Research question 2: Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs?

Before answering this question, the researcher first had to verify that participants do in fact reach out and make contact because of various posts. The interviewer asked: Have you ever reached out to someone because of their status message, or has someone ever reached out to you because of your status message Table 13 shows that 96% (24) said “yes.”

Table 13: Made contact   because of a message Frequency Percent
Yes 24 96%
No 1 4%

The one participant, who said no, works in an organization of 90,000 people and explains his/her answer:

I do not really reach out, many things out there are not relevant to me, it is not relevant because there are not a lot of folks on it who do the work that I do.

The next question to answer then is for the 96% (24) of participants who did interact, was: How did the interaction take place?

Interactions Because of Yammer

It was surprising that only 8% (2) participants had an interaction due to a work activity message. While it makes sense that submitting a question would be the number one reason with 75% (18), it is interesting that sharing interesting information comes in second with 17% (4), see Table 14.

Table 14: What Prompted Participants’   interactions Frequency Percent
submitting a question 18 75%
sharing interesting information 4 17%
sharing knowledge 3 13%
sharing a work activity 2 8%
sharing a location 2 8%
sharing an interest 1 4%

Let’s review each category to explore how the interactions came about. Notice that many of the participants related their interactions to work.

1.      Submitting a question

When asked what prompted their interactions on or because of Yammer, 75% (18) of participants answered that the catalyst was submitting a question. Quote from participant:

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.

2.      Sharing interesting information

When asked what prompted their interactions on or because of Yammer, 17% (4) of participants answered that the catalyst was sharing interesting information. Quotes from participants:

I would post something on a topic and someone would reach out and ask for more information; there was an instance where through connecting with yammer I was able to get a resource to work on a project together.

Typically I share news and knowledge, links and articles, organizational news. Sometimes it starts discussions or people use it in their work. I know people use the information because of their replies and I can see it in their work.

3.      Sharing knowledge

When asked what prompted their interactions on or because of Yammer, 13% (3) of participants answered that the catalyst was sharing knowledge in the form of tips or best practices. Quotes from participants:

We had a software engineer post a link to an article and it was about a way to encrypt info on a personal laptop…it sparked a bunch of conversation with other engineers about best practices and what is acceptable in terms of protecting company IP. The conversation spanned globally and cross functionally. That could only happen on a microblog community.

I contribute tips and people reach out to me, or I reach out because of a tip.

4.      Sharing a work activity

When asked what prompted their interactions on or because of Yammer, 8% (2) of participants answered that the catalyst was sharing their work activity. This was a very surprising finding because it fundamentally went against part of the hypothesis that sharing work activity updates prompted people to connect with each other, interact and assist with the work at hand. Quotes from participants:

Someone did an implementation in… and because of their update I called to speak with them because it was something similar to what we are trying to do.

I am working on XYZ, what do you guys think of this idea/solution and they will respond, vice versa.

5.      Sharing a location

When asked what prompted their interactions on or because of Yammer, 8% (2) of participants answered that the catalyst was sharing their location. Quote from participant:

We have a lot of people in marketing who post about …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).

6.      Sharing an interest

When asked what prompted their interactions on or because of Yammer, 4% (1) of participants answered that the catalyst was sharing their interest. Quote from participant:

We had a person in industry marketing who is in another country and I don’t run into frequently and he posted about mobile projects he wants to work on and 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.

Building on the information we already know, one would naturally want to know: How relevant was this information to what they were working on at the time—the task at hand? As we can see in Table 15, 71% (17) of participants said that they reached out because the post was very much or extremely relevant to the task they were working on at the time.

Table 15: If reached   out, how relevant was info? Frequency Percent
Not at all 2 8%
Not very much 1 4%
Somewhat 5 21%
Very much 8 33%
Extremely 9 38%

Of the participants who reached out, but not because the post was relevant to the task at hand, said:

I use Yammer as a way to share information with my colleagues and that could be scientific articles or a blog I read or anything. If something grabs my attention I will reach out to the person; 80% of my involvement is me sharing with others, versus commenting on others. Our network is a lot of people sharing a lot of stuff.

