Yammer reduces email deluge for Verizon employees

Verizon Wireless introduces the social media network to improve internal communications and reduce the quantity of emails that overwhelm employees.

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Year after year, employees in Verizon Wireless’ Midwest Area were crying for relief from a daily avalanche of email that filled their inboxes and buried them in irrelevant messages.

The promise of Yammer, a social network for business that allows colleagues to share information across teams and organize around projects, intrigued some leaders of the 15,000-employee area, but moving to adopt a new workplace communication tool was a daunting proposition.

“We had a drive to reduce email from our upper management and leadership, who said we’re getting a lot of complaints,” said Craig Purcell, senior analyst and social media lead for the area’s internal communications department, in this a Ragan Training session, The Yammer Adoption Journey. “Our people were being overwhelmed by the quantity of emails.”

A long introduction begins

In 2009, Purcell started to see the value of social media and approached his boss and said, “We’re missing something. Social media is critical and we have to start paying attention to it.”

He became a point person for Verizon’s research into what tools might work best to improve internal communication at the company.

This is excerpted from a Ragan Training video titled The Yammer Adoption Journey.

Purcell said some grassroots testing of solutions took place in 2009. A year later, Yammer was introduced in a soft launch as a supplementary tool for employees to communicate. Basic instruction and resources were provided, but utilization was sparse.

Yammer use grew organically in 2011, with 65 percent of employees signed up and some strong “pods of activity,” he said. But there was no overall plan, no passion behind the potential.

That changed in 2012 with an official engagement campaign promoting the benefits and functions of Yammer. Annual meetings included a Yammer re-introduction. Leaders across the company talked it up. Enrollment jumped to 81 percent in 2013 and activity soared, he said. For example:

  • Social collaboration is now integrated into most communication campaigns.
  • A daily news and information report is distributed via Yammer.
  • Other regions adopted Yammer—some with participation as high as 96 percent.
  • The CEO and regional presidents utilize Yammer for meetings and initiatives.
  • The company benchmarks use of the network across its other areas.

Reluctance from some quarters

A few leaders were scared of Yammer, he said, fearful of putting too much information out for people to see. That reluctance carried over to some employees.

“That’s an interesting dynamic because we are a company that sells products that people use social media on,” he said.

The company’s annual Rockstar event, a popular employee competition focused on product knowledge and presentation, provided a great example of how Yammer can engage the workforce, Purcell said. The contest in the Midwest Area had yet to officially launch for the year, but already a Yammer group had been created for Rockstar and more than 500 employees joined and were waiting for the event to begin.

Contest materials, collaborations and celebrations were shared across the Rockstar group—whether members were competing or not. The group has grown to more than 770 members, he said.

Keys to a successful Yammer rollout

Purcell offered several tips for those introducing Yammer to their workplace:

  • Bang the drum: Show employees the benefits of social collaboration in the workplace.
  • Tell stories: Promote best practices by sharing Yammer success stories.
  • Be welcoming: Create engaging content to draw employees in.
  • No one is an island: Success requires partnership. Recruit others to help. Encourage new and creative uses.
  • Be authentic: Give the audience something to believe in by placing valuable information on the network.
  • Share your knowledge: Help people learn and recommend actions in tiered stages.
  • Be green: Yammer grows best organically. Let it become what it needs to be for your organization. Guide, don’t push.
  • Encourage respect: Create a social media policy to foster respectful collaboration.

Find champions, utilize Yammer resources

There are many things that Purcell wished he’d known before launching Yammer. You have colleagues who will become willing champions for the network. Find them, he said. Let them help you promote and educate their co-workers on the benefits.

Also, remember that Yammer has tremendous resources for its clients—customer support, instructional videos and other materials to help in the transition.

“There are more tools available than meets the eye. Before you re-create the wheel, see what’s out there.”

If an employee puts up an obstacle, that may indicate a knowledge gap, he said. Dig deeper to see if there may be something beneath the surface that is getting in the way of user engagement. You have to persuade them to give it a chance so they see how it will make the company more productive.

“If they’re not in the tool, they’re not going to see what the benefit of it is.”

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