The ability to post on behalf of someone else in Yammer just entered general availability. This could be celebrated as a new way to leverage Yammer for communication, but I suggest proceeding with caution and considering the options.
Announced on the Microsoft Tech Community on July 22, anyone in a Yammer network can choose someone else as a delegate to post Yammer content on their behalf.
But you need to scroll to get to the important bit, past the instructions on how to do it.
The important part is that this should be seen as an option to help ease leaders into the experience of engaging on Yammer. Not as the standard approach for how leaders participate in enterprise social networks.
As the post says “We know that leadership engagement is a key to success in Yammer networks”. What it doesn’t dig into is the importance of authenticity. That people can feel the difference between genuine engagement and purple prose from the internal communication team. Particularly when it is one way.
In one of the first Yammer networks I nurtured as a Community Manager I received what I thought was a strange request. An Executive Assistant (EA) wanted to be able to create Yammer posts on behalf of a Senior Leader.
The positive part of this conversation was that the leader recognised it was a place where people were engaged, and their voice could be heard. But the request indicated that they did not understand the function of an enterprise social network, they didn’t realise the opportunity they had, and possibly didn’t care.
I had a conversation with the EA about the purpose of Yammer, about how it functions, and that I could not recommend logging in on the leaders behalf to do their posts for them.
The result was that the Senior Leader in question didn’t post to Yammer in the time I worked there. They could not make the time, and there was no opportunity to coach them on the benefits. Sometimes an organisation and a leader really needs to be ready.
I have also seen the complete other end of the spectrum. A highly independent leader who is passionate about digital tools. Naturally authentic and would post regularly, respond regularly and react regularly in Yammer without prompting. You can read a little bit about it in a case study from the team at SWOOP Analytics, Building an engaged, collaborative culture is serious fun.
Over the years I have experienced, read and heard of all of the shades in between. For the most part it takes some work to give leaders the knowledge and skills they need to be confident to post as themselves. Not just in enterprise social, this is still true in email and on intranets.
Alternatives to posting on someone’s behalf
Unlike the delegation features available in Outlook, until now there was not a designed way for someone to post on behalf of someone else. The goal of having a leader who will be comfortable freely and frequently engaging on Yammer is not always easy to achieve. So alternatives are employed. I would guess quite a lot.
Certainly I have seen, experienced and heard of some variations on the theme:
- People logging in to someone else’s account to perform the action. A big no-no from a security perspective. Not sure how often it happens in practice, but have heard on the grapevine that it occurs.
- Generic accounts on behalf of a function, business unit or role. Depending on how an organisation manages these things, this could also be a security no-no, or it could be managed.
- Ghost writing of posts which are then posted by an executive or leader. Done this plenty of times myself.
Importance of authenticity
These options present the same challenge – a lack of authenticity.
Over the many years that I have worked with Yammer and networked with community manager peers, the requests for a feature where someone can post on behalf on someone else has been hotly debated. But I have felt a consensus that this feature goes against some of the key outcomes an organisation would ideally want from such a solution:
- Authentic presence of leadership
- Trust in the messages that are shared
- Genuine discourse between all organisational levels
I buried the keyword. Trust.
By being authentic, we build trust. When people trust, they can share in the vision and freely work towards organisational goals.
I like the following article because it talks the language of finding your authenticity, rather than just using words and language that mimic it.
It also references the Edelman Trust Barometer (2019) which analyses trust from many angles including the importance that employees place on trust and it’s importance to loyalty and engagement.
The Year of Yammer brought about fundamental changes to the perception of Yammer in the Microsoft 365 universe. I blogged about it at the time in The Year of Yammer starts now:
- Yammer being lifted up to be a truly integrated part of Microsoft 365
- Enhancements being made to provide ease of management for Yambassadors and community managers
- Communication and community being Yammer’s position in the Microsoft 365 toolset
With communication as a clear position for Yammer, providing tools that meet the needs of communicators makes sense. Internal communication managers, corporate communication teams, people and culture teams and executive assistants may have a desire to leverage a feature where they can post more regular messages on behalf of a senior leader.
Don’t use it if you don’t have to. Don’t use it if you have already made headway with leadership and can continue supporting them and coaching them to a position of independence and authentic communication.
I really want to say, just don’t use it. But I know there are places where this could be the thing that gets you over the line with a leadership presence in your Yammer network.
So, know it is in your toolkit. Use it as the last thing at the bottom of your bag to pull out if you are still missing the critical leadership piece on Yammer.
Webinar with the Team from SWOOP discussing post on behalf of.
Discussion with fellow MVPs Ben and Simon about Post on Behalf of and Authenticity and Trust in leadership.