Sunday, 29 June 2014

Transforming email for the social age

The Newsweaver Internal Connect user conference took place in London this week. Can their platform socialise the channel we all love to hate - email? 

Internal Connect is Newsweaver's platform specifically designed for enhancing the power of internal communications. It aims at transforming emails into an effective social channel that large businesses can use to have conversations, share knowledge and gather feed-back from across the organisation.

The Internal Connect User Conference, was a chance to learn how some major global companies have been able to champion two-way communications through the tool.

A wonderful phase of co-creation

The day saw an opening keynote from simply-communicate's Publisher Marc Wright. Back in 2012, he founded SMiLE (Social Media in the Large Enterprise) the largest European community and source of information for internal communicators and social business professionals ever since.

Drawing from a series of case studies such as Philips, Grundfos, Barclays and PwC, Marc's presentation centred on the idea that "we are now in this wonderful phase of co-creation." Times are gone when internal communicators could use a telling or selling approach to unify staff with the organisational goals. In the networked organisation, storytelling and corporate narratives are crowd-sourced. Through social media, employees have the opportunity to raise their voices, which cannot be ignored anymore. With that "authenticity has become extremely important. We are in a new era of communications where real conversation is key."

Marc also pointed out how the mobile movement is rapidly taking over employee communications. Enterprise apps are changing internal communications, supporting remote workers to do their job more productively, creatively and faster.

With his final thoughts on social analytics he drove home that "we are all generating digital footprints inside our organisations." And, while big data seems to be today's new word, more often than not, it is from the smallest insights that change can start surfacing.

On the go

The Financial Ombudsman Service's Head of publications, online and design Sally Young presented how the company has replaced their traditional, static and rather neglected Ombudsman news for staff with 'on the go'. 

The company's new and fresher internal newsletter, which uses a Twitter style with short and digestible content, leverages the power of employee-generated content. And, to match the need of a young employee population that is often on the move, on the go is accessible via mobile.

Since its use, the corporate word has been spread exponentially and generated greater interest from the staff. Plus, it has helped a small team of internal communicators to save on costs.

Plane speaking with easyJet

British airline easyJet has 10,000 employees across Europe and North Africa. With the majority of them having five minutes a day to access a computer, the need for internal communications to go via mobile devices was hugely felt. Plus, to learn to make the content more engaging since "we rely on our people wanting to access it," said Internal Communications Channel Manager Den Carter.

To meet the latter requirement, Plane speaking, with "fool-proofi(ish) templates", is the guide and e-learning module created for educating staff about writing in their house style.

However, what was most interesting to hear, is how the organisation has made weekly podcasts one of the main leadership communication channels. "The CEO Carolyn McCall, visits every location regularly by hosting stand-ups. And, to capture everybody more often, she records a five minute audio podcast every week. In it, she covers high level news updates and performance stats from her personal perspective."

The company converts the audio file to a video format and sends a NewsWeaver flyer with the embedded video. This has been a low cost way to engage with staff who can listen in their own time.

Putting employee needs at the centre of design strategy

Ruth Egan, Newsweaver Lead Designer, talked about the impact of design on internal communications, reminding the audience that "employee experience matters" and that, when used well, "design can help to inspire and delight."

The premise was to "put employee needs at the centre of the design strategy." Egan gave some tips such us making the content uncluttered, easy to find, on brand and with clear call to action, serving multiples uses. A good example, was Connected.

We also heard of the importance of responsive design, adaptability of content to different size screen and optimased mobile experience. These are elements that require thoughtful consideration to help our remote staff be always connected with the company.

A centre to simplify, standardize and centralise communications

Leading global brewer AB InBev, one of the top five consumer products companies of the world, operates across six geographical zones. In Zone Europe there are 16,000 employees who speak seven different languages in 13 countries, the challenge for communicating and informing staff effectively is high.

To overcome cultural barriers and make sure the organisation goes in the same direction, they decided to create an Internal Communications Centre about 1,5 years ago. The team supported by Newsweaver's platform since January 2014, aims at simplifying communications through the use of four main channels: We Know, AB InBev Weekly, AB InBev Monthly and AB InBev Newsflash.

