Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you could not miss the Olympic Games happening in London this summer. As always, the event had a profound impact—and not just on sports. It’s also an advertising campaign for sponsors who fund the Games; it inspires health and wellness initiatives encouraged by governments across their countries. At Yammer, we launched an Olympic-themed campaign as well – a campaign to enable remote work, realtime communication with employees, and employee engagement during the Games and after.
My personal experience with the Olympics has been around attending sports events and volunteering. I was lucky enough to be among the 10,000 volunteers who took part in the Olympic ceremonies (closing ceremony in my case). This once-in-a-lifetime experience taught me how to dance, gave me the chance to meet fellow Londoners and allowed me to be — albeit a little — part of history.
I did not expect that this personal experience would inspire some great ideas and teach me skills for my job at Yammer. As a sales engineer, I explain the benefits of a social network to prospects, highlighting how this multifunctional tool has a profound and dramatic impact on organisations, and why we should all embrace this change.
Social network signifies a change in the way employees communicate with each other and their partners. Younger generations who have been exposed to social media find this communication shift natural, but for most employees, there is a learning process. This process is not much different to when a non-dancer – like me — has to learn choreography for the Olympic closing ceremony.
I remember at my very first rehearsal I was quite uneasy with dancing — but eager to try. Kim Gavin, the creative director, and the dance captains, took the time to explain their expectations of us via a video presentation, followed by a live presentation of the choreography they imagined.
At rehearsals, we learned the choreography step by step, section by section. I discovered that dancing was all about counting with the rhythm, breaking down every step and repeating the newly learned section, and slowly adding new sections. The learning process also involved adding to the number of volunteers rehearsing together. We started with about 50 of us, and grew to about 500 of us in a stadium. When you start dancing with just a few people, where you feel like the center of attention, it’s a confidence booster to be thrown into a crowd of dancers where you are less conspicuous. This is a great way to think about setting up and growing an enterprise social network as well! Share the objectives with your colleagues, explain the vision, show them a fully functional enterprise social network, and demonstrate the steps you’d like them to take — such as setting up a profile, joining a group, posting a first comment, replying and sharing a document. Start with a department or a project (or several concurrent projects), and over time, grow the initiative to touch the whole organisation.
Volunteers are integral for ceremonies and Games in general; in fact, volunteers who helped transport people across London were called the Games Makers. Without volunteers, there would be no games. Volunteers needed to embrace the vision of the ceremony in order to be motivated. The creative director motivated us by sharing a high-level presentation of the closing ceremony performance, which explained the message we wanted to send about London – its life and music heritage — the Olympics values, etc.
This lovely performance could not come together without strict rules. If you really need volunteers, you cannot afford to lose them at the midpoint; expectations were clearly articulated right from the beginning — a commitment to attend 12 rehearsals and a very strict Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Being part of such a big event with so many people can be intimidating, and there is a risk of feeling disconnected or lost. I really appreciated how a special “human resources” team was set up to communicate with volunteers via email and phone; they welcomed us and said goodbye at every rehearsal. Despite the size of the crowd, there was always someone you could ask for help.
The most fulfilling part of the experience was of course receiving the recognition and gratitude for our work. None of us did it for money or fame — even though we all had our few minutes of glory on TV. As human beings, we greatly appreciated recognition. The artistic team was praising us at every rehearsal, and via text message and email after the event. We were invited to see the last opening ceremony rehearsal in the stadium with thousands of other Games Makers, got T-shirts and kept our costumes. It’s the little gestures of appreciation that really matter in the end.
Looking to engage and maintain engagement in a social network? Share the vision and get commitment to doing the right thing via the usage policy and agreed upon best practices. Make sure a Community Manager is there to guide and help any employee on the network, and do not hesitate to reward exemplary usage with fanfare — be it a public praise, a t-shirt, or a special celebration.
Although I was not part of the creative team who set up the ceremony, I still influenced it. Kim Gavin and the creative team spent close to a year designing the ceremony; starting with just an idea idea, they selected the music, artists, visual decors and all choreographic aspects. I would call this phase “Build”.
When the volunteers started to learn and rehearse sections of the performance, the creative team watched closely, almost like market researchers: evaluating and measuring how good the dance actually was, compared to the idea. Many times during the mass rehearsals, the creative team assessed critical moments in the dance, such as having enough time and space to move from one position to another. Let’s call his phase “Measure”.
Every time we found a failure in the plan – for example, choreographing a chaotic traffic jam of 30 vehicles, to the music — the creative team went back to the drawing board, adapting the choreography, mass movements and even the length of the music track. This creative process, of which the volunteers were a big part, constantly needed to “Improve”.
The Build, Measure, Improve mindset is at the very heart of the Yammer development approach, and my role as a volunteer dancer was similar to the role of a Yammer user. Users’ responses to Yammer are analyzed in order to assess what’s working and what isn’t — in order to continually improve the user experience.
The way I learned how to dance is how I would suggest any user start using a social network for the first time. Maintaining engagement in your Yammer network is very similar to getting 10,000 volunteers to give 15 days of their time for rehearsals. Finally, an artistic director’s approach to choreography turned out to be similar to our own developmental methodology of Build, Measure, Improve.
Photo source: JP Photography