How much did participants value the interaction? Amazing to see that 100% (24) of the 24 participants who said they reached out, said they valued the interaction either very much or extremely, see Table 16. One participant said he/she did not reach out at all and therefore did not answer this question.

Table 16: If reached out, how valuable was interaction? Frequency Percent
Not at all 0 0%
Not very much 0 0%
Somewhat 0 0%
Very much 12 50%
Extremely 12 50%

How often does this happen? 55% (13) said frequently and always as depicted by Table 17.

Table 17: How often   reached out because of post Frequency Percent
Never 1 4%
Infrequently 5 21%
Sometimes 6 25%
Frequently 10 42%
Always 3 13%

Now that we know how beneficial it is when participants read posts and reach out and interact with each other, the researcher asked: Have you ever benefitted from reading a status updates that did not result in you reaching out to a colleague or a colleague reaching out to you? The answer was unanimously “yes” as depicted by Table 18.

Table 18: Benefitted   from  update but did not reach out? Frequency Percent
Yes 25 100%
No 0 0%

Naturally the next question would be: How relevant was this information to what you were working on at the time—the task at hand? Table 19 shows that most, 56% (14) participants selected very much or extremely.

Table 19: Benefitted from   update, but did not reach, how relevant was info? Frequency Percent
Not at all 1 4%
Not very much 3 12%
Somewhat 7 28%
Very much 10 40%
Extremely 4 16%

The goal of the next question was to find out how much they valued the information. It makes sense that 80% (20) of participants said that if they benefitted from a status update, they either very much or extremely valued the information (Table 20).

Table 20: If benefitted from update but did not reach out, how valuable was info? Frequency Percent
Not at all 0 0%
Not very much 0 0%
Somewhat 5 20%
Very much 14 56%
Extremely 6 24%

It was interesting to find the answer to this question: How often does this happen? As we can see in Table 21, 64% (16) of participants said this happens either frequently or always.

Table 21: How often does this happen? (benefitted from reading message but did not reach out) Frequency Percent
Never 0 0%
Infrequently 3 12%
Sometimes 6 24%
Frequently 10 40%
Always 6 24%

How Did Participants Find Posts that Grabbed their Attention?

How did people come across either type of post, the ones that prompted them to reach out and also the ones that did not prompt them to reach out? All 100% (25) of participants said they simply stumbled upon them, many said the tool’s desktop version flashed up the posts, and others read posts through the email generated by Yammer (email settings can be changed). No one said they searched, 24% (6) mentioned they use groups and 20% (5) mentioned that they tag posts to help filter the information.

Results of Using Yammer

Based on the interviews, 60% (15) of participants said they made connections through the use of Yammer that they believe may not have happened otherwise, only 36% (9) gave examples where they explicitly said they learned something new, and finally 88% (22) gave examples of receiving assistance with work.

Table 22: Results of Using Yammer Mentioned by Participants Frequency Percent
made connections that may not have happened otherwise 15 60%
learned something new 9 36%
received assistance with work 22 88%

1.      Made connections that may not have happened otherwise

When discussing their experiences, 60% (15) of participants said Yammer’s ability to bring people together, who, they say, would never have otherwise met, is a powerful function in building new connections in a community. Notice how interesting it is that so many of the quotes below discuss the positive effects on work because of making a new connection. Quotes from participants:

People who come together may never have met each other any other way. Main uses of Yammer are to bring people together.

(Someone posts) ‘I am going to this and this customer, who has had exposure to…?’ and then suddenly two people are connected who were never connected before who were working with the same customer (but never knew it).

People also ask questions and get answers–these people may not normally have interaction with each other so we use it as a quick help point–it is a quite good support system where people from across the authority can jump in and help each other out.

There are times when I have developed a relationship with someone who I don’t work with but then months later I have something that person can help me with and I know exactly who to go to and that relationship is already established. So months down the road the tool can be useful.

