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Whatever Happened to Yammer?

November 16, 2021 Collaboration and Productivity
Laurence Lock Lee
By Laurence Lock Lee

Remember Yammer? You would be forgiven for thinking the platform had gone underground given the recent focus on Microsoft Teams and Viva. And in some ways Yammer has gone underground. It now acts as the engine room behind Viva Connections and increasingly is accessed through other Microsoft 365 tools like Outlook and Teams Channels.

Yammer experienced a record peak of activity in many organizations during the pandemic-enforced move to working from home (WFH). Company executives discovered the power of Yammer to engage the whole enterprise in times of crisis.

My firm SWOOP Analytics just released its 7th Annual Benchmarking Report for Yammer, whose focus was on how these same organizations are now navigating their way out of COVID-19 into a new, hybrid way of working. We see a subtle change emerging. While Yammer is still the preferred platform for senior executives to share announcements, a growing trend sees employees using the platform to voice their concerns to senior management.

We saw a growth in “non-work well-being” communities being formed from the bottom up. These would take many forms, from sharing lock-down recipes, to choosing greenery for your home office, or, for those working in the field, 'where I am today' photos. These types of communities provided stress relief from the day-to-day grind on Teams chats and meetings. Many were benchmarked as the most engaging of all communities.

We also saw a growth, especially in the U.S., of bottom-up, very active communities formed to address societal issues like COVID-19 vaccinations, climate change, Black Lives Matter and more. By extending their public voice into the enterprise, employees are looking for their leaders to take a position, something many are now doing with vaccinations. Leaders cannot ignore this, as staff resignations appear to be reaching pandemic proportions.

Is Yammer Becoming the Platform for the Voice of the Employee?

We think it's a distinct possibility for Yammer to become a platform for the voice of the employee. Here are our key insights from our Yammer 2021 Benchmarking study of the online Yammer interactions of 75 organizations with over 2.8 million staff:

  1. Yammer is becoming key to an organization’s overall employee experience. 
  2. Yammer is becoming the "voice of the employee” as staff bring societal issues like climate change, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 vaccinations to the platform. 
  3. Yammer participation through readership has grown to, on average, 85% of users, yet active participation has dropped to, on average, 31% of users. Overall, 54% of Yammer users are passive. 
  4. Some of the increase in Yammer readership can be explained by Yammer Communities being accessed through Outlook and Microsoft Teams. 
  5. Organizations are still confused about where to host larger groups; inspired by a perceived need to simplify collaboration around a single tool. 
  6. We used sentiment analysis to identify the most positive (happiest) communities. These communities are providing stress release from the daily grind of remote working.  
  7. Those active communities with the most negative sentiment were far from negative. They were simply addressing negative contexts — cyber security, customer issues — with welcomed levels of energy. 
  8. SWOOP research found patterns consistent with exploration and innovation in 25% of Yammer communities analyzed. Another 26% are demonstrating engaged and responsive behaviors.  

Related Article: Internal Communicators Debate Yammer's Post on Behalf Of

Where Do Disruptive Innovation Conversations Happen Online?

Beyond its potential role in facilitating the voice of the employee, Yammer's role in facilitating enterprise wide innovation opportunities will be equally important. According to management consultancy McKinsey, we witnessed years of business change crammed into just the first few months of COVID-19. Disruptive innovation does not happen within cohesive teams. Organizations are more likely to find the fuel for the next large-scale innovation in the diversity of the participants on a platform like Yammer. We are seeing evidence of this occurring already, with new connections being made and old ones renewed within Yammer communities.

Related Article: Yammer or Teams? A Tool to Think it Through

Yammer or Teams for Large Groups?

There is no shortage of advice on when to use Yammer or when to use Teams. Yet we found a lot of confusion remains around where to host large groups. Our analysis of interaction patterns showed many Yammer communities and larger Teams teams were virtually indistinguishable.

We think it’s not a question of “or,” but a question of “and.” To be a high contributing staff member, you should be using both. The balance between your Yammer and Teams use should be dictated by the organizational role you and your groups aspire to play. Whether working in the frontline, or behind the scenes, Yammer will continue to play a critical role within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

And it’s not just limited to Yammer and Teams. We have now begun benchmarking across the full Microsoft 365 suite, including email, SharePoint and OneDrive. We can say that the digital usage patterns can vary significantly, within even a single organization. But let’s save that one for a later post!

About the Author

Laurence Lock Lee is the co-founder and chief scientist at Swoop Analytics, a firm specializing in online social networking analytics. He previously held senior positions in research, management and technology consulting at BHP Billiton, Computer Sciences Corporation and Optimice.

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