participants. Quotes from participants:

People also share personal information which also leads to team building.

First intros to people in the company happened through yammer and it let people know who I am personality-wise very quickly, got to know the CEO really well before I even had my first lunch with him through Yammer.

From this researcher’s experience in talking with corporate leaders and advocating for the use of social media tools like Yammer, she has observed that most corporate leaders do not find value in using the tool to share personal information. However, it is interesting to think of this functionality the way some participants explained, that sharing personal information leads to making better connections with colleagues which ultimately leads to team building or in the least, a stronger connection to colleagues and therefore to the organization.

8.2. Non-work-related information: jokes

When discussing their experiences, 4% (1) of participants said they use Yammer to share jokes. Humor posts are in the same category as sharing personal information because they are both primarily non-work-related content. Jokes may not help with work activities but they do provide some occasional levity that helps reduce stress during a time when most employees are doing the jobs of many.

9. Yam Jam threads, live chats

Yam Jams are live chats orchestrated through Yammer. It is interesting that 8% (2) of participants said they use the tool this way because Yammer was never meant to replace live chat. Quote from participant:

I actually got my CFO with the company to have her own personal Yam Jam so I had a Jam on diversity and inclusion; we have a diversity and inclusion champion group. The CFO had a really fun time doing the Yam Jam and she shared a ton of info about what is going on with the company.

However as illustrated by the quote, it is a great way for senior leaders to connect with employees more directly and more personally than a presentation would allow because participants can respond right to the leader and are expected to do so. Conversely during in person senior leader presentations, it is usually a select few who are courageous enough to raise their hand and ask a question. This is not to say that the tool is better than other forms of communication, but it certainly does open up another avenue.

10. Interests, opportunities people are seeking

When discussing their experiences, 4% (1) of participants said they use Yammer to share their interests, opportunities they are seeking. Quote from participant:

We had a person in industry marketing, who is in another country, who I don’t run into frequently, and he posted about mobile projects he wants to work on. We got into a discussion and now we are working on pilot projects that probably would not have happened had we not been using the microblog.

The above example illustrates something very interesting, that the tool can be used to find opportunities, just as Twitter, the public microblog, is used to advertise jobs, through Yammer, this participants found himself/herself advertising what he/she want to work on and made a match.

Getting back to: 1. research question: Does using a microblog in the workplace allow employees to become more aware of what each other is doing?

In addition to the information uncovered through Critical Incident Technique questions summarized in the Yammer Experiences section, the researcher also asked participants a very direct question: Has using Yammer changed your level of awareness with regards to what your colleagues are doing? Table 12 details their responses. As we can see, 60% (15) of participants thought Yammer has either changed their level of awareness with regards to what their colleagues are doing either very much or extremely.

Table 12: Changed level of awareness regarding what colleagues are doing Frequency Percent
Not at all 0 0%
Not very much 3 12%
Somewhat 7 28%
Very much 5 20%
Extremely 10 40%

 This is a section of a research study, to read more, go to the Table of Contents.