How To Get Your Executives To Participate On Yammer Blogs: You have 15 minutes of your Senior Manager’s time. Your goal: encourage his/her participation on Yammer. What are the three items you would focus on? 

Sounds like an awesome challenge, doesn’t it? This was exactly the challenge that one of our customers Ernst Décsey, Intranet Manager from UNICEF posed in the YCN, Yammer Champion Community. His question was greeted with a flurry of amazing responses, which we just had to share here (with participants’ permissions of course!)

Seek to understand; focus on value

Everyone’s got a job to do – including your executive. A person’s desire to adopt and use a work tool is only going to be as strong as the tool’s ability to produce results. To help your exec use Yammer, make sure to take some time to understand their needs and suggest ways in which you can drive real results.

Ross Cavanaugh, Internal Collaboration Consultant from Wells Fargo advises: “First & foremost, I’d focus some time BEFORE the meeting to understand what his/her hot buttons are, as well as a few of the current biggest pains (issues) that Yammer might help or resolve. While there is no silver bullet, the areas I might focus on if I went to this meeting blind are: Value / ROI and Engagement.

Simon Terry, CEO of the HICAPS unit of NAB recommends focusing on relevant topics that help them be better leaders. “It is especially important if you can show discussion of a topic important to the executive. Help them figure out how to:

1. Get their messages out, but differently – reach people you don’t talk to often in a two-way conversation. This is great for clarifying strategy, learning about progress or customer issues
2. Discover the potential of your people- insights, talents, diverse interests, their networks.

Christine Brown, Internal Communications Manager from City of London recommends understanding the leadership style first: “All I can say is it depends on the manager, as they have very different styles and approaches. If I could generalise about what pushes most peoples buttons, it’d be:

1. What makes them look good;
2. What solves a problem for them;
3. What value joining the conversation provides,

Make it easy

As you identify the value you will help capture with Yammer, make sure to ease them into the process. Even though social interaction is second nature to you, remember that it’s not that way for everyone. Social can signify a departure from how execs have communicated in the past, and some coaching and education will be necessary.

Miguel Zlot, the Enterprise Social Networking Evangelist from a large consumer goods company, shares his experience on making social a natural part of their day: “I always ask them the following question: How much time do you spend in airports waiting around? Normally the answer is “A bunch”, then I proceed to load Yammer on their mobile phone or tablet and show them how they can quickly scroll through messages, reply and like them. I have seen greater participation once we have done this.” Jennifer Thormibert, Community Manager at Disney echoes Miguel’s advice: “With the mobile app, I find senior managers like the ability to quickly read or post from the elevator, or in an empty meeting room when waiting for others to arrive, etc.”

Andrew Pribulka in Technical Marketing of Arlington County echoes this sentiment: “Understand the value of the mobile app – since most of our upper management’s schedule is spoken for on any given day, it’s important to encourage engagement in between meetings or while travelling to an appointment, which can be done thanks to Yammer’s mobile app.”

Lise Hansen, Director of Online Communications at Cargill reminds us that it’s the little things that can ease people into using social: “Every interaction on Yammer does not have to be witty, thoughtful, vetted post. Spending 5 minutes a week ‘liking’ a few posts shows you’re there and you’re recognizing others for being there also.” Lise also advises bridging the gap between existing communications channels, such as emailing into Yammer. Simple tips for emailing into a Yammer group – even putting the address of groups into their contact list for them – can help bridge the divide. “Because fear of more e-mail reigns above all else, assure them that they can manage the notifications in their email inbox.”

Feedback is a powerful thing

Humans are encouraged by feedback they receive from others – execs will likely energize employees and be energized by their feedback. Miguel Zlot shares his experience: “I once demonstrated the power of a ‘like’ from a Senior Executive: I asked him to randomly like a post and within minutes the person responded back to him, and started to follow him. He was amazed at how fast that Interaction happened with someone he had never met and probably never would. Show your executives that with simple interaction, the user become more engaged because they feel the higher ups are interested in their work. Everyone knows how valuable engaged employees are, so there’s no need to re-hash it here.”

