Corporate community leadership and management in times of crisis

In these times of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is plenty of information about working remotely and crisis communications.  This post is about neither of these.  I want to focus on the role communities within organisations can play in supporting people through times of crisis

The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that in the last 2 years the most trusted people are now my employer and, after scientists, my fellow citizens in my country and in my community.  And whilst people are most reliant on news organisations for information on the coronavirus, it is, in fact, employer communications that are the most believed source.  This places a great expectation on organisational leaders, corporate communicators and community managers as employees turn to them and their work community for trusted answers.  So how can we address this?  How can we build community resilience and demonstrate care?

“Leadership in communities is as much about influence as it is authority”

Make your intranet your source of truth

With all the talk of collaboration and remote working tools, it can be easy to forget the humble intranet.

Make sure you have a dedicated page for the crisis response and that you are linking to the credible expert sources.  Your “sponsorship” of government or health sources passes on your trusted position to these. Use this page as the source of truth and link to it from any communications you send out and add it as a tab in any collaboration tools, such as Teams, so it is easy to get clear and consistent information out to different groups of colleagues.

Have a prominent link or news item on the intranet homepage so people can find it quickly – ideally show when it was last updated to keep people’s confidence it is accurate.  Call out any specific actions clearly and consider having sections on what you know and don’t know.  People are looking to see if colleagues have been affected, and what steps they need to take.

Activate and engage your employee community 

Tools like Teams helps get the work done remotely but doesn’t always engage the community or cut across pockets of knowledge. This is where enterprise social networks (ESNs) like Yammer come into their own. 

Whilst your intranet gives you your source of truth, your ESN gives your employees a voice.  Set up a crisis community to allow them to raise concerns and questions as it’s better to know what they are than think they don’t exist if you can’t see them.  Use it to ask for their help or ideas. Set up an official profile such as “Company News” to act as a spokesperson, posting links back to the intranet and giving the official view in any answers. It will save time and effort when people look at their ESN feed. 

Run Q&A sessions with senior leaders at set times to connect them to the issues faced by remote workers and frontline staff.  It makes the leadership team both present and visible. 

Coach your leaders

Leadership in communities is as much about influence as it is authority so make sure your leadership team feel confident to participate in your network.  In a crisis, the situation can change rapidly so have leaders post updates as close to real-time as possible and be authentic. Don’t try to control the narrative – you have the intranet page for that. Instead control how you react. Use natural language and if you don’t know the answers yet, say so. 

Remind them that the ESN is really an extension of the workplace, so ask them what they would say if they were briefing a group of staff in a meeting, or if they overheard a question in a corridor.  Get them to use this response as the basis for what they can post.  Take the time to thank people for their efforts or ideas directly – it demonstrates leaders are listening and builds the psychological safety for people to speak up.

The power in communities

Communities are geared to support their members. There is an unwritten social contract between members based on the common interest they share. This sense of connection and support is important, narrowing the emotional distance even when working remotely.  Trust is the currency of these communities, so listen to what is being said and be present. Remember that in many cases communities will mobilise to protect themselves.  If this mobilisation is supported with active leadership then we can create resilience in our people instead of reliance.

Simon Terry, creator of the Collaboration Value Maturity Model and collaboration thought leader draws similar conclusions in his recent article Three Key Roles For Yammer A Crisis

Matt Dodd – Digital Workplace Consultant – Engage Squared

“Matt changes the way people work, create and connect through human-centered approaches to culture, leadership and digital services.
He combines design, empathy and systems thinking to deliver value to individuals and organisations.
Since 2004, he’s been working with large organisations delivering digital-based change and workplaces. ”

Year of Yammer Down Under

When we heard that the global Yammer team was in town for the Ignite tour we jumped at the chance to get up close and personal with them and the new Yammer. We knew we wouldn’t be the only ones, so we organised two exclusive business user group events, in Melbourne and Sydney respectivly, to satisfy the Yammer die-hards (and those without Ignite tour tickets).  

The events kicked off with an animated demo of all the new features from Steven Nguyen the primo Yammer evangelist. The live video capture was a highlight, but he also covered some great advancements in community management features such as pinning conversations at the top of a group and stopping replies all together on controversial posts.

Jason Mayans, Yammer Program Manager, then continued to define the new simplified Yammer vision as well as some stories from his colourful 21-year tenure with Microsoft. We ended with an insightful audience Q&A and more importantly drinks and nibbles.

Main takeaways from the events

  • A clear vision for Yammer: It’s great to have a clear direction from the team for the future of Yammer, simply summed up with three pillars: Leadership engagement, knowledge and community. This helps to clarify and position Yammer as an ‘outer loop’ tool to enable broad, organisational conversations, in contrast with the ‘inner loop’ tools; helping to answer the common questions around when to use Yammer and when to use Teams.
  • KISS: The much-loved acronym for ‘Keep It Simple Silly’ sums up the new direction from the Yammer team – don’t over complicate things. Simplifying the design by reducing to only one feed, decluttering the layout and adding a splash of colour makes the new interface feel modern and relevant.

The best of the new with Yammer

  • Yammer from Outlook: Don’t just consume – respond directly from your email. Interactively reply to the Yammer post from within the email to ensure everyone has their say.
  • Live video mobile video capture: Natively film, edit and publish a video from within Yammer. And do it quickly. With supercharged rendering, your video will be ready before you know it
  • Community focus: Communities replace groups in the new Yammer, bringing with them some needed customisation options and clarity on their purpose.

What can you do to prepare?

  • Join the Yammer public preview program from here  
  • Get a sneak peek and ask a member of Engage Squared to give you a quick demo
  • Join the O365 BUG (Business user group) meetups in Melbourne & Sydney to keep up to date with all the new updates
  • Start engaging your business now to plan for your launch or re-launch   
Banner - Yammer and Skype for Business

Yammer & Skype for Business integration

Another week, another round of Office 365 updates and of course, they’re awesome!

Recently Microsoft released the ability to open the Skype for Business chat module through Yammer. The browser based chat isn’t exactly a new feature available in Office 365, it was originally released to Outlook Online quite some time ago.

However, what is new is the ability to open the Skype for Business chat module while working in Yammer and this is fantastic news! The recent release further aids in collaboration, allowing you to connect with your colleagues in a consistent and familiar way.

 

So what does it look like?

If you receive a message whilst browsing Yammer, a pop-up display message will appear on the top right hand corner. You are then given the choice to either respond or ignore the message. By choosing to respond, the Skype for Business chat window appears as an overlay on the page.

If you click the Skype for Business icon, located on the top right hand side of the suite bar the yammer module loads, it allows you to get in contact with your colleagues and external organisations/users using Skype for Business.

The great thing about this feature is that it isn’t limited to desktop devices either, allowing for a feature rich instant message experience across mobile devices too.

Using Mobile devices

Not only does this show the commitment Microsoft have to enhancing and supporting Yammer, but this is another show of strength by Microsoft that you don’t always need a desktop computer with software installed to work out loud and collaborate effectively! Remember anywhere, any device, any time!

Go give it a try today, and let me know what you think!