Brent Council – It's Yammertime

Brent Council wanted to free capacity for its internal communications officer to work on more strategic projects, improve the speed of communications across the organisation and improve channels. This case study forms part of our internal communications toolkit and our social media strategy resource.

Communications support

Objectives – what did you want to achieve?

We had several objectives including freeing capacity for our internal communications officer to work on more strategic projects, improving the speed of communications across the organisation, as well as improving our channels so that they were available to everyone with access to a smart device. We also wanted to improve our opportunities for praise and recognition.

Audiences – who did you target and why? All employees but particularly senior colleagues and those that were more likely to initially embrace the channel and help to give it a kick start.

Strategy – how did you make this happen?

We made a decision at CEX level that we were going to implement Yammer across the organisation and that is was going to become a main channel for us. If we are being honest our chief exec was sceptical, but she backed us.

She has since stood up in front of our senior management team and said how great she thinks it is – proof that sometimes you just need to have a little faith and the senior leadership need to have a little faith in trying new ideas too.

We did our research. We had a great contact in Virgin Trains that had launched Yammer in the last year very successfully and we met with them a number of times so they could share best practice with us and talk to us about some of the hurdles they had overcome.

When it came to launching Yammer we just went for it. This wasn’t about organic growth, opening it and trying it in small pockets; we made the decision to go big and go bold. That might not be the right approach for all organisations, but we wanted to shake up the way we communicated internally across the board and it sat as part of our Internal Comms strategy. It wasn’t just done on a whim.

We did as much as we could to make it easy for people. We ensured we had a single sign on, so that once in, our users would never need another password or need to even enter a password.

We ensured it was fully integrated into our other comms channels, by developing a plan to drive traffic to Yammer and sharing Yammer posts via other internal channels. It was never going to be a stand-alone platform. Our weekly roundup email has now changed to being a virtual summary of the key things on Yammer each week, rather than linking to pages on our intranet.

Our other strategy was to have fun and engage people – no one wants something they see as more work, and no one wants any more corporate speak than they already have to endure. We wanted to bring the experience to life, use the right tone from the start and let colleagues have a little fun.

Tactics – what channels, tools, platforms and content did you use?

A mix of channels including:

  • Digital screens in the buildings
  • YammerLabs – essentially drop in spaces for people to come and ask questions and gain support one-to-one
  • Online support – through Messenger
  • A support group and materials on Yammer
  • Our trustee Yambassadors (we also held a Yambassadors reception for them, with actual Ferrero Rochers)
  • Cakes – we bribed people with our DIY Yammer-branded cakes
  • Yambassador badges – people were dying to get their hands on these (they were just cheap badges) Even the Leader was banging down our YammerLab door to get his
  • We held a number of launch events, including a limerick competition, a treasure hunt (which sent people off looking for actual yams, taking pictures and uploading them to Yammer when they had found them), handy sign-up cards with top tips on delivered to every office desk and outstation buildings.

Did it work? What were the outcomes?

Absolutely. We now have 97 per cent of our employees active on Yammer. We have decreased the amount of news stories on our intranet newsfeed from 28 in March 2016 to two in August 2016. This in turn has allowed us to refine the intranet newsfeed as a channel and only the biggest corporate stories appear there now. The speed of communications has also improved. We post during meetings, workshops, events. Our employees post whilst they are out on the road and have embraced ‘citizen journalism’. For example, our environmental waste teams have started to post before and after pictures of streets they have cleared of illegally dumped rubbish.

Yammer has also made things happen. When some employees posted about being annoyed by a door lock being changed the issue found its way up to a director through Yammer, who stepped in and unblocked the issue quickly.

More serious issued have been able to be discussed, like colleagues discussing the impact of Brexit, where some of our employees were abused by the public after the result.

And senior management visibility has improved, with many comments coming back from colleagues about the fact that the Chief Executive for example has liked or commented on their post. A ‘like’ from her is now seen as a badge of honour.

As a communications team, we have also been able to pick up on more news and achievements across the organisation which previously we haven’t found out about until much later. This includes things like awards we have won, successful prosecutions and community engagement events. It also helps to give us the heads up when there may be something brewing; for example, people posting about traffic issues in our Disruption group allows colleagues to change their route home, as well as alerting our Emergency Response team to potential incidents. This has meant we have improved our relationships with colleagues, they are quicker to provide us more follow up information when asked, and we don’t spend so long trying to track down vague messages because we are more likely to be able to find a good source contact.

What did you learn?

  • That employees just want a bit of fun
  • That even just a ‘like’ from someone in the Leadership team has a big and positive impact on an individual.
  • That there is lots of fantastic work going on across the council and we haven’t been shouting about it enough
  • That giving employees a voice does not lead to moaning or open criticism of management
  • That it doesn’t cost mega bucks – we spent less than £80 on our launch campaign

Would you do anything differently?

We would like to host more YammerLabs to reach more people, but with only one person managing it along with their other roles, it’s tough. We need to engage more with employees based in our outstations and get a grip on people posting to the main All Company feed rather specific groups. It is great that people are positing though. There are other things we want to develop, such as more online chats, greater use of the polls and praise functions and it will come, but with just one person to look after all our internal comms channels and do the work, we have to be honest and say it’s taking longer than we would like, but are confident we will get there.

Want to know more?

Contact Natalie Corney, corporate communications manager at Brent Council by email or by calling 020 8937 1023