To give communications a standardised identity, the format is kept identical for every region. However, the content is tailored and translated for each location, making centralisation another key element of the Centre. 

According Melinda Illes from AB InBev's, since using the tool, "we are able to do analysis of our channels, we are able to create engaging communications materials with social features and interactive articles. And, we can focus on process improvement."

A new community for internal communicators

During the day there were other relevant stories from which to learn from. These included "How Vodafone turns raw metrics into actionable insights" and "Turning a regional communication strategy into an aligned global strategy at CHEP."

We are in a stage where the old corporate email system doesn't seem to work anymore. Yet, many organisations are still far from becoming a mature social business. Perhaps, Newsweaver has found a solution for those organisations a temporary solution: rather than eradicating the email system, turning it into a more social and cooperative work companion. We will see how the tool will evolve.

For the ones who couldn't join the event or follow it on Twitter, they will be able to catch up with all the content very soon. Next month Newsweaver will launch their Customer Success Community sharing over 100 How-To Guides, technical documents and knowledge articles. Internal communicators will be given access to a vast library of best practice, plus training videos and webinars.

And that is great news. As Marc Wright pointed out, "today, communicators need to have peripheral vision." We all need to learn more on this volatile working environment. It is by trying to understand, by sharing and asking - even with competitors - that we may be able to turn the technology to the humans' advantage, bringing value to our professional and organisational lives. #icmatters!

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Social Recovery in Financial Services

The 3rd annual Financial Services Social Media took place in London this week. How are the latest digital tools reviving the financial sector? 

While social media creates challenges for heavily regulated environments such as the financial sector, it also represents a window of opportunity to become more likeable, accessible and personable with both external and internally stakeholders.

The Financial Services Social Media 2014 by Brand Republic, was an opportunity to learn how some major financial companies are making the most of critical opportunities with a strategic and robust engagement levels and presence across different platforms.

The conference started with the premise that having a good level of visibility will positively affect many financial services businesses, even the ones that due to concerns on compliance, legislation and public criticism may be more resistant to the concept of social.


"Social media is about people, engagement and interactions. It is not an add-on; it's the modern equivalent of going to the bank." 

Nationwide's Senior Manager Paul Beadle, who helped the bank to set up the building society's first social media team, gave plenty of examples on how the industry can meet the challenges of social media.

It was interesting to hear how the bank is using Twitter to engage their customers and understanding their changing needs. Executed with transparency as well as a human approach, the account has been an invaluable asset. "We learned to listen first...Otherwise how do you know what to do?." They are investing and involving employees on using this and other social channels in a way that "adds personality, and focuses on being open, supportive, honest and quick."

He drove home the importance of ensuring business buy-in. He showed how the Chief Executive of the company Grahm Beale, is not only encouraging social media activity across the business, but is setting the example by being himself a proactive, consistent and authentic voice.


At simply-communicate we have always reported the RSA story on their use of the employee social network (ESN) Yammer.

The conference was a timely reminder of the transformative social business journey that the UK insurer is undertaking. Global Head of Social Media Jenny Burns, stressed how the ESN is embedded at the core of the organisation. "We have 15,000 posts on our platform every month. Yammer has totally transformed the way we interact internally: from a top-down, traditional one-way of communicating to two-way conversations at all levels. The platform is driving employee engagement and building a culture of innovation."

Burns didn't hide the challenges of making transparency the new way of working, as well as the fact that the business is still catching up. Yet, with the aim of helping staff connect and collaborate for the benefit of the business, she highlighted how the company is allowing social to flourish by making the most of daily opportunities. One suggestion was: "Do not underestimate the power of lurkers. Look for every chance to encourage dialogue."


Katryna Deligiannis of Morningstar was also well received. The investment research firm is using the power and impact of videos - through the global company's websites, YouTube and Vine app - to humanise the brand externally and internally, spread thought leadership across the business and also as a recruitment tool.

#myMStar was the Vine campaign launched at the beginning of April 2014 through the @MorningstarJobs Twitter account. Developed for the Morningstar Development Program it aimed at creating Vine videos to strengthen the company's core value of 'Great People'. The results were pretty remarkable: each video averaged a follower reach of 21k through retweets, helping to build engagement in and out.

