Monday, September 15, 2008

Yammer: Winning employee communication tool

Less formal than a corporate intranet, but more business-focused and private than Twitter, Yammer is making online employee communication more effective than ever.

Yammer is an internal communication tool, “essentially Twitter for business,” that keeps employees in-touch and informed. It has the potential to improve employee productivity by sending short messages over a public forum, rather than searching through cluttered inboxes.

All it takes is a company email address to register and create a network. Once registered, employees can share status updates, news, links, ask coworkers’ questions and answer Yammer’s most important question: “What are you working on?”

The program is free for employees, but affordable for companies to claim their network and gain full administrative control. For $1 per employee per month (after a three-month trial period) admins can gain network control over messages, users and security requirements.

Practical uses for Yammer at work:
  • Top executives can to keep everyone up-to-date on company news and quickly see what different employees are currently working on.
  • HR departments can remind employees of an upcoming training opportunity or corporate event.
  • Employees can update coworkers on the status of certain jobs within the private corporate network.
  • Sales teams can quickly share information about new accounts or impressive sales numbers with the rest of the company.
  • Telecommuting employees can stay connected and current on the day-to-day activities back at the office.

Yammer’s privacy and administrative tools make it more attractive to those companies afraid to let employees use social media at work. Since messages are posted on a public forum and administrators can remove comments, spreading gossip or talking about inappropriate topics is difficult.

Just how employee handbooks guide behavior in the office, companies worried that Yammer could cause problems should create a short guide complete with rules, policies and consequences for violations.

After taking top prize at TechCrunch50, you can expect to see even more great things out of Yammer. The event awarded the young start-up with $50,000 to help grow its business model.

We would like to know ... Does your company currently use online communication tools like Yammer, or would your company ever consider it? Are your managers still too worried that using social media in the office would impact productivity?


Kevin said...

We are a start-up Internet business, and have started using Yammer. Our company is still fairly small so we don't have a big need for Yammer to help us communicate effectively. Nonetheless we are trying it out to see how effective it can be. The truth is, at this stage, our staff are too busy during the day to keep checking for tweets or Yams on Yammer and the takeup hasn't been too good so far. It may have better traction in larger scale organisations.

Training Time said...

Thanks for your feedback, Kevin. Here at Training Time, we don't use Yammer either, but think it would be interesting to try. We've used Skype messaging, heavily at first, but less as time went on. Like your company, I think we're too busy and messages got distracting. However, it's nice to know it's there, when you have the time and need to send a quick message.

Nick Armstrong said...

I've started a push to use Yammer at my workplace... but it's not for the Twitter-esque messaging component. The key to finding value is remembering you can't use it like Twitter - not everyone is a content provider, but there's definitely content being shared every day.

You can bend the tool to create a useful (and easy to set up) alert system.

Say the head of the IT department needs all hands on deck. The IT department has a private group that each of the IT team has set up to send an alert to their cell phone when a message is posted there. The rule is that only the head of IT can send a message to that group.

In that same vein, IT could also have a group with "system outages" or "work updates" so if a system or a piece of software you do work on needs to be updated, they can provide that schedule there.

Say you wanted to send out the company newsletter... but didn't want to use valuable e-mail storage space (often at a premium in small companies). You could send out a ping (message) to the entire company with the attached PDF or a link to the PDF on your internal web server. That sure beats sending out X messages each with a 1MB attachment which may or may not linger in the user's inbox or trash in perpetuity.

Better yet - birthday messages, social announcements, new employee training documents... etc...

Another way this could be useful is to *generate* the company newsletter - as each head of the department writes a message and helps to draft the document.

Another would be a common resource pool - as each hyperlink and document is automatically aggregated into a collective pool...

Employee evaluations or goal setting could also be done via this medium. Since Yammer supports hash tagging, it only makes sense. This is the most important (I think, since I'm a youngin') - instantaneous and searchable feedback on employee performance that doesn't have to wait for a 3-6 month employee review... by which time transgressions (if any) are long forgotten... only to be re-hashed.

Anyway, those are just a few of the ideas I brought to the table to bring Yammer into our company. It's been hard to get even the two Tech teams involved though, so we'll see if it takes off. The addition of the desktop client definitely helps.


Brought to you by