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Yammer: Everything You Need to Know
November 3, 2020
Reading time: 11 minutes
Microsoft Yammer™ has been called “Facebook for corporations.” Since Microsoft repurposed the app in 2020 as a powerful business communications tool, the new Yammer takes over where small-team tools leave off. When used right, it creates an unprecedented two-way channel between leadership and a large workforce.
Organizations that use Yammer well can leverage the power of the “outer loop.” Leaders use it to convey core values and initiatives, and employees use it to reach outside their teams to learn, connect, and collaborate. In this guide, you’ll see what this helpful software is and isn’t, why recent adopters love it, how to use it well, and when you should use MS Teams instead.
What is Yammer?
Yammer is an app that was developed by a company called Geni in 2008 to help employees interact. Microsoft bought it in 2012 and added it to the Office 365 Suite. It was adopted by 85% of Fortune 500 companies (and 200,000 companies total), and Microsoft reworked it in 2020 as an innovative communications tool.
The image below shows a trends analysis from Google search traffic data. It reveals Yammer’s slow burn in the past several years (in blue). You can see the blue spike that shows a surge of interest after Microsoft adopted it. By contrast, MS Teams has recently taken a big lead as the business communication channel of choice. However, the recent redesign has given Yammer a resurgence as it fills a groundbreaking niche for company-wide communication.
Knowing how to use Yammer correctly can help break through the corporate clutter. Originally intended as social media for the office, that approach fizzled after the app’s 2012 launch. Today, Yammer is seeing a renaissance as a tool for:
Collaboration that spans the organization
Giving employees a voice
Yammer’s sweet spot is business transformation. It’s a way for everyone from management to the line-level employee or as Microsoft styles it, “the shop floor to the top floor,” to understand key corporate goals and initiatives. It also gives team members a voice in the organization at large, to raise concerns, share ideas, and ask for and give help in ways never before possible.
How does Yammer work?
Yammer works through a familiar social-media interface with the feel of Facebook. Employees can post, comment, and share posts from others. The app uses AI tools to decide which content to show to each employee. What you see depends on who you follow, the teams you work in, and the knowledge you may need to know.
It comes pre-packaged as part of Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), and it’s centered on “communities” (think Facebook groups). An employee may join groups for their immediate team, the entire firm, and other teams they interact with, such as Health & Safety or IT. It sounds simple, but it provides a way to spotlight issues, get help, praise others, and get upper management’s attention.
The difference between Microsoft Yammer and MS Teams is in its scale. MS Teams improves communication between members of small teams. Yammer fills the same role on an organization-wide scale. It lets employees connect with anyone from members of other teams all the way up to senior management.
MS Teams is a tool for working on projects in small groups. Yammer unifies many teams working on many projects into one unit working toward a common goal. It’s a tool to change the corporate power structure from top-down to employee-driven, so employees start to interact and help each other.
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What are the benefits of using Yammer?
How exactly can Yammer help, and why are so many organizations keen to use it in its newest form? Let’s learn all about Yammer’s benefits. Specifically, here’s how the app helps front-line employees:
Keeps workers connected outside immediate teams: No need to reinvent the wheel when someone else beyond your team has already solved your problem.
Reduces emails and meetings: The average employee spends 13 hours a week on email. Yammer cuts that down to size by spreading information in a user-friendly way.
Easy to set up: Since Yammer is already a part of Microsoft 365 and integrated with the MS Office suite, it’s incredibly easy to get started with.
Helps employees get fast answers:“Who manages this account? Has the accounting department processed this budget yet?” When you don’t know who to ask, Yammer lets you get in touch with people who know.
Creates an informal training channel: Pin important resources and access training files and policies from any device. Crowdsource answers and solutions, too.
Streamlines live events: Anyone from leadership to front-line employees can host DIY events. Launch products, auto-transcribe meetings, and lead Q&As with up to 10,000 attendees on any kind of screen or device.
Lets employees showcase internal achievements: Employee recognition boosts engagement as high as 84%. Microsoft Yammer creates an easy way for managers, teams, and employees alike to call out key accomplishments.
Builds inspiration: Sharing employee wins in Yammer posts can inspire other teams to succeed. A cost reduction in one department or a new contract in another can galvanize the entire organization around common goals.
Unlocks important information: Pictures or video of a new technique or safety hazard can spread vital information throughout the organization fast. Yammer can preserve employee knowledge and make sure it flows to the managers or workers who can put it to good use.
Gives a voice to the unheard: Employees can use Yammer to give feedback, escalate issues, break down silos, and raise hands to be heard by leadership and others in the organization.
Integrates with Microsoft 365: Relevant posts on Yammer pop up directly in Outlook inboxes. Yammer can pull in content from MS Teams and SharePoint, too.
Allows control: Yammer uses AI and “report this post” features to tell HR and admins of potentially harmful conversations. Admins can then manage or close conversations. The app’s “native” mode lets IT manage users and files just like in MS 365.
You don’t need to know all about Yammer to get a ton of value out of it. Using the app is as easy as opening Facebook or Instagram. Just boot it up, join your necessary groups, and make a few posts.
