More than 210 billion emails are sent every day, but how much of that traffic is actually relevant to the recipients? And how much of it is actually read?
The Internet has taught us that the information we want is out there; we just need to go and look for it. In our digital world, we get to choose what we want to search for, and which results we will click on. Most of us select the type of information we want to receive, in some form or another – news and blog subscriptions, RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook follows and subscriptions.
If we can choose how we receive news, why can’t we choose how we receive our communications? Social media and social enterprise tools are giving us this choice on an individual basis; we can join groups that provide information that is relevant to us – project groups, team groups, special interest groups — and follow colleagues who post information that is relevant to us – teams, bosses, executive leaders and managers, as well as counterparts in other teams.
Most importantly, the people who don’t need to know about our work don’t have to — and conversely, we don’t have to know about theirs.
This kind of choice creates a much more focused and relevant information feed for each employee. It opens the door for collaboration in an open workplace, in much the same way as does a physical open floor plan at work, while keeping ‘white noise’ at a minimum.
Even the terminology used with social media – to post something, share something, tweet about something — has a different tone to it. Email is all about sending and delivering, neither of which means choice. Don’t get me wrong, email and social both have a place in the enterprise; we just need to become more judicious about using the right tool for the right job.
When we introduced Yammer to our company, part of our all-staff presentation was around helping employees understand that their Yammer feed was about choosing what to receive, based on what was relevant. This is quite a difference from an email inbox, which does not present a choice about what you receive – only a choice about what you delete!
Over the course of our first year of Yammer, we’ve started to see a change in usage of group emails, especially those that are purely about information transfer and awareness. More of this information is now posted to Yammer groups, where people can read it on their terms or search for it when they need it.
Posting a question to the relevant group on Yammer provides a mechanism for anyone with an answer to respond. Those that don’t have time to respond at that moment are still able to be part of the discussion, or learn from the answer. By putting the question in front of more than one person, the conversation is no longer tethered to the people on the email — anyone can jump in and offer a well-rounded viewpoint. Knowledge is shared and captured, rather than being trapped in inboxes, inaccessible to others. For people who haven’t chosen to join the group to which the message is posted — the day hasn’t been interrupted with a “Dear All” email with little relevance.
For those users who insist on maintaing group emails and distribution lists, regular digest emails still provide continuity — they are a great substitute for distribution lists and newsgroups!
There is no doubt that introducing Yammer into our organisation has reduced internal email. Interactions that happen on Yammer are often between people who would not necessarily have engaged in a discussion, had the social tools not been there. This, in turn, has an ongoing positive impact on people continuing to choose to use Yammer as a way to communicate and collaborate.
Thierry Breton, CEO of French company Atos, plans to “ban email” in his organisation of 80,000 employees, by encouraging people to talk to each, make phone calls and to use social business tools. While this isn’t likely to happen in our organisation in the foreseeable future, it is an indication that business is looking for more effective ways to communicate and to escape the inbox tether. Social enterprise tools are providing a less formal environment for internal discussion and communications, leaving email for more formal client contact. Of course, the future is multi-networked, where customers, employees and partners can openly collaborate with each other — but that’s a topic for another post!
Have you been able to shift some of your communication to internal social platforms? How did you do it?