Every day, employees are faced with the laborious task of sorting through emails. Many businesses have come to rely on email communication to the point that it has adversely affected efficiency in the workplace. Could social tools such as Yammer and Lync be the answer?

 

Employees are regularly inundated by emails that are proving to be a continual source of distraction whilst working. Constantly switching between tasks, known as context switching, can be counter-productive. Some research suggests that it can take as long as 25 minutes to re-focus onto the original task.

How can social tools solve this problem? “Tools such as Yammer provide a public platform within a company or department. These forums will stop employees from having to answer the same questions repeatedly to different people and will stop the confusion when someone forgets to reply all,” commented Kareem Tawansi, CEO of software development provider, Solentive Software.

When Microsoft acquired Yammer in June 2012, they attained more than just another product to add to their suite of programs. Since acquiring Yammer, Microsoft has integrated the program into its internal operations with great success. They reported that 100,000 of their employees and suppliers have created an account and 34,000 of them are active users.

Social tools and in particular, Yammer, can be integrated with internal systems such as Dynamics 365 and SharePoint. It is this integration that will drive productivity, adoption rates and ensure the tool becomes a natural part of the workplace.

When implementing social tools such as Yammer, guidelines regarding the use of the tool need to be established. “Posts need to have some relevancy to work – you don’t want to have to trawl through pictures of someone’s pet before you find what you need. It is not personal social, that’s what Facebook is there for,” counselled Tawansi. “Due to the casual nature of social platforms such as Yammer and Lync, discussions can sometimes go off track. It is therefore important to distinguish between what is acceptable on a work-related social platform and what is not to ensure the platform remains relevant,” explained Tawansi.

Instant messaging programs such as Microsoft’s Lync are being implemented in organisations as a real-time communication tool to increase productivity. Lync enables users to collaborate in real-time by sharing documents, conduct conversations with multiple team members, and hold presentations and video conferences.

Will social tools such as Yammer and Lync replace emails?

According to Tawansi, “No – Email will always have a place as a one-to-one, two-way communication tool whereas social tools such as Yammer are broadcasting tools that are one-to-many. Due to social media’s casual nature, Yammer or Lync are not effective tools to instruct someone to do something – this is better achieved through email.”

“The problem with email is that a large portion of it is actually not relevant such as spam and people not following correct email protocols about who they place in CC’s and BCC’s. To minimise this noise, organisations need to ensure that proper spam filters are installed and, that they educate their employees about how they should structure their communication.

“To improve productivity, organisations could introduce a flow day,” commented Tawansi, “A flow day is a designated day of the week where email communication is kept to a minimum to enable employees to work with minimal disruption. This will encourage autonomy, whilst still maintaining a collaborative working environment,” advised Tawansi.

As social tools such as Yammer and Lync are utilised more in the corporate world, this does not spell the end for emails. Emails maintain the professionalism that is lacking in social media tools. Employees need to be educated about which communication channel they should utilise; this will depend on the purpose and audience of their communication. By choosing the right platform and allowing employees to communicate via different channels, productivity will improve and the task of trawling through emails will be reduced.

Additional Links

M.J. Foley, How Microsoft is using Yammer inside the company, April 2013 – (ZDNet

K. Janssen, Can Yammer eliminate emails and streamline internal communication, May 2013 – (Staffing Talk)

B. Malina, Digital Collaboration in the Workplace, July 2013 – (Verizon Wireless)

R. Miller, How Microsoft got its own employees to use Yammer, June 2013 – (CITE World)

B. Sullivan & H. Thompson, Brain, Interrupted, May 2013 – (The New York Times Sunday Review)

R. Worsley, The Death of the Email, April 2013 – (Reportage Online)