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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?

A very illustrative quote from a participant sums up the power of the ability to ask questions through Yammer, which we must remember, is the most common use of the tool:

I can tap into corporate knowledge; I can ask: “Have we done a project like this before?”

In this quote, the participant actually comes right out and says he/she uses to tool to tap into corporate knowledge, but in fact, so many of the examples we saw earlier in this and other categories as well, are examples of people tapping into the knowledge of the corporation. When people share interesting information, work activities, knowledge, their opinions on what works and what doesn’t work, their reports during real time events, their locations, their interests, or when they engage in discussions during Yam Jams (live chats), they are sharing information valued by their peers as illustrated by the many examples and quotes shared in this study, and interestingly enough they almost all tie back to learning and/or performance support opportunities:

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

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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).

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.

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.

Therefore, using the tool in all these ways just mentioned helps people tap into corporate knowledge through tapping into a community of colleagues willing and able to share and help, one might say they are tapping into a community of practice. Wenger (1998, p. 8) explains: “learning is an issue of sustaining the interconnected communities of practice through which an organization knows what it knows and thus becomes effective and valuable as an organization.” Tapping into corporate knowledge also falls into the category of knowledge management, through people. One participant sheds light on why he/she uses Yammer:

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

In a community of practice people “value their collective competence and learn from each other…” (Wenger, 2010).

The study did not find sharing non-work-related posts as providing the ability to tap into corporate knowledge, but the argument could be made, and participants have also said, that non-work-related posts reveal their personalities and allow people to get to know each other more closely. Still there are others who might find this to be unnecessary “noise” in the system. In fact, 12% (3) participants did mention that they perceive there is too much “noise” in the system and it can be distracting.

However, when participants were asked: 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) said “yes” to this question, 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.

Let’s cross examine this answer by exploring why people value Yammer to understand if in fact people feel like they are a part of a community of people to whom they can turn to for help on the job.

Table 31: 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%

Given that the most frequent reason brought up by 84% (21) of participants, highlighted that people valued the tool’s ability to provide answers in the moment of need reinforces what we already know that Yammer can be used as an informal learning and performance support tool, but it also speaks volumes to the fact that people feel they can reach out through Yammer and get responses that will help them in a timely fashion. “Informal learning is effective because it is personal, just-in-time, customized, and the learner is motivated and open to receiving it. It also has greater credibility and relevance” (p. 17). The perceived most effective aspect of an EPSS is the advisory, job-oriented or problem solving components (Chang, 2004).

The second category with many subcategories all have to do with communication, 76% (19). It is clear participants value the tool’s ability to open up communications in a number of ways: 36% (9) highlighted the importance of Yammer’s ability to break down silos, 48% (12) mentioned communicating across geographic areas, and 32% (8) of participants talked about using the tool to communicate “real time” across time zones. Many participants 60% (15) were very spirited about pointing out that Yammer was in fact unlike email. They explained that this is because you would not share “for your information” type content, like what you are working on, in a mass email but you would easily post it on Yammer. You might also not send out information and knowledge in a mass email, but once again, you would post it on Yammer. The tool breaks down boundaries and encourages informal serendipitous communication, as illustrated by these quotes:

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

…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.

We can conclude that most participants really valued their ability to communicate with colleagues through the use of Yammer and this was growing or strengthening their association with various Yammer community members.

The third most frequent reason indicated by 64% (16) of participants said they valued the information that is filtered for them, or handpicked by their colleagues. Participants pointed out that they appreciated their colleagues sharing the “real gems” and acting as a “human search engine.” This indicates that the community proactively provides support in the form of different types of information or knowledge, so we shouldn’t only think of performance support as one colleague helping another with the task at hand. In fact more traditional forms of performance support tools package and bring expert knowledge to users, this being a key goal in creating an EPSS (Hile, et al., 1994).

Finding experts is another reason why 32% (8) of participants mention valuing Yammer. The following quote really explains why this is valuable.

