Research question 3: Will the use of microblogs result in people feeling like they are part of communities where they can reach out to each other for assistance?

Let’s begin this section with observing how participants answered this very direct question: Does using Yammer make you feel like you are part of a community of colleagues to whom you can turn to for help on the job? Table 27 demonstrates that an amazing 96% (24) of participants said “yes” to this question, while only 4% (1) said “no.” Of the participants who said “yes” one participant also added:

…there has been no other tool that has offered that (making a person feel like they are part of a community where they can reach out to each other for assistance) in my opinion.

Table 27: Does using   Yammer make you feel like you are part of a community? Frequency Percent
Yes 24 96%
No 1 4%

The one participant who disagreed cited low usage as the reason.

However, to really answer this question, it is worth exploring why participants use Yammer. What do they get out of it? Conversely, what don’t they get out of it? Does Yammer result in participants feeling like they are part of a community of peers to whom they can turn for help?

What Value Yammer Provides

Table 28: Why Participants Value Yammer, it provides the ability to Frequency Percent
1. receive answers in moment of need 21 84%
2. communicate 19 76%
2.1. communicate like never before   (unlike email) 15 60%
2.2. communicate across geographic   areas 12 48%
2.3. communicate across silos 9 36%
2.4. communicate across time zones and   geographic areas 8 32%
3. receive good information, filtered by colleagues 16 64%
4. find people/experts 8 32%
5. gain insight into the organization 8 32%
6. make people feel connected to the organization 7 28%
7. help “new” employees get acclimated/become productive 3 12%
8. provides short snippets of information that are easy to digest 2 8%

1. Receive answers in moment of need

As we can see from Table 28, 84% (21) of participants said they use Yammer because it provides the ability to receive answers in their moment of need. This indicates that these participants are confident that when they have the need for assistance, the Yammer community is there to help. Quotes from participants:

We put a question out there, how do you do…, who to call for X and we get an answer in minutes.

An internal recruiter asked if I knew anyone in a certain company. I sent out a yammer question about this, and got the information from someone in India who was following me on Yammer and I did not even know he existed–this all happened in 13 minutes.

My colleagues post questions and others post answers–helping each other out.

2.1. Communicate like never before (unlike email)

Many, 60% (15) of participants, talked about Yammer’s ability to provide communication “like never before,” unlike email, in some cases because it is used in a much less formal way than email. For example, one participant notes that he/she would not send out “for your information” content in an email, another mentions he/she would not send out tips to the whole company via email. Finally one participant talks about the informality and serendipity that Yammer breeds. It seems that because Yammer allows more informal communication, it invites information sharing that would have never have happened before. Quotes from participants:

We are too large, with too many hallways; this is a nice tool to bridge the gap; breeds informality and serendipity.

The value is non-email communication where people are sharing good news about something that is taking place, general points of interested for the type of business we are in.

Without it (Yammer) I would not be able to share tips with people, I would not be sending out a company-wide email.

The people I manage and work with post things they are doing that is not really something people would email–kind of like FYI; before microblogging we couldn’t get this kind of information.

2.2. Communicate across geographic areas

Of the 48% (12) of participants who use the tool to communicate this way, one talks about Yammer as a tool that helps geographically dispersed teams “share information in lieu of sitting in one office.” Yammer’s ability to replicate the connectedness people feel when they are face to face is very valuable and directly related to its ability to create a sense of community. Quotes from participants:

My team is split across five different sites so this is a means to share info in lieu of sitting in one office.

We share info that we stumble upon like what is happening in the industry; what we are working on… we are spread across three offices; if we did not Yammer we would not know what the other is doing and we can’t sit in one office and open our mouth and talk to each other.

Value is that you know what people are doing in a diverse geographically dispersed environment.

2.3. Communicate across silos

Yammer’s ability to “flatten” an organization, as stated by one participant, is also worth noting; 36% (9) of participants mentioned this capability. One said, Yammer “opens up silos and opened grass roots level communication.” It seems like the tool helps create communities, communities of people who did not even previously know the other existed. Quotes from participants:

There is no other means to get information that fast in the organization and it breaks the hierarchy boundaries, when I share something now I share among 500 people and I can’t see another way of doing that; (it) flattens the organization.

(Yammer) Opens up the silos and opened grass roots level communication within the organization.

It (Yammer) allows us to work with our partners in the city, like the bus company, the police, the taxi people.

2.4. Communicate across time zones and geographic areas

Communicating across time zones, in addition to geographic areas is also a fascinating characteristic of Yammer, as mentioned by 32% (8) of participants. Though, it is important to note that one can use email to do this as well, and yet participants see synchronous communication as a key advantage of the tool:

The advantage of Yammer is that it crosses time zones, everyone can give input and it goes around the world and it becomes a synchronous way of bringing people together.

People need to understand that i can interact with someone in another country and time zone synchronously.

I use it to update my team, we work very globally, we have teams across the continent because of the time changes it is hard to get people together live. I just update them at a very high level so we are not doing rework. Primarily it is used for updating each other.

3. Receive good information, filtered by colleagues

Yammer also provides the ability to receive good information filtered by colleagues; 64% (16) of participants talked about this aspect of the tool. What they meant is that there is a lot of information available for people to keep up with in their industry/profession or any other type of information they want and/or need to keep track of. With all these information sources, participants appreciate their colleagues highlighting the really good information for them; participants’ quotes illustrate this point:

It (Yammer) keeps me up to date with what is going on in the industry, it keeps me from having to go out and read everything.