Jonathan Anthony, Director of Corporate Communications at Teekay shared that in his network, “exec participation gets 4 x average engagement; there is thirst for knowledge and reward for participation.”

Simon Terry warns about the other side of the coin, though: “People don’t always flock to discuss your post (especially if it looks like PR). Your title or reputation might even be intimidating, and Yammer is a way to change that.”

Being more informed

There’s more and more information available to us, and businesses are required to move faster and faster to keep up with what their customers need. This can be a problem if there’s a lack of executive visibility into what’s happening across and outside of the organization. It’s mostly not their fault, as reports presented by their direct reports, can be skewed.

Miguel Zlot shares that social can help ground executive better by exposing them to more and better rounded information. “I believe the higher up in a company one gets the more detached they get to the grassroots of the company and what people are working on or having issues with. One example I use is that we had a very senior person in one of our business units get upset that people were posting about Wine on our Beer Network. She expressed her dislike until she found out that Wine Wholesale is a big part of our business in the UK. Everyone can learn something on Yammer no matter how high up they are. I have learned more about our business in the past 3 years than the previous 12 before that.”

Jennifer Thorimbert of Disney says:  “If you have a geographically separated team, it’s an easy way to stay on top of what everyone is doing if you encourage people to work out loud, or at least share successes and roadblocks.”

Because enterprise social networks act as dynamic containers of current and cutting-edge knowledge, the right information is just a click away. To that end, Lise Hansen advises to use the search functionality: “Yammer’s great search can help them get a pulse on a topic. They will be amazed at the quality and range of topics they’ll find.”

Friendly competition

When getting execs to participate, you have to remember that they are a competitive bunch. We certainly aren’t suggesting manipulation, but a bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone!

Miguel Zlot corroborates this story: “The number one thing that will get C-level people engaged is when another C-level person hits the jackpot with a post on Yammer. We had the CEO of our Canadian business unit hold a contest to accompany him to the hockey game, which included beers and food. The CEO made up the contest and the questions for the contest, and it was the single most active post on the network ever. The best thing was he thought it all up himself and posted himself. This set all the other c-level people into a frenzy trying to figure out how to do something similar. If one c-level does it and gets great response you can be sure they will all want the same thing.”

Simon Terry agrees: “Social proof works. Find a peer or superior of the Senior Manager who is an effective user. Show the Senior Manager the posts and response that the other manager is getting from the community.” Simon suggests that participating in an internal network can be a great primer for participation in the larger social community: “You know that thing called social that everyone’s talking about and you don’t know how to use? We have built you a private playground with friendly people where you have unique power and influence. Come experiment and learn to impress your peers with your social chops.”

Influencing employees

To add value, you need to help executives do their jobs – which is setting a direction and getting enough buy-in from “the troops” to execute. To do that, you need to give employees what they need.

What do employees need? Jonathan Anthony says: “The number one thing employees want from leaders is not “strategy” but “honesty. “So, reminding leaders that their voice, true, pure, humble, is in need in the organization is the #1 item. Leaders take themselves too seriously — just shoot the breeze in public. It will make you feel better.

Jennifer Thorimbert talks about the importance of trust and simplicity: “You can build trust and connections in your team by sharing just a couple sentences, rather than a communications-team-developed-multi-paragraph-email.”

Andrew Pribulka advises that to resonate with employees, executive communication needs to have two aspects:

1. Consistency – balanced engagement over an extended period of time rather than too much engagement for the first week and nothing after that.
2. Simplicity – convince upper management that commenting on Yammer isn’t held to the same communication standards as an official memo.


The above tips can help you convince your execs to try – and keep using – Yammer. But don’t take my word for it; the proof is in the pudding! Ernst used these tips to brief his senior exec, and not only does she want to use Yammer more – they will soon execute a live YamJam featuring her for unvarnished feedback and straight talk.

Photo Credit: inlinguaManchester via Compfight cc

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