Pitney Bowes provides technology solutions for small, mid-size and large firms that help them connect with customers to build loyalty and grow revenue. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, they have more than 15,000 employees worldwide. The company happens to be among the very first to use Yammer for the enterprise.
Beginning with a grassroots launch in 2009, the organisation quickly realised the benefits of working socially and has seen great success in: connecting a global workforce, solving client problems by connecting call centres to product engineers, knowledge sharing and generating conversations around key communications, to cite just a few.
Since then, the company has continued working with the social tool, but now they have a new perspective on the way their Yammer network should be managed. Lonya French, Manager Employee Communication Channels, shares with us the strategic approach they are adopting.
Over 8,000 employees are part of the PB Yammer community. After years of experimentation with the tool, French believes it is now the time to implement a more robust strategy, which formalises the use of the network to support business goals. That does not mean adopting a rigid approach; far from that. If there is something that Yammer has taught Pitney Bowes so far is that collaboration is a new way of thinking and working which requires constant learning and adaptation.
Instead, the company wants to make the benefits of using Yammer more visible and broadly available across the whole organisation. The aim is to have all employees aligned to this new way of working. That is why, according to French, getting strategic will be necessary.
In 2014 Pitney Bowes will take collaboration to the next level with Office 365 where Yammer is integrated by default. French explains, “With Office 365, we’ll be able to provide a holistic experience for employees to help get their work done; from collaboration, to email, to company news, to document management and more – it will all be in one place!”
That will be the moment when the ‘Yambassadors’ (PB Yammer champions) in the company will have an important role to spread the word about the benefits of working socially across the whole organisation. According to French:
“They are the very early adopters, advocates of the tool who really get it, meaning that they do understand and believe in its value. They will help to find and share best practice examples across the organisation globally. But they will also support, involve and educate the most sceptical and less skilled colleagues. One of our major challenges is to clarify a misconception: Yammer is not Facebook. It is a social tool for getting real work done, which makes the company more innovative and competitive.”
One thing is clear to French and the team; leadership support is needed. It will be very difficult to fight myths and preconceptions without it. However, French feels confident:
“With the interest shown by the new management team, we’re working on helping all leaders get use to this new social approach to work. Many have recognised the value and are supportive. We just need to tap into this potential and get them to be even more active.”
This will be done through the sharing of successful use cases, one-on-one conversations and mentoring.
The major reason behind French’s latest point – getting executives proactive in the network, relates to employee engagement. In fact, another thing that Yammer and its ability of opening communications have made clear is that staff wants to interact directly with senior management. The integration of the enterprise social network will begin a cultural shift at Pitney Bowes and with how the internal communications team communicates with employees now bypassing the traditional hierarchical structures they were used to. “It forces us to think about how employees want to receive their communications and collaborate with each other.”
Among the engagement activities implemented are Yam Jams. This is a Twitter-like conversation hosted in the network, which is based around specific topics of interest to the business. Senior managers and subject matter experts get involved and engage with employees. Yam Jams are a great opportunity to get employees involved, get valuable feedback on improving products and processes, as well as tapping into the tacit knowledge and creativity of workers.
The power of communities
Communities, or groups, are key for getting employees engaged and provides relevancy to the individual by organizing content in an easy to find way.
French refers to many different types of groups stressing the importance of having both businesses related and non-business related ones. Often it is the latter that helps employees to start with internal social media.
“Non work related communities are very important to engagement. Some groups are around health and fitness, some around gaming, some others around technology. These groups can drive real business value. They create and foster informal relationships, which ultimately help to build professionals relationships. People get to know each other, and find a common ground. Then, once a business related task or project has to be handled, those previously formed relationships prove to be invaluable.”
That is why these groups will continue to be fully supported. In the future, groups will also be a key component for supporting clients, product development, on boarding new hires and improved team communications and planning.
Other types of community French rates are the ones around project innovation. For example, a community created by a team of engineers to discuss and develop new products. Through a true spirit of collaboration engineers not only seek advice but they also test code and improve the services directly from the platform. However, it is not only through the internal communities of an enterprise social network that an organisation can spark collaboration and generate new ideas. French mentions the Yammer User community (Yammer Customer Network). She has found a lot of support and resources from interacting with people of other organisations there. The customer community is helping her to develop further knowledge on how to support strategic adoption of the platform inside Pitney Bowes – thinking and working beyond the wall – even ‘digital’ walls – of an enterprise. Open collaboration can help organisations to build relationships that ultimately help the company to better adapt to changes.
This is why Pitney Bowes is considering using an external network to support projects involving third parties, aimed at driving further business value in different contexts and circumstances.
So, the year ahead will see the company putting ample efforts on fostering and integrating collaboration all across the business. The strategic approach will allow the organisation to keep focused, aligned and by spreading the benefits of working social, drive business value.
“Getting organised, adopting a formal strategy, leadership support and sharing use cases…These activities will be key to the continuation of our social business journey.”
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate