Social. Unlocking its potential is a modern day conundrum for IC professionals.
With more than half its workforce already using its Yammer account, Gatwick Airport is certainly on the right track.
Times are changing.
Social media is here to stay – whether in its current guise or a future format – and the challenge to harness its possibilities faces most of the IC teams in the UK.
Questions around introducing an enterprise social network into a company have a familiar ring to them.
Do we really need it when we’ve got email?
Will people use it sensibly?
Will our employees use it for chatting instead of working?
Gatwick Airport launched its Yammer feed in 2011. The team tasked to introduce the channel faced the doubters head on, allowing the feed to develop organically before driving the platform into the very heart of the organisation’s communications plans.
The Gatwick Airport Yammer feed currently has 1,488 members and 580 (39 per cent) of them were actively engaged in the past month.
And that’s not all.
The business is also making it easier for operational teams, who aren’t desk-based, to access Yammer. They’ve been eager to join so giving them work email addresses and free staff wi-Fi is helping this.
Caroline Coomber, Airport Communications Manager, said they selected Yammer due to its integration with Microsoft Sharepoint.
She said: “We’re planning to invest in Sharepoint in the business and so it made sense to choose a platform that integrates with that.
“Yammer was then bought by Microsoft, which signalled that it was a good decision – it was seen as THE workplace collaboration platform.
“The internal comms team could see the value. Our job was to convince other people that it was valuable as a business tool.”
It did not take long for perceptions to begin to change.
The social network has started to make a difference to the workplace collaboration, Caroline says.
She said: “People can connect with each other in a way that they probably couldn’t before.
“We’re fairly small with 2,600 employees. There are two terminals and people who work different shifts, so there are people that won’t ever see or speak to each other.
“I’ve seen examples where people help each other out – someone has asked a question and another has jumped in and answered it.
“I often do a bit of digging and it’s not uncommon that the two didn’t know each other at all and they wouldn’t have known to contact each other.
“I think that’s really powerful – it prevents them from going through the usual chain of command of line managers, which can take time. It’s removed boundaries for people.”
Signposting towards Yammer was embedded across Gatwick’s Airport communications channels and, as well as highlighting the work benefits it can bring, social elements – like organising team sports events – are actively encouraged.
Indeed, Yammer’s influence has grown to the extent that it has been key in the organisation’s annual pay discussions with HR officials taking part in real-time Q&A sessions.
Caroline continued: “The culture has changed a lot and we’re becoming more open.
“HR taking to Yammer to answer questions about pay negotiations was a good example. These discussions would have normally taken place behind closed doors and you’d have to be part of the union, so I think this was a really brave example.”
Caroline is in no doubt over why Yammer has been such a resounding success for the Gatwick workforce.
She added: “It appealed to me because, outside of face to face communications, it is a good two-way channel, the one place where you can receive messages from employees.
“I’m quite proud that we look at what’s going on and we use it to tell us what people are interested in.
“It’s wasted if you use it only as another push channel as that’s what the magazine and intranet is for – you need to look at what employees are telling you as that’s where the value is.”