1. Go to Yammer
Open the Yammer app on your phone, tablet, or PC. On a laptop or desktop PC, you can type “Yammer” into the Windows search bar, or go to Yammer.com in your browser.
2. Check your profile
Just like with any social media app, you’ll need a profile. But if you’re an MS 365 user, your profile is already set up. To edit it, go to Yammer’s settings (top left) and click Edit Settings. Edit your name, contact info, and photo. Your finished profile will look like this:
3. Join a few communities
Joining communities will give you resources and information that was hard to get before. Think about the departments and teams you interact with, as well as others that could help you. To make life easy, join a community for your team, one for the company at large, and others for teams you work with, like HR or Health & Safety. Consider networking with teams outside your loop that may have valuable insights, like the same department at a sister facility.
4. Follow a few people
You don’t need to build a high-order “friends list,” but do follow some employees you’d like to stay in touch with. Start with your manager, direct reports, a top exec or two, and a few peers. Posts from this network will pop up in your Microsoft Yammer feed.
5. Set up notifications
You can filter notifications so you’ll only see if someone tags you in a post or mentions you. For email notifications, go to Settings > Edit Settings > Account Settings > Notifications. You can choose to be notified when there are updates from your groups, messages, new followers, or none of the above. On a mobile phone, open the app menu and tap Settings > Notifications.
Power tips for using Yammer
It’s easy to start using Yammer, but it takes experience to use it like a pro. These tips will get you up to speed fast, and cut down on your trial and error.
1. Create posts
On Facebook and Twitter, we write posts to share ideas, humor, or individuality. On Yammer, use posts to ask questions about processes or policies, praise team members, describe new initiatives or policies, announce product launches, or pass along other information your connections may be interested in.
2. Ask questions
When you’ve got a question for a coworker in your team, use email, texts, or MS Teams. When you don’t know who to ask, Microsoft Yammer lets you crowdsource answers from the community at large. When other employees tag connections in your post, you might get answers from anyone from an IT pro to the CEO. If several different answers pop up, the asker (or community leader) can mark one as the best and pin it to the top.
3. Search for info
Need to find an expert, a company policy, document, or a piece of information? Yammer has a search feature just like Facebook and LinkedIn. The app creates an online home to store files, documents, handbooks, images, how-to videos, and other handy materials. Use the search bar to locate important content, conversations, or people.
4. Read posts
Good news: you don’t have to read every post on Yammer for fear of missing something. Log in and scroll once in a while, or stick to posts you’re tagged in. You may want to pop into your manager’s feed now and then, or look through posts from key team members or direct reports.
5. Like and comment on posts
When executives “like” posts from workforce members, it’s a way to spur engagement. Small, regular comments on employee posts are tantamount to mini-bursts of recognition. Team members can add likes and comments too, to give kudos, ask questions, or pump the brakes on new ideas.
Yammer polls provide a way to take the pulse of a community or check a team’s consensus. To make a poll in Yammer, select Poll, then type a question and a few multiple-choice answers. Choose who you want to see the poll, and send it.
7. Praise team members
Ever want to give someone kudos for something great they did in front of the whole team or company? Yammer has a built-in praise feature. Choose Praise, then enter a co-worker’s name. Add an image and/or text to describe what they did so well. You can tag their manager too, or other team members.
8. View profiles
If you want to learn new information about coworkers, just click on their profiles. Yammer profiles share an employee’s expertise, which makes it easy to find experts in an organization with the search bar. Profiles also list job titles and contact info like phone, email, and LinkedIn profile.
9. Create communities
Yammer communities are a powerful way for stakeholders to share insights and concerns. Suggested communities are customer groups, CEO connections, diversity, new hires, IT, HR, innovation, or safety. If you don’t find a community by searching in Discover Communities, you can create it. Choose “create a community” in the bottom left, enter the new name, and add names of members to invite.
10. Follow topics
You don’t have to keep bookmarking conversations you want to follow. Instead, add tags called topics. Click the three dots at the top of the conversation, then click Add Topic. You can track entire conversations or just parts of them. You can track all your topics in the Yammer topics center.
11. Organize live events
Want to organize a live video event with up to 10,000 attendees? Microsoft Yammer can do that. It can’t do quick one-on-one chats, so if you’re looking for that option, fall back on a Teams call. Yammer live events are generally auditorium-sized broadcasts. You can save event videos right in the app’s feed for future reference and searchability.
12. Use the apps
About 90% of internet users do at least part of their online interactions on a mobile device (as of 2019). Yammer is ready for that, with highly-reviewed mobile apps. It gets a respectable 4.3 stars on Google Play with a staggering 60,680 votes, and 4.6 stars from nearly 4,000 iPhone users in the App Store. Using the mobile apps can keep communication channels open even when employees are en route.
See the video below for more on how Microsoft reworked Yammer into a company-wide communication-booster:
Microsoft Yammer picks up where Skype and MS Teams leave off. It gives employees a social media-like voice outside their teams, into other departments, and all the way to the top of the organization. The app creates a place to preserve and share ideas, reach out to ask for help, raise concerns, and recognize achievements.
Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.
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