This week we had our People Day. Over 400 people across Australia in the Human Resource function travelled to Melbourne to gather and hear our Leadership Team talk about the challenges of the future and how we can work together to face them. Although I will not go into detail here about what was covered, suffice to say that the key messages were all related to what we read about on the internet everyday. That is, the impact and speed of which technology has changed the way we work and how we can work with it. The underlying theme was that change is the new norm and that we don’t have a hefty manual to tell us what and how to do things anymore.
While sitting in the big plenary room, I glanced around me and saw that no one had their devices out. No iPads, no phones, no tablets. Sure we had paper and pens and some people were scribbling notes but I felt awkward to have my tablet out sketch noting presentations and taking photos. People looked at me with curiosity wondering why I was bothering taking photos.
Some time ago, I had written a note on Yammer, our organisation’s social networking site on the power of the backchannel and how we could use groups and hashtags to capture internal events and conferences and share these out across our organisation. Of course, it’s one thing to write about it and another to do it.
I had been thinking about using the hashtag #PeopleDay and sharing my notes on Yammer but as no one was doing the same, an awkwardness overcame me as the ‘odd person out’ and had thoughts such as, “Maybe this isn’t the done thing? Maybe they don’t want this to be shared? Maybe I’m doing the wrong thing by sharing to Yammer? Maybe there are different rules for internal conferences and external conferences?”
During the morning break, my colleague Paul came to me and asked me if I was going to share my notes on Yammer. When I told him my concerns, he was feeling the same way. He was the only one on his table, like me, taking notes on his tablet and having strange looks come his way.
I’m sure people thought that we were being rude with our heads down madly tapping at our tablets.
We decided at that point to just ‘do it’. Just post our notes, photos, sketchnotes on Yammer to our team group with the hashtag #PeopleDay and see what transpired.
What did we have to lose?
Besides, the leadership team was espousing knowledge sharing and collaboration. This was our go ahead to try something different and apply it immediately.
So we started uploading our photos, notes and sketch notes and over the course of the day, we saw that a few others had seen the posts and started commenting on it. Then, we saw photos being uploaded and amazingly, all tagged with the hashtag!
I was chuffed. This was a real win for us because it immediately broadened the scope of how Yammer was being used in our division.
Paul and I demonstrated the power of the backchannel by being the first two to start the ‘movement’ and the rest followed.
The next day, we had our Capability Day (our department’s team day) which was much more hands-on, interactive and a lot of fun. By this stage, people were accepting of us using our tablets to capture what was going on around in the room. Some people had asked what we were doing and when we told them, they too, contributed their own posts and photos.
However the power of what we had done didn’t reach us until the next day when we were back at our desks.
The head of our department had heard what Paul and I were doing and asked me to send her an email about it as she was keen to learn more. I wrote the email and explained what a back channel was, how a hashtag is used and how Yammer has helped create a storyline of events, information and posts that would be beneficial for those people who were absent on the day. I explained the value comes when people contribute their thoughts and reflections past the event and that it is ‘kept alive’ as people are talking about it online.
At the same time, I was glancing at the Yammer page and watching the traffic of people viewing documents and photos in our Group, the stream was too quick. It showed me that people were on Yammer interacting and engaging with the content that was uploaded.
I shot a quick message to Paul to check the traffic in Yammer. Both of us were like excited little kids because this was a real win for us.
Although we didn’t have the volume of people participating and contributing to the online conversation, we did see that many people viewed the content. There is a level of ‘fear’ of the use of Yammer and as many people have an online profile, many of them also don’t post anything related to their thoughts or their own work. We still have a way to go in this sense but at least we have made a step in the right direction. Once we have our senior leaders also contributing and responding in this tool, then I believe things will change.
In the meantime, I’m still counting this as a win.
We received congratulations from our head of department and our team members….
And now we can say that people know what a back channel is and how it can be used to capture and share information….
As a result of this action, yesterday afternoon, I was approached by the Culture team to work with them and look at how we can use Yammer in sharing our work and yes, the word ‘networks’ was mentioned.
YES! Score! Fist pump!
It looks like people in our team are now curious and want to know more.
Curiosity leads to questioning why we do the things we do.
Questions lead to experimenting with a new way.
Experimentation leads to learning something new.
Learning is then shared.
Networks are created.
We’re on the right path.