Image [cc] s_falkow

While reading Businessweek’s article called Yammer, Chatter, Hot Water, there was a part of the article that really grabbed my attention. We’ve discussed getting away from using email as an internal communications tool before, but according to Yammer’s CEO and a Deloitte Digital research study, the benefits don’t just stop at an uncluttered email inbox, they go straight to the moral of the employees that use the products:

“E-mail requires an active response,” says David Sacks, chief executive officer of Yammer, a three-year-old startup in San Francisco that says it provides social-networking software to 100,000 companies. When using Yammer or its rivals, “you don’t have to wait for someone to send you something. You can find it on your own.” Sacks touts the applications as a way to foster camaraderie and loyalty, citing research by tech consultancy Deloitte Digital that showed almost no turnover among its employees who use Yammer frequently. [emphasis added] 

These types of internal social networks are becoming the equivalent of “engineers’ notebooks” where employees “discuss new ideas and then track how they become actual products, producing a stream of information the company could use to claim ownership of an invention.”

Of course, the article itself goes on to discuss the risks of these internal social networks, and how the ‘informal’ nature of these networks might cause employees to act inappropriately (as in, discussing ideas that break laws or regulations.) However, with most processes that have high returns, there involves an amount of risk as well. The good news is that there are companies, like Belkin, that are willing to take those risks in order to create an environment that encourages collaboration, idea sharing, and the serendipity moments that arise from a free flow of communications. Companies are balancing the informal communications platform by also reminding and advising their employees to not to write things that violate laws, regulations or other company policies. Belkin’s CIO, Deanna Johnston understands that the risks of encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit will eventually cause a problem, and they’ll adjust their policies as needed. Johnston sums it up nicely by saying, “You have to get on the train… It is not going away.”