Deligiannis also stressed how the company sees compliance as part of their communication process, by consulting with staff on a regular basis. Employees can decide if they want to be featured on social and the firm never tags on personal accounts.

Having social media policies in place

It was no surprise that this was a recurring theme of day. It started with Social Advisors' Simon Ryan, who gave a talk on keeping up with regulations.

It was from this presentation - drawn from the social media guidance for financial services firms published by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - that you could understand the huge challenges for this sector compared to other less heavily regulated industries!

Ryan's speech centred on risk management and corporate accountability. "We do expect some kind of internal staff accreditation for staff with social media accounts...a process for who has authority, access and scope. Plus, to be able to monitor staff activity in social media - including personal activity for authorised people."

With regards to strategy and governance he advised to:

• Define what you intend to/not to achieve (the scope for your social media activity)

• Carry out a risk assessment (produce a risk register)

• Appoint one person to own all these (make sure they report at least quarterly; have someone interested and with authority for them to report to)

In terms of monitoring, Ryan's suggestions were to "be clear about which staff you will monitor, say how you will monitor your staff, record breaches and lessons learned, and have a policy for social media just as you would speaking to the press."

He had plenty to say also on auditing and archiving: "record all the activity of your firm and staff; keep a complete archive - that means by user; record compliance breaches and remedial action taken, and be prepared for FCA spot checks."

Being purpose driven and human

"There is an ROI in being a purpose driven business. But having a purpose is nothing if you don't live it" 

This message from NixonMcInnes's Tom Nixon, resonated among many in the room. Passionate about companies becoming "communities of purpose," Nixon emphasised how collaborative cultures with shared values can make a real difference to an industry constantly under scrutiny such as the financial services.

This is especially true today. The openness and transparency brought by new technologies have changed dramatically the expectations of people towards how business is conducted as well as the credentials and reputation of many established companies. An example can be the Co-operative Bank, which recently has been showing an imbalance between words and actions.

Having a meaningful purpose, which serves as a unifying focal point of effort can bring compelling results. Yet, for communities to be united around a shared vision, transparency and trust must be prerequisites. And these can only be achieved when the business is walking the talk, living and making those values real. If companies can do that, everything else will follow.

The need of being authentic was a point disseminated by the majority, including LV='s Justin Harper. He shared how the company is managing social media through a balance between staying true to yourself and "remembering the pub". "It is all H2H - Human to Human," he said.

"With social, don't make it all about you, put yourself in others' shoes and add the human touch. Tap into what your stakeholders are saying, feeling and sharing. Mix rational with emotional."


The benefits of social media are often intangible and difficult to quantify on a spread sheet, yet there is still the need to talk about the ever-popular Return on Investment (ROI). Despite this being a topic particularly close to the financial sector, many appreciated that the 'Return' in ROI is having conversations that matter the most to the business. Knowing the core value of the business and understanding its communities better, will allow the company to be more agile, proactive and innovative.


During the day there were other relevant presentations. What appeared throughout was that social media presents financial services with an opportunity to engage with their stakeholders not only in a creative and innovative fashion as never before, but also in a genuine manner. Having a real and personal presence seems to be essential to maintain trust and goodwill among both clients and employees. The value in this approach and social exposure is significantly greater compared to the missed opportunities of being impersonal or even invisible.

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Uncommon Leadership makes real sense

Much has been written about great leaders, but Higson and Sturgess want you to build competitive advantage by thinking differently. 

“If we allow our thinking to stay within the confines of theories or models, these can actually end up being counter-productive. What organizations really need are leaders who can help them gain advantage by thinking differently”

Uncommon leadership” is the new book by Phil Higson and Anthony Sturgess designed to encourage leaders to think differently to develop competitive advantage. The nature of leadership has changed dramatically over recent years. The rules of their role are challenged by frequent criticism brought to public eyes by social media, plus the messy reality of the workplace of the networked era.

