Becoming the ultimate Yammer user

16 November, 2012 - 12:13
Many communicators are relying on the enterprise social networking tool to enhance collaboration among employees. But what does it take to become a certified Yammer Power User? Internal communication specialist Daniel Penton took part in the training to find out.

By Daniel Penton

Since its launch in 2008, Yammer has snowballed and is now used by employees at the vast majority of global businesses. Following the acquisition by Microsoft and the substantial price drop announced at SharePoint World Conference 2012 (from $15 per user to just $3 for the enterprise version), the number of companies using this innovative Enterprise Social Network (ESN) is only going to grow.

One of the reasons for Yammer's success is that it's easy for people to pick up and receive value from it straight away - whether it's a store manager sitting in Milwaukee interacting with colleagues in California about how they’re going to configure stores in the Thanksgiving run-up, to a new accountant in a head office getting quick answers to questions about last years accounts - pretty much everyone can get their head round how the basic functionality works.

Credit Charlottee Knee

This has turned out to be a gift and a curse for people using Yammer only in basic or specific ways. Many are unaware of advanced capabilities the ESN offers which led Yammer to launch its official certification program in July. The program provides resources to break down the ESN step-by-step so that users feel comfortable with the product before diving in.

The Yammer Certified Professional Program provides certifications on four different levels: Yammer Certified Power User, Yammer Certified Community Manager, Yammer Certified Trainer and Yammer Admin.

Feeling the ‘Power’

While in San Francisco for YamJam ’12, I took part in the Yammer Certified Power User training. Usually this takes place online using the clever technology from Mindflash, but for the first time, Yammer held the training in person the day before the conference.

Ahead of the training, participants were required to watch a range of videos on specific Yammer functionality (via Yammer of course) and look at specific use-cases of how different companies have implemented the technology.

On the day of my Power User session, I was joined by 20 fellow participants from around the world including my seatmate from Copenhagen. The training took approximately 4 hours and offered many opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing.

Our icebreaker - "How do you use Yammer?" - helped conversations to flow quickly. As it turned out, people were using the tool in very different ways including one college that posts its entire syllabus and associated materials exclusively via Yammer for both students and faculty.

An open discussion followed covering different Yammer functionality and more specifically, how to use the various, ever-evolving parts of the ESN. The group element lent itself well to this section led by course tutors and Yammer users explaining the innovative ways they’re making Yammer work in their organisations.

After going through various steps that included adding users to conversations, creating polls, praising colleagues and embedding videos, we then moved onto some practical work. Split into 6 groups, participants were assigned an exercise to come up with ways where Yammer could help tackle business challenges. We were also instructed to devise ways to overcome objections from both senior management and users alike (an issue that frequently plagues internal communicators). After teams worked through their exercises, they presented their cases to the rest of the room.

After our thoughtful and hands-on session, we were on to the final step: taking the exam online, powered by Mindflash. We were faced with 30 multiple choice questions covering the user functionality of Yammer. The great thing about taking the test online was that we got instant feedback on whether we passed or not. Those who pass the exam become part of a select group that have specifically been trained by Yammer in the appropriate ways to use the platform. Successful test takers have the opportunity to move on to the next level of the training program.

My takeaways

Before undergoing my Yammer Power User training, I had already been using the ESN for about one year. Receiving the professionally structured training significantly upped my knowledge on Yammer. No matter how much I thought I knew, going through the training helped me pick up new ways to make Yammer work in an organisation across a wide variety of situations. For internal communicators this can be tremendously valuable and can mean the difference between a company getting the best out of the platform or simply using the social tool as a backwater for IT chat and not much else.

Yammer training is available worldwide online throughout the year and in my opinion, every internal communications team should have at least one Power User to ensure their organisation is getting the most out of the ESN tool. Because let’s face it, Yammer is not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Daniel Penton is a freelance internal communications consultant for simply-goodadvice.