2.      Learned something new

The “learned something new” category was only applied to examples where 36% (9) of participants specifically mentioned or alluded to learning something new. That is not to say that they did not learn in many other cases. For example, if a person is receiving assistance with their work, it is not likely that they are not learning something from that interaction. However, this was not automatically assumed because some assistance might mean the colleague gets something done without their coworker learning from it. For example, someone can assist a colleague by just doing that task versus teaching them how to do it. Quotes from participants:

When I had one little error message that I needed to have translated into French and German, I posted a message on the microblog and I got an answer back with the translated text; I had what I needed and I learned something new.

Some people post statistics or interactions that I don’t respond to but I read them and learn a lot about the industries that I wouldn’t learn otherwise and it helps me out in my line of work.

People may take the conversation to a conference room and the learning may happen in person but the connection is made via Yammer. Yammer may lead to learning, help organize around learning.

Interesting to note that in all the quotes above, participants related their learning to work benefits.

3.      Received assistance with work

When asked about their experiences, 88% (22) of participants cited an example where they received assistance with work. Quotes from participants:

When someone posts news of what is happening in an industry it is because it is something we have not heard of previously, so I always find out new things about the industry and companies which help me prospect.

We are developing some mobile sites for one of our clients, I found a 10 things to keep in mind while developing a mobile site and I posted it and my team read it that morning and were able to defend the design to clients and able to point to Jacob Nielson. It gave them a last minute justification for their design.

(Participant was) Stuck on a coding issue and was able to send out a yammer and all sorts of people including the CTO and CEO were able to respond.

Someone posted that they wanted to use a certain technology for a client and I responded to let them know what I have experienced.

Finally, participants were directly asked to reflect in their learning and development, and effectiveness and efficiency: In general, if you think about all the times someone has reached out to offer a helping hand, or you read a status message that helped you with the work at hand, how much has using Yammer contributed to your learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) Table 23 displays the results of this question and depicts that 44% recognized that they learned a lot by selecting 4 and 5.

Table 23: Contribution   to learning and development (scale: 1-5, 5=greatest contribution) Frequency Percent
1 0 0%
2 7 28%
3 7 28%
4 7 28%
5 4 16%

The same question was asked regarding effectiveness and efficiency and Table 24 shows that 40% (10) of participants selected 4 or 5, out of 5, indicating that they did feel that Yammer contributed a great deal to their effectiveness and efficiency.

Table 24: Contribution   to effectiveness and efficiency (scale: 1-5, 5=greatest contribution) Frequency Percent
1 1 4%
2 6 24%
3 8 32%
4 9 36%
5 1 4%

The same question was then asked of managers, to reflect on what they perceive to be Yammer’s contributions to their teams learning and development, and effectiveness and efficiency. Table 25 shows that 20% (5) participants selected 3 out of 5 in terms of how much Yammer has contributed to their team’s learning and development.

Table 25: Contribution   to team’s learning/development (scale: 1-5, 5=greatest contribution) Frequency Percent
1 0 0%
2 3 12%
3 5 20%
4 2 8%
5 1 4%

Table 26 indicates that 20% (5) of participants selected a 2 out of 5, for how much they felt Yammer contributed to their team’s effectiveness and efficiency. Interesting to note that participants who were individual contributors tended to select 4 as an answer to this question.

Table 26: Contribution   to team’s effectiveness/efficiency (scale: 1-5, 5=greatest contribution) Frequency Percent
1 0 0%
2 5 20%
3 4 16%
4 2 8%
5 0 0%

This indicates that employees perceive Yammer to be a lot more helpful to their learning, development, and effectiveness and efficiency than their managers. This is consistent with this researcher’s experience that managers tend to minimize the benefit of social media tools like microblogs.

For the participants who gave a lower rating, most said that usage was low in their organizations, see a participant quote below:

It would benefit more if more people are involved, it would benefit me better if people contributed lessons learned on more of an informal level, or discussed what they are working on.

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