Yammer: Starting at the Top

October 23, 2020 Melissa Hooper


Yammer is an enterprise social network application, designed to support open communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing across the entire organization. For many, this is a major change to their normal way of working and, in many companies, a major shift in culture.

As with any change process, there will be early adopters who readily embrace the idea of new ways of working and new technologies. But, for the majority of employees, the need for change must be understood, accepted, and strongly supported by the management tier.

To make the adoption of Yammer a success across the organization we need to Start at the Top.

Clear business vision, objectives, and target end state – what do we want to achieve with Yammer? What does success look like? 

Having a clear statement of the business objectives for using Yammer, endorsed and communicated by an executive sponsor, together with the expectations of everyone on how Yammer should be adopted, provides a foundation for the desire to change.  People need to see the future before they believe in it. If we can convince everyone of the need to change, it is much easier to engage them in the change process. The “why” always comes before the “how.”

One company looking to Yammer to improve knowledge management across the enterprise had the vision, “Everyone in the organization should have access to the best knowledge and expertise available to the business, wherever it exists, wherever they are located.” Another, looking to drive innovation promoted the objective “innovation, wherever it occurs in the business, should be available to the entire organization in real time.” These are clear business drivers everyone can understand.

One way to formalize Yammer in the culture is to have a Business Charter in the same way as many organizations have a Health & Safety or Ethics Charter. For example, if knowledge management was the driver, then a Knowledge Management Charter succinctly stating:

  • Why Knowledge Management is critical to business success
  • How Yammer has been provided to enable this to be achieved
  • The expected behaviors of managers and all employees in Yammer adoption
    • Managers
      • Actively encourage their teams to share knowledge and search for expertise available in the organization
      • Support the free exchange of ideas across hierarchical and departmental levels
      • Recognize and reward collaboration
    • Employees
      • Locate and consult with the most knowledgeable people in the company
      • Contribute and reply promptly when colleagues seek input or advice on where they can add value

This provides a strong statement of strategic intent that the Adoption Team can utilize in communications and engagement.

(2) Executive sponsorship, driving the project, engaging the workforce and management cadre and leading by example in the use of Yammer – legitimizing Yammer as a business tool 

The best way for executives to drive change in an organization is to visibly and consistently promote those behaviors and demonstrate them themselves. This helps to legitimize Yammer as a business tool. With Yammer being a social network, it is sometimes considered that time spent on it is less valuable than on daily business activities (i.e. project or client work). However, collaborating with and helping colleagues outside the business unit is often just as valuable as meeting business unit targets.

Executives should communicate the business objectives and benefits of new ways of working to all employees but most importantly to managers, including how they should support the use of Yammer in their business unit and team. Lack of support by managers can be the biggest barrier to adoption by team members. Creation and regular review of Yammer success metrics and levels of adoption with the management team and having Yammer on the business objectives review dashboard will better integrate Yammer onto the business agenda.

The most important thing for all executives is to lead by example. Top tips for executive Yammer success are:

  • Complete a Yammer profile
  • Have a Yammer Group, such as CEO Connect, and post regularly – site visits, key issues, news items
  • Spend 5 minutes a day to scan posts, like or respond, ask questions in key communities (have support team flag up appropriate conversations)

(3) Onboarding of managers to engage with the program and optimize adoption in their teams

Setting Yammer objectives at the executive level for business units then monitoring these as part of performance management is essential to establishing Yammer as an enabler to new ways of working.

To integrate Yammer into core business activities, managers need to create Yammer communities for their business entity and articulate critical issues and activities for the entity. Yammer objectives for each business entity need to be defined and cascaded down to teams and individuals. Managers must encourage, recognize, and reward time spent on collaborative activities – both within the business entity and in the wider organization. They should include Yammer activity in business plans, team meeting agendas, seminars, and events.

Yammer provides the opportunity for managers to showcase their business entity and promote success stories while celebrating the benefits of collaborative working.

Next up in the Yammer Adoption series: All aboard the Yammer train – engaging our end users.


About the Author
Brian Holness is a Business Change Consultant in New Signature’s UK Professional Services, specializing in the adoption of the Microsoft 365 suite of digital applications to drive new, transformative ways of working for our clients. Main interests outside of work are football and cricket, now very much as a spectator.

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