With that premise, Anthony Sturgess and Phil Higson offer a fresh perspective on today’s leaders’ skills. They start by pointing out three critical issues:

• The importance of integrity - to address a loss of confidence in the motivations and actions of some leaders;

• The desirability of more shared leadership throughout the organisation – to reduce the damage caused by too much power being concentrated in the hands of too few people;

• The need for a more holistic view of leadership – to help to cope with the complexity of the business environment, and the growing importance of relationships between organisations.

Their thought-provoking insight goes on through the investigation of five key themes or competitive advantages, structured around a ‘5-S leadership framework’.

Seeing – finding the sense before it becomes common. The first element is seeing with vision, “seeing things that others don’t, can’t or won’t.” To do that, when the future is inherently unpredictable, sense-making becomes a crucial leadership skill. “If leaders are to find the sense before it becomes common sense, they need to be able to make sense.”

Sense-making suggest an on-going vigilance, continually scanning and searching the context we are in. It also includes looking for discontinuities and gaps. “And, do not be afraid of finding a big gap!” In fact, finding the sense before it becomes common involves testing ideas to see if they work, then adapting as we gain more awareness.

This is a powerful message. It alerts leaders to approach strategy in a whole new way, which considers a more realistic approach to emerging situations. Rather than relying on foresight and planning for accurate scenarios as it was widely used in the past, leaders are now pointed out to the importance of insight. It is about gaining clearer, deeper perceptions of any given situation, having a constant alertness and being more responsive and dynamic to what is going on.

But sense-making isn’t just an alone exercise. In the true spirit of social business, to be really effective, sense-making needs to be done with others too. “Other people may well have insights that can shed light onto the situation.” This requires meaningful conversations with people across the enterprise and even further afield.

The authors bring attention to the three foundations for holding sense-making conversations, namely:

trust – listening to, respecting and acting on input from others;

honesty – communicating in a way that enables others to make sense of your input;

self-respect – integrating the above without losing your own self-belief.

Worth of note is also the suggestion of thinking differently before settling for compromises. Especially over important issues and seemingly irreconcilable ideas, we are often trapped by the “either/or” option. Instead, it is more effective and innovative to think “and”, finding a way to make it possible to do both. While doing this is not easy, finding what the authors define as the “tipping point” helps. This is the point at which something begins to change. At that point a number of small factors, a vital few things that matter, combine resulting in a significant change. “The vital few go by many names. Based on the Pareto Principle, perhaps it’s most commonly known as ‘the 80/20 rule.’ The basic premise is that, for many activities, the great majority of effects are generated from a small number of causes. This idea might not be new but it’s surprising how often it is overlooked by managers and leaders.”

Shaping – making good sense into common sense

“It is one thing to find the sense, but quite another to do something with it. Seeing sense only begins to make sense when others can see it too. For that to happen, leaders need to move beyond sense-making towards sense-giving.”

Seeing was about sense-making. The following step is about persuading, influencing and giving sense to the teams leaders lead.

I particularly like the idea of recalling Aristotle’s three ‘appeals’ of persuasion, which I am now going to steal with pride:

• An appeal to ‘ethos’ – the credibility of the person making the argument. How convinced are you by the person? How convincing are you to others? “We are far more likely to believe someone whom we think is credible, whom we like and respect.”

• An appeal to ‘logos’ – the use of logic to support a claim. Do the fact stack up?

• An appeal to ‘pathos’ – the emotional and motivational appeal. Does the argument appeal to the emotions? Language choice can affect people’s emotional response.

Sturgess and Higson, urge us to think that our way of making decisions is far more influenced by a complex range of feelings, emotions and subconscious stimuli than logic and rational thinking. What that means for leaders, is that an emotive and motivational appeal to ‘pathos’ is likely to have a bigger impact on persuading people than a logical argument. And when this is allied to ‘ethos’: “where the person making the appeal has high credibility, we find the most effective combination of all.”

But, like any form of communication, the act of persuasion is always a two-way process: for anyone to become respected, valued and trusted, they need to be understood. “And if you want to be better understood, you need first to understand others better.”

Showing – doing the common things uncommonly well

The third ‘S’ builds on the second. Once the uncommon sense around the right things to do to differentiate the business from others becomes common, the enterprise needs to excel at doing them. Key is to bring the insight to fruition by connecting the great ideas and practices to customers and opportunities.