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

In this researcher’s opinion, one of the most power features of Yammer is its ability to make visible who the experts in an organization are. In this researcher’s experience of over 20 years, finding the experts has always been a challenge for large corporations. A tool that brings the experts to light is a very powerful component of helping a community learn and develop.

Gaining insight into the organization was also a category that emerged from the interviews; 32% (8) of participants mentioned this. Quote from participant:

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

It is fascinating to think of Yammer this way but in fact it really is a tool that you can use to better understand everything about the company: what people say, how they say it, what they don’t say sheds light on company culture. In any community, understanding the explicit and implicit do’s and don’ts enable us to function optimally. This leads us to the next most valuable category.

It certainly makes sense based on the above that 28% (7) of participants cited the tools ability to make people feel connected to the organization. This feeling of connectedness strengthens the community.

Helping new employees get acclimated and productive is another powerful aspect of Yammer; 12% (3) of participants mentioned this. New employees generally don’t know who to ask for what—where to go for help. The ability of the Yammer community to quickly answer new hire’s questions can have a great impact on how fast new hires become productive and how welcomed they feel by the organization. Participant quote:

…it (Yammer) is good for people who don’t know where to go for answers.

Lastly, 8% (2) of participants said they valued Yammer because of its ability to provide short snippets of information that are easy to consume. This speaks to Yammer efficiency at information capturing and dissemination, Yammer only shows you a short snippet, even when people write longer entries, so you only have to read a little to decide if you are interested in reading more.

We can see that many of the reasons why participants cited using Yammer are in some way connected to activities that highlight the presence of a community. Wenger (1998) highlights an obvious yet very compelling point that we are always learning and we are always participating in various communities from work groups to families. Therefore, learning is situated in a given context and part of that context is a given community, therefore learning is also social (Wenger, 1998).

Wenger describes three key characteristics of communities of practice: domain, community and practice (Wenger, 2010). A domain does not equate to an area of expertise; in fact, members can have different areas of expertise within the same domain. Wenger (2010) goes on to elaborate in each of the three characteristics. A community is defined as a group of people who interact and learn from each other as they pursue their domain. Finally, communities of practice do in fact share a “practice”. Therefore, different people with different titles are still all practitioners in the domain.

When we think about communities in organizations, they are in the same domain or field or industry, albeit with various different roles and titles. The data in this study shows that they value their collective competence, and are various groups of people who interact and learn from each other as they pursue their domain—they do in fact share a practice. This could mean two different things: 1. Everyone in an organization shares the same broad practice as being part of a domain. So, in a car manufacturing organization everyone ultimately contributes to cars being manufactured, and 2. It may also mean that subgroups of people who share the same, more specific practice evolve, such as all the human resource personnel in the car manufacturing organization. The data in this study with the many rich examples supports the notion that both of these types of communities of practice have emerged in corporations.

“Communities develop their practice through a variety of activities. The following table provides a few typical examples:” (Wenger, 2010) Checkmarks in Table 32 depict all the examples encountered as part of this study of 25 participants and their organizations.

Table 32: Examples of CoP Activities in this Study

1.   Problem solving “Can we work on this design and   brainstorm some ideas; I’m stuck.”
2.   Requests for information “Where can I find the code to   connect to the server?”
3.   Seeking experience “Has anyone dealt with a   customer in this situation?”
4.   Reusing assets “I have a proposal for a local   area network I wrote for a client last year. I can send it to you and you can   easily tweak it for this new client.”
5.   Coordination and synergy “Can we combine our purchases   of solvent to achieve bulk discounts?”
6.   Discussing developments “What do you think of the new   CAD system? Does it really help?”
7.   Documentation projects “We have faced this problem   five times now. Let us write it down once and for all.”
8. Visits “Can we come and see your   after-school program? We need to establish one in our city.”
9.   Mapping knowledge and identifying gaps “Who knows what, and what are   we missing? What other groups should we connect with?”

