Community Management

Saving Lives by Saving Time: Yammer Growth at UNICEF

Successful internal communities aren’t launched. They’re introduced. The phrase couldn’t be truer of UNICEF’s decade-long journey with Yammer.

The United Nations agency has one of the longest-standing Yammer networks to date, with its initial inception in 2008. But for the first eight years, it lacked organization-wide direction and cohesion – two common hurdles with internal communities that don’t have the benefit of strategic community management.

In January of 2016, I had the privilege of starting to work with Paola Storchi of UNICEF’s Learning and Knowledge Exchange (LKE) team; they had come together with a desire to invest in community management to help realize the potential that facilitated, real-time information exchange could have on the day-to-day work of its staff in the field – literally in jungles, deserts and corners of the world in turmoil. I’ll share the story in depth below – but the results are worth noting right away. By instituting community management practices, and changing the conversation of collaboration to be simple and human-centric, the UNICEF Yammer network grew by 560% in 2 years – from 1,000 active users to 5,600 active users in 2018.

In a brave leap of faith, technology, and culture, we took the following steps to bring UNICEF’s Yammer community to life with the concrete purpose of collaborating better for children and young people everywhere:

1. Network clean up

Given its many years without direction, UNICEF’s Yammer network was disorganized and duplicative. To push users into more collaborative spaces, we quickly archived 114 fully inactive communities (formerly groups) and an additional 100 communities were archived after further evaluation.

2. Rebranding – stop the “Yammer” talk

UNICEF staff reported being confused with the many tools available for collaboration. Which tool were they to use when? We created the BUILD model – a comprehensive new lexicon to talk about collaboration – it focuses on people first and technology second, and Yammer was marketed as a simple hub of dialogue.

The BUILD model was created to ensure a people-first model for collaboration at UNICEF.

3. Community manager training and support

We began to offer personalized support and one-on-one consultations through interactive webinars, 90-day plans and face-to-face workshops with key use cases that already existed in Yammer. We found digitally-savvy, community-minded leaders and helped them accelerate their community efforts.

Working with key use cases was important for scaling Yammer at the organization.

Among the best use cases discovered and supported was Digital Labs, which connects more than 800 UNICEF staff to communications professionals across the globe to learn together and to promote digital transformation. Their use of Yammer exemplified real conversation, peer learning, and they were showcased as an example of strong Yammer adoption across all of UNICEF.

4. Qualitative data

We knew that pockets of UNICEF staff were using Yammer, but we needed to learn more. We built two global surveys and conducted hundreds of interviews to capture as much data as possible. The resulting answers helped us understand how to “market” Yammer to users: a focus on using Yammer to learn what peers were achieving was the top use case identified, helping us change the conversation around the value proposition of the community.

5. Knowledge democratization

To scale coaching and support to every use case at UNICEF looking to integrate Yammer into their daily workflows, we created the BUILD website. The SharePoint-based website allows anyone at UNICEF to find our practical guidance and best practices for online communities – all of which had been documented and democratized to empower users that we hadn’t yet consulted with ourselves.

The BUILD website was created to scale community management coaching at UNICEF.

6. Sharing best practices

Yammer users at UNICEF increased quickly when our content strategy for the platform was formalized. We created curated newsletters to showcase the best content in Yammer and role-model collaborative behavior. Highlighting great Yammer work by Digital Labs, WASH in Schools, Supply Community and more inspired others to collaborate more openly; once there was a model for success, others were willing to emulate the steps involved.

7. Growth measurement & promotion

To promote knowledge sharing and community (formerly group) growth, we built a streamlined process for measuring Yammer communities. We created map of target adoption metrics, based on specific uses cases and the metrics important to each one, to help use case leaders watch for trends and appropriate areas of impact. A new partnership with SWOOP Analytics will aid UNICEF in benchmarking more specific progress beyond the basic benchmarks.

8. Making community management visible

Yammer needed to be recognized and legitimized by senior leadership in order for it to scale further. To help facilitate this, we created newsletters and reports to help leadership understand our work in a context that was familiar to them. Community management was not a well-known discipline, and the LKE community team’s work to document the results of collaboration for children helped formalize results and make them tangible to leaders.

The UNICEF story at Microsoft Ignite

On Sept. 25, 2018 Paola and I had the privilege of sharing the UNICEF Yammer story in a Microsoft Ignite panel, “How we took employee engagement to new heights using Yammer.” You can watch the session here to learn first-hand about our work in Yammer and bringing back a community from an untended garden to a lively hub of exciting, fresh, evolving and powerful exchange – and in the case of UNICEF, a truly life-saving network for children across the globe.


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