Yammer enables Unicef UK employees to work smarter together

The mission of UNICEF—the world’s leading organization for children—is that children, no matter who they are or where they live, should have an opportunity to grow up safe, happy, and healthy. That’s an ambitious objective, not least because staff must overcome many obstacles themselves as they carry out relief, education, and nutrition work in regions that have been devastated by war and natural disaster. It’s also practical, as helping children realize their full potential builds a better future for the world.

With staff in more than 190 countries, UNICEF’s global reach is its biggest strength. It means UNICEF can deliver assistance where its needed most, mobilizing rapidly when disaster strikes to deliver life-saving help to children. But organizational reach also presents challenges, such as unifying its many field operations and other locations around the globe.

UNICEF UK is just one of the organization’s national committees using Yammer to support internal communication and cohesion. “Yammer is a tool that helps our amazing staff work together more effectively for children,” says UNICEF UK Head of Strategy and Innovation Katherine Crisp.

UNICEF UK’s internal Yammer network began with a small pilot in 2010. Today, it has dozens of active groups and more than 85 percent of staff are signed up to network. “It’s grown organically, becoming part of our organizational toolbox,” Crisp reports.

One reason for the network’s swift growth has been strong executive buy-in due
to Yammer’s fit with the culture that UNICEF UK has and encourages. “We’ve had very positive role modeling from the top,” Crisp says. “Our executive team, including our executive director, all regularly post and reply on the network. Similarly, when new people join, our director of ICT talks about the benefits of Yammer in induction training.

Listening to the Field

Yammer helps connect staff in the UK office, most of whom are focused on fundraising and communications, with the experiences of field workers battling issues such as infant mortality in India or promoting HIV prevention in Zambia. “Yammer brings work in the field closer to us here in London,” Crisp says. She gives the example of a colleague who posted pictures and commentary on Yammer during a visit to a Syrian refugee camp

in northern Iraq. “Hearing about the positive impact UNICEF is having in the region —and the many challenges there—inspires us to try to increase our income and raise awareness of the situation to help meet those challenges,” she says.

Another UNICEF UK staff member used Yammer to share documents and pictures from a secondment to the Philippines in the aftermath of last November’s Typhoon Haiyan. “She very eloquently shared her observations and emotional reactions as she supported the field team and worked directly with children,” Crisp reports. “Not all of us are able to visit our program work abroad, but Yammer lets us get unmediated—and very powerful— eyewitness accounts from colleagues.”

Staff working in UNICEF UK’s London office aren’t just informed and inspired by
field reports that come in via the network, they’re able to use them to support the organization’s fundraising and advocacy mission. “Sharing stories that happen in other regions is a big part of what we do,” Crisp says. “We can draw on the information coming in on Yammer when appropriate to help strengthen our marketing and communications materials such as blogs. That almost real-time immediacy adds a very powerful element to communication with both existing and potential supporters.”

Adapting to Today’s Business Challenges

As anyone working in a mid-sized to large enterprise is well aware, it can be tough
to cut through organizational hierarchy—or even just to figure out where to turn for information and help. “Yammer enables people to communicate with colleagues they otherwise wouldn’t necessarily be in touch with, or even know about,” Crisp points out. “It breaks through team boundaries and hierarchies, which can be very helpful in any organization.”

Another common challenge is taming an overflowing inbox. Yammer addresses that by moving past the “push” information-sharing model to a new model that lets staff “pull” together the information they need. “What one person wants in terms of updates is another person’s idea of oversharing,” Crisp says. “With Yammer, people get to decide what’s relevant to them. As an organization, that lets us be open and transparent without overwhelming anyone. For instance, we used to send all employees weekly updates on internal vacancies; now we can signpost them to our internal vacancies group on Yammer.”

A private Yammer group supporting an employee task force on leadership proved to be a valuable collaboration tool and productivity booster. “The staff group did all their project communications on Yammer, sharing things such as agendas, staff briefings, documents, dashboards, survey results, and PowerPoint presentations,” she says. “It was great to have everything in one place—and to be able to have multidimensional conversations.”

Better information sharing can lead to enhanced customer response. Crisp offers the example of a question from a supporter that couldn’t be answered immediately by the representative who took the call. “When he posted the question on Yammer, he got 19 responses, including one from our executive director,” she reports. “That information not only allowed him to give the supporter a really full answer, it increased the knowledge

of the whole team, since the network captured the information so we could add it to our FAQ. None of that would have been as straightforward without using Yammer, because the supporter-care team member wouldn’t have known exactly whom to target to get the best response to his query—and he certainly wouldn’t have asked the director directly.”

Teaming up for Growth

Crisp’s primary role at UNICEF UK is promoting the kind of innovation that helps the organization achieve its ultimate goal: helping as many children as possible. “If your remit is like mine—trying to stimulate ideas—Yammer is a valuable tool,” she says. “You never know who might come up with the next great idea, so it’s useful to have a platform that allows everyone to express themselves.”

The network is equally handy when it comes to refining ideas through internal crowdsourcing. “It allows people from different teams and disciplines to share insight and build on each other’s ideas,” Crisp says. “In my experience, the best ideas come from people working together who wouldn’t normally be. Yammer can make that happen.”

Most of UNICEF UK’s activity has taken place on its internal social network, but it recently joined UNICEF’s global external network, which uses the power of Yammer to tie together many of the organization’s 36 national committees. “That opens up new possibilities for us,” she says. “It’s a way to share experiences and work on our fundraising and advocacy objectives together.”

Looking into the future, Crisp hopes Yammer will continue to be an engine of productivity and innovation at UNICEF UK. “We don’t have a big budge for internal communications, but Yammer is a cost-effective and powerful tool for collaborating and adapting to challenges,” she observes. “It lets us work together smarter by working together—and that helps us carry out our mission for children.”

 THE RESULTS

>>  An organization that works like a network. Yammer breaks down silos and forges ties across geographical and functional boundaries.

>>  Enhancing listening. The network keeps management and staff connected and informed, enabling everything from opinion polls of London staff to updates on typhoon-relief efforts in the Philippines.

>>  Better connections. Yammer provides a cost-effective platform for transparent, targeted, and multifaceted communication.

>>  A forum for innovation. Yammer groups facilitate strategic collaboration as people crowdsource ideas and work together for children.

>>  A platform for growth. An external network links the UK office with other UNICEF national committees, enabling them to join forces for more efficient and productive fundraising and advocacy initiatives.

For more information about UNICEF UK: http://www.UNICEF.org.uk For more information about Yammer: www.about.yammer.com 

Steve CromptonComment