 

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

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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.

Introduction

This research was conducted across 25 companies that varied in size from 5 to over 200,000 employees with the goal of understanding if and how the use of Yammer: affects learning and ultimately impacts performance, and helps create communities of practice. More specifically, the hypothesis was that through the use of sharing work activity updates and questions, colleagues would gain a lot more insight into what each other is working on, what tasks they are focused on in a given timeframe, and would inspire coworkers to reach out to each other to provide assistance.

Discussion of Results

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

The original hypothesis was that people primarily use Yammer to ask questions and answer the question: What are you working on? The answers would reveal peoples’ work activities. Why is it important to uncover if employees’ work activities are uncovered through the use of Yammer? Because skills are acquired through continuous authentic activity in authentic contexts and by communicating with peers and experts about those activities in those contexts (Herrington & Oliver, 1995) The first step is to understanding if people are acquiring new skills is to understand what people are doing, or their work activities, can be revealed through Yammer. Once people know what the other is working on they can join forces and learn from each other and help each other. Researchers agree that knowledge is the result of collaborative construction in a situated cognition environment (Ahmad, 2009; Bransford, et al., 1990).

However, the study uncovered that work activity updates and questions are just some of the many ways that participants use Yammer (see Table 30). As we can observe, the top ways that Yammer is used (top meaning 50% or more participants said they use the tool in this manner) are for:

  1. Asking and answering questions, 84% (21) of participants responded this way.
  2. Posting interesting information such as news, articles and event, 80% (20) of participants responded this way. This category is defined as information that does not have a direct impact on a person’s day-to-day tasks, unlike the how to’s of the knowledge category.
  3. Updating people on their work activities, 68% (17) of participants responded this way.
  4. Posting knowledge in the form of tips, best practices and tools, 52% (13) of participants responded this way. This category is defined as containing all the types of information that can help people with their day-to-day activities on the job.
Table 30: Yammer Experiences Mentioned by Participants, What people read   about and post Frequency Percent Value*
1. QUESTIONS AND   ANSWERS 21 84% 5
2. INTERESTING   INFORMATION (news, articles, events) 20 80% 5
3. WORK ACTIVITIES 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. NON-WORK-RELATED INFORMATION 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

The study uncovered that, of the top uses, only work activity updates consistently uncover what people are working on, as stated by 68% (17) of participants. The study confirmed that questions also have a tendency to uncover status because 84% (21) of participants who said they use the tool this way, all gave examples that illustrated people asking for help on work-related information or activities. However, we cannot assume this is always the case which is why this category was not grouped with the work activities category.

While the other categories also had the ability to shed light on what a person was working on, and many examples previously mentioned highlighted this, we should not assume that they always do.

Interesting that when participants were asked: Has using Yammer changed your level of awareness with regards to what your colleagues are doing? (See Table 12) The majority, 60% (15) of participants thought Yammer has changed their level of awareness very much or extremely with regards to what their colleagues are doing. This may seem contradictory, but when we consider that 68% (17) of participants said they share their status, which by nature means they post what they are working on, and 84% (21), said they use Yammer for asking and answering questions—and we know many questions, all our examples, were work-related and uncovered what a person was working on, the findings are consistent.

What about the relatively large group of participants, 80% (20), said they use Yammer to share interesting information, or the 52% (13) who said they share knowledge? (Interesting information is defined as industry news which by nature is not intended to help anyone directly with the task at hand, unlike the tips in the knowledge category.) As stated earlier, neither of these, nor any other categories helped consistently uncover what a person is doing, but does that mean that they don’t have an impact on learning and therefore performance? Let’s explore the answer to this question by continuing our discussion and addressing research question 2.

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

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.

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.

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*
1. QUESTIONS AND   ANSWERS 21 84% 5
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. NON-WORK-RELATED   INFORMATION 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.

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