People often post articles and they act like filters for good information because I get so many things I can’t look through them all but people post the real gems.

It has become a human search engine, people will ask questions and people will answer or let the person know who knows the answer. We have been able to find answers more quickly.

If I have something that I feel is good to share then I will do it through yammer…but something has to be interesting enough to make me want to share.

4. Find people/experts

In any community, it is important to know who the experts are, who the people are to whom you can turn to for help. Participants, 32% (8), discussed how easily Yammer allows users to find the experts without knowing who they are by allowing them to post questions that so many others see; inevitably the expert sees it as well and is able to assist. Quotes from participants:

Usually a person is looking for a person who knows someone who knows something.

Success stories are usually when two people find each other…

It is hard to find people with other tools besides Yammer.

The knowledge in the organization has become visible and you start to notice who the gurus are.

This last quote mentions Yammer’s ability to shed light on who the experts are. This is really important for many large organizations where people often do not know who to ask. The next step would be for organizations to try and capture this type of information: who the experts are in each area.

5. Gain insight into the organization

It is fascinating, that 32% (8) of participants noted, that by reading the various posts of people across the organization, a person could get a sense for what is going on in the organization. Not just from the perspective of what is happening, but also how people are reacting, which helps people understand the rules of engagement that define a company’s culture. Quotes from participants:

I like the microblog and all microblogging in general as a way to communicate or to gage the culture of the company.

One repeating phenomenon is, that several people have said, that after one week on Yammer they have seen the real being of who are company is and what is going on. They learned a lot more on Yammer in a week than in years without Yammer.

I think I benefit from everything people post. This is a looking glass into my entire organization.

6. Make people feel connected to the organization

Through the use of Yammer, 28% (7) of participants mentioned that they can not only continue to make connections between each other, but also feel connected to people with whom they don’t get the opportunity to interact, or interact regularly. This inevitably creates more and stronger connections in the various communities.

Quotes from participants:

Senior leaders yam (post information on Yammer) as they go about their routine for example one leader went to India and yammed about the team there and it was very nice to feel that connected.

It (Yammer) makes you aware of the fact that people exist in other areas who you have not been familiar with. It connects you to people you have never met.

I am pretty in tune with what is going on in the company and it is ever changing and I have been here for 20+ years and it still helps me to connect with people I would not normally get a chance to interact with.

Impressive, as uncovered by the quote above, that this participant has been with his/her organization form over 20 years and still feels Yammer helps him/her connect with people he/she would not normally interact with.

I don’t really have anyone who does what I do in my group so it is great to interact with others who do what I do across the larger organization.

This last quote also highlights a very powerful function of Yammer, by helping people of similar roles connect across a larger organization, it helps open up communication for sharing knowledge and helping and supporting each other. This functionality could result in people’s ability to connect and interact with people they would have never otherwise found, resulting perhaps in communities that may have never otherwise developed.

7. Help “new” employees get acclimated/become productive

It follows based on everything we have seen so far, and corroborated by 12% (3) of participants, that Yammer would be a great tool to help new employees or employees new to their role get acclimated and become productive. Quotes from participants:

Learning and development is a social activity, the whole reason I was using Yammer was because I was in a space that I was not sure of, so I was using it for learning, now I use it less because I am in a space I know.

It (Yammer) saves face time to find the answers and information, particularly to being fairly new to the company.

I am not an anti-Yammer person but I am luke warm to it, it is good for people who don’t know where to go for answers.

8. Review/provide short snippets of information that are easy to digest

In this day and age of information overload, the fact that people automatically limit the amount of information they post in a microblog makes it easier for others to screen, filter and absorb content. Interestingly only 8% (2) participants mentioned this as a benefit. Quotes from participants:

Before people used to write big stories to put up on the intranet and now all people have to do is write three lines.

The small every day tips become quite impressive when added together.

It is so much better than for example blogs: 1. because it is so short and 2. because it is so accessible. Impressive to see how many people use it from their mobile devices.

Yammer’s Challenges

Table 29: Challenges to Maximizing  Yammer’s Value Frequency Percent
there is too much “noise” 3 12%
employees can’t share for fear of   “leaks” to the public 2 8%
it can get addicting=you are always   working 1 4%

A few, 12% (3) of participants who rated the tool as low in terms of its contribution to efficiency also noted, too much “noise” as a challenge, see Table 29:

The disruption goes against efficiency; there can be a lot of noise.

A very interesting finding from 8% (2) of participants is that companies whose employees don’t share work activity updates with each other, often don’t because they can’t. See the following quote:

A large enterprise like (company name) has a lot of different types of employees, consultants, students, employees, factory workers, so we can’t have people put something on Yammer like the fact that there is a break problem or that we are developing an…

There are organizations that either have a lot of contractors who they don’t trust to keep challenges from leaking to the public, or organizations that are in a very competitive space so that information on what people are doing is not something they want shared again to prevent leaks of secret projects to the public.

The quote below illustrates how public microblog tools like Twitter are used. When this type of use crosses over into internal microblogs like Yammer, it results in posts that are not helpful to colleagues.

I don’t think it is used well, in reality it is mostly fluff: “ha, ha I had a ham sandwich” is not interesting to me.

One participant, which constitutes 4% of the participant group also pointed out that the microblog can become addicting. We can see this as an issue with other social media tools too, especially with Facebook and Twitter.

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