But leaders also need to build a “strong sense of togetherness” within the organisation and help employees to fulfil their potential. So the final two ‘Ss’ are crucial to make the uncommon sense flourish.

Serving – having the common touch - is about building trust and support within the company, but also making connections both inside and outside the enterprise. It requires the ability of being in touch with the feelings of people, noticing the small things that can make a big impact on colleagues and caring enough to do something about them.

The last ‘S’, should be required reading especially for leaders embarking on the social business journey. Sharing – making uncommon leadership common is about harnessing the power of collaboration. “All too often we don’t realise the knowledge and potential within the teams or groups of people we have assembled. In many cases, we already have the insights and knowledge needed to solve problem, or identify innovative ways forward, within our organisations. But often that knowledge and expertise remains dormant or under-used.”

The commentary describes how the most critical skill today was the ability to share leadership both within and between organisations. An example of embedded, internal shared leadership could be when the teams themselves decide which member is the best person to lead at any given situation. The authors acknowledge that working well together through sharing leadership can take time, effort and persistence. Yet, they have no doubt that this is the future of successful enterprises. “There is an old African proverb which makes this point far better than we could: ‘If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.’

Is it worth reading?

If there is something I have been seeing through all the people interviews and company case studies we publish at simply-communicate is that this new type of leadership is what differentiates the most progressive and networked organisations. As communicators there is much here that fits our own agenda of collaboration and transformation. Let’s hope the book encourage more leaders to make this way of working more common inside their business. This would act as a springboard for capitalising on new opportunities and delivering competitive advantage.

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Teekay uses Yammer as their only intranet

"We are the first company in the world to use Yammer as the intranet," says Jonathan Anthony (@ThisMuchWeKnow), Director Corporate Communications at Teekay.

In 2011, the global marine energy company decided to replace its SharePoint-based solution with the employee social network (ESN) to improve internal collaboration. "Today, enterprises have the chance of integrating the two. Previously that luxury wasn't available. It was very difficult to leverage any kind of sociability on our intranet."

Getting there virally...the thirst for having a voice 

Since 2008, Anthony was suggesting to the company that “we need to become more social.” Yet, the answer at that time was: “Interesting, but Teekay is not ready yet.”

Two years later, things started to change. The idea of using a social network at work was given the benefit of the doubt. With a group of ten other people from communications and IT, Anthony started to experiment with Yammer. One day, he decided to write about the social tool on the old intranet site. In his post he described what Yammer was and why he thought it was valuable. To his surprise, on the following day, 25% of the organisation signed up on Yammer voluntarily. "People were interested and curious."

After a few months of experimenting with the tool, Anthony did another post. This time he described the use case of Yammer at Teekay, and mentioned that the company might be thinking about deploying it officially in the future. On the following day, 75% of employees signed up, once again voluntarily. "Virally, people were inviting other people. That was the killer piece of data for me. It showed me that staff had a thirst for having a voice. They had enough just receiving broadcasted information. We were ready to go social."

Everything is business if it drives communications

Once the ESN was officially implemented, "we just found we could work much better. Yammer was lightweight, useable and simple...a breath of fresh air for us! Suddenly, we were able to hear everybody's voice and get the most out of our people, most of the time."

The platform is first and foremost a communication tool. With around 200 communities, it is group-driven. People are brought together to converse and share on many different topics.

For example, project managers use the Technical Community to talk about technology in the shipping industry. Employees who interact with customers share presentations and other relevant information about those interactions in the Customer Community. The Office Community is a cultural sharing environment to discuss staff lunches and corporate events. My Team has replaced the use of email for topics such as small-scale projects and strategy. Another relevant group is People on the Move, where people can find details on those joining and leaving company, as well as how to get promoted inside the organisation.

Anthony also champions communities of interests such as Photography, which is highly popular for bonding relationships among people from different countries. "While this group is not equally important to the one where we talk about strategy, at the same time I don't like to make it a second or third rate community. Everything is important if it drives culture, networks and learning. That's still business to me."

