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?

We said above that sharing work activities was the only one true category that we can say for certain helped people uncover what each other is working on. The hypothesis was that when people see what others are working on they will lend a helping hand and through this interaction people would learn and receive assistance with their jobs. We learned however, that this was not the only category that led to learning and performance support.

Do reading Yammer posts, that prompt participants to reach out to each other, contribute to learning and performance?

When we 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.” What prompts them to reach out to each other? The study found that people did not generally reach out to each other prompted by a work activity update; they did however reach out to help when asked a question. Only 8% (2) of participants had an interaction due to a work activity update (see Table 14). While it makes sense that submitting a question would be the number one reason for interaction with 75% (18), it is sharing interesting information that comes in second with 17% (4) and sharing knowledge comes in as third with 13% (3). That means participants reach out more to each other because of industry news, tips and best practices that are posted, than they do because of work activity updates. This finding was contrary to the hypothesis that work activity updates would prompt people to reach out relatively frequently, to offer a helping hand.

Still, it is important to understand that when people did reach out and interact, generally how relevant was the information that prompted them to reach out; how relevant to the task at hand? Table 15, shows that 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. This makes sense given that people are more likely to engage when content is relevant to them (Ambrose, et al., 2010, p. 83) We can conclude that even though participants did not reach out as often when reading work activity updates as they did when reading a questions, interesting information, or knowledge; they did reach out, for the most part, because those categories had posts that were relevant to what they were working on at the time. We knew this was a possibility from the examples participants shared in these categories that we reviewed earlier, but this cross check supports the notion that people will reach out more often, when the information shared on Yammer is directly relevant to what they are working on at the time.

How much did participants value the interaction? Amazing to see that 100% (24) of participants said they valued the interaction either very much or extremely, see Table 16. How often does this happen? In other words it might not be worth using the tool if it only happens on occasion. The majority, 55% (13) said frequently and always, as depicted by Table 17. This suggests that Yammer is useful most of the time, as a learning and ultimately performance support and enhancement tool based on the notion that people reach out to each other and learn from and help each other with work. This makes sense when considering that through continuous, authentic, situated, collaborative activity, people can improve their performance (Brown, et al., 1989).However, what about all the posts that don’t result in someone reaching out to another?

Do reading Yammer posts contribute to learning and performance when people don’t reach out to each other?

When 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. How relevant was this information to what you were working on at the time—to the task at hand? Table 19 shows that most, 56% (14) participants selected very much or extremely. How much did you value the update (the post)? 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). However, how often does this happen? Is it often enough to really provide value? Table 21 depicts that the majority, 64% (16) of participants said this happens either frequently or always. It is interesting that over half the participants said they frequently or always find posts that benefit them and over half also said they frequently or always reach out because of posts. This indicates that most participants found using Yammer beneficial overall and more than half the time they read posts or engage in interactions because of Yammer that are directly related to what they are working on at the time. The most effective performance support is context specific and provides assistance with a given task in a given situation (Tessmer & Richey, 1997).

Connections, Learning and Performance Improvement

Our hypothesis was that through Yammer, people make connections and those connections lead to learning and people assisting each other with work, performance support, and ultimately performance improvement. Table 22 shows that 60% (15) of participants made statements where they explicitly said they made connections through the use of Yammer that they believe may not have otherwise happened. Quote from participant:

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

While only 36% (9) gave examples where they explicitly said they learned something new, however, 88% (22) of participants gave examples of receiving assistance with work. It is probable that participants realized they were learning but did not happen to mention that they were aware of this, or they may not have realized that they were learning through the assistance they were receiving with work. Peter Henschel, former director of the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL), said (Cross, 2007, p. xiii): “People are learning all the time, in varied settings and often most effectively in the context of work itself.” The majority of participants did make connections and ultimately received assistance with work. These findings support the hypothesis that Yammer can be used as a learning and performance support tool. Researchers agree that performance support systems can help improve communication and, ultimately, performance (Ahmad, 2009; Bayram & Crossman, 1997; Chang, 2007; Gamson, 1994; Marion, 2002; Raybould, 1995).

When, participants were directly asked to reflect on their learning and development, Table 23 displays the results of this question and depicts that 2, 3 and 4 (on a scale of 1-5, 5=greatest contribution to learning), were the most frequently selected. When managers were asked to assess how much learning their teams have experience through the use of Yammer, Table 25 shows that the most frequently selected number was 3 out of 5.

As for Yammer’s contribution to their effectiveness and efficiency, Table 24 displays that individual contributors most frequently selected 4 on a 5-point scale and Table 26 shows that managers most frequently selected 2. This backs up this researcher’s experience that managers are not as convinced of the benefits of using Yammer as individual contributors. Yet we must not forget that most participants benefited from reading Yammer posts and that most of the time those posts were directly relevant to what they were working on, and that 88% (22) of participants gave examples of receiving assistance with work and that the majority of participants said that benefiting from posts happens frequently.

We can conclude that on some level participants did perceive that Yammer is contributing to their learning, development, effectiveness and efficiency. “EPSS are primarily applicable in the workplace to promote learning and offer immediate performance guidance” (Ahmad, 2009, p. 8)

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