My firm, SWOOP Analytics', sixth annual Benchmarking Report for Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise social networking platform, revealed some surprising results given the year we just had (and continue to have) with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employees Were Satisfied With the Move to Work From Home

We expected that staff would suffer a loss of morale once they were restricted to working from home. In fact we found the opposite.

Unlike traditional benchmarking, which relies on surveys, SWOOP captures actual online interactions from all staff who use Yammer, in this case more than 2.6 million employees from 116 organizations and nearly 9,000 Yammer Communities. We measured the sentiment of Yammer conversation over a six-month period. 

Positive sentiments peaked in the period just after the transition to work from home. Over time however, as staff settled into their remote work, the sentiment modified somewhat from great to satisfied. More importantly though, levels of negative sentiment remained low throughout the period.

how are you feeling?Yammer users

Related Article: How Different Cultures Are Adapting to Work From Home

COVID-19 Did Not Dominate Conversation

We anticipated that COVID-19 would dominate their online conversations, but this proved not to be the case.

SWOOP analyzes keywords from Yammer conversations and provides the results in the form of a word cloud. For privacy reasons, we do not capture this content, so we asked our benchmark partners if they were willing to share their identified top keywords. Several responded and we constructed this composite result:

wordcloud ofpopular conversation topicson Yammer

COVID-19 appears to have disappeared into the background. The strongest keyword by far was “Thanks,” a reflection of the culture so many leaders on Yammer raised.

Related Article: Working From Home: Are You Overworked, Overwhelmed or Overjoyed?

Staff Health and Safety Took Center Stage

One concern was that as staff were forced to work from home (WFH), remotely from their line management, management might employ draconian digital tracking methods to check on staff. Happily this appears not to be the case, based on the case studies drawn from our identified benchmarked leaders:

insightsfrom Yammer case studies

In the Microsoft 365 suite, Yammer is the place that engages most broadly across the enterprise. It was therefore not surprising when organizations faced the uncertainty of rapidly moving to WFH, executives turned to Yammer to engage all staff. The CEOs of several of our benchmarked leaders chose to run enterprise-wide live events inside Yammer, at times on a daily basis. Yammer activity reached record heights for most of our benchmarking partners during the March/April transition to WFH.

Learning Opportunities

Our Yammer champions reported a feeling of a ‘flattening of the hierarchy” as C-Suite engaged with staff at all levels, from their own homes. Communities for non-work related topics such as pets, parents, meditation, yoga, home cooking and the like, previously often frowned upon, were embraced by staff at all levels, in the name of employee health and well-being. Even work-related communities started to incorporate fun aspects,  bringing online the sorts of activities that previously occurred in the office such as competitions, birthday celebrations and home photo/video sharing.

Related Article: Unraveling the Teams and Yammer Tangle: Make Both Work for You

High-Performing Communities Flying Under the Radar

We thought that Yammer community managers would be well aware of what their best communities were. This regularly proved not to be the case.

We shared the Yammer communities we assessed as being in the top 1% of all communities assessed. For some, this confirmed a high-performing community was indeed that. But more regularly, our contacts were surprised and unaware of some of their highest performing Yammer communities. Many of these communities were quiet achievers.

  • A regional office sales community surprised a Yammer community manager, who had previously found sales staff were the hardest to attract to Yammer. Here was an opportunity to point to a sales office excelling with Yammer.
  • The Dutch airline KLM’s community for self-service on its new single sign on software was invisible to the Yammer community manager, but on investigation, she could see immediate leverage with other business units in KLM.
  • A fast food restaurant chain was surprised to see its top performing Yammer communities were established by their millennial staff to facilitate negotiating shift swaps.

Many of the communities quietly achieving success aren't headline grabbers. They're just getting on with their work — improvising, sharing and engaging in reciprocated interactions, adding value without a fuss.

Related Article: Rachel Happe on Why Communities Are the Organizational Model of the Future 

Opportunities for Yammer and ESNs in General, Post COVID-19

While the end of the COVID-19 pandemic looks a long way off for many, it will come. But the consensus is the world of work will not go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. Our benchmarking has shown that platforms like Yammer are playing a key role in helping to sustain a positive mindset during the pandemic. Maybe now they will also be depended on to help facilitate the recovery, whatever form it takes.

One of our benchmarking partners, UNICEF, told us about its rapidly formed COVID-19 Yammer community to assemble and deploy best practices for managing the pandemic. The community is already now pivoting their attention to how they might facilitate the rapid distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, worldwide. We suspect that UNICEF’s ESN-facilitated global change program will be one of many, as we look to emerge from the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 SWOOP Yammer benchmarking report is available for free download here.

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