Social business...a different world

Today, 1,300 employees of the 6,500 office staff are on the platform every day. But for the rest of Teekay's workforce who operate on the ocean waves, it's an entirely different story.

They have very little internet access. Plus, an important cultural issue; the sailors work in a very structured, process-driven and top-down way. This type of organisational environment prevents them from valuing a social tool like yammer. "At present, they cannot see the transformative use case that people from the office are having. It is a very different world for them.We have still to find the right use case."

Internal communications, not a police force anymore

As an internal communicator, Anthony's job has changed fundamentally. "At the time of the old intranet, we used to be a police force. We did all the writing and the editing. Then, we distributed it out to everyone and finally monitored what was going on."

With Yammer, the function has gone to a totally different path. "My role is now to help build communities, to support the networks and encourage new behaviours. We empower people to speak in their own language and to share."

He also emphasises a big change in writing. "We don't own it as much as it was in the past. It's co-created and much more conversational. People to people."

Getting into the life of the CEO

Senior executive support has been key to the success of the social platform. The CEO Peter Evensen is innovative, interested in technology and highly connected. "He is always on the road meeting new people. The idea of networks is totally normal for him. It's the way he has always lived his professional life."

When Yammer was rolled out, he joined it naturally and became the number one sponsor.

This level of openness made it possible for the organisation to organise their first Yam Jam on day one of the official launch of the ESN. Through a Q&A with the CEO, employees could ask him anything. In just one hour he answered 45 questions. He discussed strategy, the future of the company and safety. Plus, he talked about himself as a person.

Today, every time he has a thought or something new to say he just goes to Yammer and starts blogging. “He adds comments, makes notes and talks with people very informally." Also, whenever he visits other offices, media relations or clients, he likes taking and posting videos to show staff what he does and the people he meets. "He is very good at providing insights. A chance for us to get into the life of our CEO.”

Social is a choice

Yammer is the only place for Teekay’s workforce to find out information. Not surprisingly, that helped to build adoption. Yet staff are not forced to use it. They deal with the platform in a way that works for them.

"Surely, we would like to have more employees leverage it to its full potential. But social is about choices, not forcing behaviours. If an employee doesn’t want to do that, it is their decision. Most probably they will miss out on certain shared knowledge and opportunities, but I am not going to pressure them or tell them how to do their job.

"Social is a journey of engagement, empowerment and trust. And, frankly we should allow more of that in the workplace.”

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

RFU scores social business with Yammer and SharePoint 2013

This is an exciting time for the Rugby Football Union (RFU). With the Rugby World Cup coming to England next year, they have the opportunity to further grow the popularity of the sport in the country. Plus, it’s been an impetus to improve their internal communications.

The RFU promotes rugby at all levels: in schools and clubs right up to international level. They look to achieve success with England teams on the field and drive participation and revenues for the game. The Rugby World Cup is an opportunity not to be missed.

Half of their 600 employees are based in the 82,000-seater Twickenham stadium, the largest dedicated rugby venue in the world. The remainder of the team work in the field. To connect remote workers with the head office, they use their new social intranet called RFU Connected.

Rolled out in November last year with the support of Brightstarr, the SharePoint 2013-based solution integrates with the enterprise social network (ESN) Yammer, put in place a few months earlier. "We launched Yammer first, in the period of July-August and let it gather momentum. Then, when the adoption levels within the network were high, we launched the full SharePoint intranet," says Toby Jones, Internal Communications Manager at RFU.

It is OK to watch from afar

RFU Connected sits within a five-year Strategic Plan, with one element of that to improve the culture, performance, leadership and the technology of the governing body. Speaking of the latter Toby said: "our intranet solution wasn't effective. We had a real business incentive to improve it."

Toby's main concern wasn't about the adoption of the new technology though "We knew it was going to be better than the one we had before." The greater challenge was probably around the social part. "Some people will instinctively understand why it’s there and how to use it. Others will sit on the fence and watch from afar."

Toby was clear from the beginning that it was totally fine to be anywhere in that spectrum. "It is OK if you don't post all the time. You can still derive benefits by consuming the content. A social platform is not an exclusive piece of kit; use it as it works best for you."

Being on the same page while spread across the country 

To begin with they set up a number of groups based around their geographical structure and let other groups start organically. The majority of groups are open and each community can share best practices and relevant issues to their own region. Anyone is encouraged to browse and look at what others are talking about. "Very often something that works for Area 1 might be as relevant to Area 6. Keeping these forums open is vital for us to be on the same page. Connectivity is becoming even more important as we look to build a lasting legacy from the Rugby World Cup next year."

Innovating with All Schools
RFU Connected also made it easier for the field teams to share information and innovate around All Schools, one of the RFU's flagship programmes. The All Schools programme, which has Prince Harry as its Patron aims to get 750 state secondary schools playing rugby by 2019 – touching an expected 1m young people over that period.

So far operating in around 200 schools, it involves employees offering schools new to rugby a three year programme of support and helping to make connections with rugby clubs across the country to generate enthusiasm around the sport and foster the players of the future.

By picking up this key business programme and giving staff a clear purpose to use the social platform, the All Schools community on Yammer is thriving. The field teams are using Yammer to post success stories on the way they are engaging their local areas around the programme, helping colleagues of the other regions to generate new ideas on the initiative. "The field teams generally share lots of rich content from challenges to wins. This can take the form of pictures on what happens on their local clubs, as well as videos of festivals or news about volunteering activities."

RFU and England Rugby 2015...when collaboration crosses the boundaries

Another interesting approach is around the Rugby World Cup. England Rugby 2015, is the organising committee and a subsidiary of the RFU and responsible for delivering an incredible tournament next year.

As well as sharing their intranets, they also collaborate via Yammer. Toby merged the domain between the two entities, so that the Yammer feed is not only embedded on the RFU Connected but also on England Rugby 2015's home page. They are now working together on one Yammer network, specifically through the Rugby World Cup community; the group where the teams of the two organisations interact.

Benefits to internal communications

Thanks to the SharePoint 2013-Yammer integration, ESN functionality is embedded in key areas of the intranet such us news articles, company events and My RFU, the area for Finance and HR. "Staff now read news and other static content literally side-by-side with the social conversations happening on Yammer."

This has helped with the quality of internal communications. "We have now a significantly better capacity to tell our story as widely and as profoundly as possible. Previously, email was overloaded. Employees could not differentiate between important top-line strategic content and a general circular. Now, we have the ability to tailor communications at the right time and to the right audience. Email, intranet and Yammer."

With many colleagues working out in the field an important amount of content is accessed through mobile devices and the yammer app, has also proved helpful.

Visual communication also drives engagement. "In a world where everything is visual and more consumable, pictures have a strong impact. At the RFU, we have always had plenty of great images around our sport. Now, we have the opportunity to show them all."

An open culture allows social to take off

"We will never have a massive internal communications department. So, we need to be smarter about the money that we spend." Empowering staff to be telling each other what is happening on the ground, is a good way to reduce unnecessary costs and promote interconnectivity.

Toby encourages staff to see internal communications as something that belongs to everyone. "Surely, there will always be a degree of hierarchy, but social tools are a good leveller. From my experience it works best when an organisation works more peer-to-peer."

Not being "too stuffy" is relevant to get the most out of each other. "Nobody should feel frightened or uncertain to make a post on a public forum. There is just no such thing as a silly question."

This is often emphasised during the training sessions that the company provides. Education involves staff being exposed to RFU Connected with champions physically showing them how to use the tool. "Going through it with someone else, helps you gain more confidence and respond better to the tools. We make sure that those new to the team have an induction process with demos, classroom and presentations on a whole range of things – including the intranet and Yammer."

Next steps...getting more operational

After becoming an essential communication tool at a broad organisational level, the next stage is to make RFU Connected more relevant to the departmental objectives. Toby is encouraging each team to find their own way with the tools available. His plan is to explore each department's strategy and to tailor the intranet and Yammer services to best effect. "Ideally, each team would have a mix of static and regular social content that would support and communicate what they do.

"Getting to that point and building on our use of the document management tools in SharePoint will help us right across the board. And take another big step in our internal communications."

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate