Microsoft’s big bet last year, when it acquired corporate social networking and content collaboration company Yammer, was that social tools would become a big part of doing business.
And while its use certainly seems to be increasing — and Microsoft seems to feel very good about how the acquisition is working out, given the updates it provides on Yammer’s momentum — there’s still the lingering notion that social saps productivity.
So Microsoft commissioned a survey to find out what workers really think about social in the workplace.
The results of the survey of nearly 10,000 information workers in 32 countries, conducted by research firm Ipsos, are being released today.
Unsurprisingly, the findings could be helpful to Microsoft as it sells its offerings that feature integrated Yammer capabilities. But the survey also turns up some interesting findings about the way businesses and workers are using — and regarding — social tools these days.
Turns out, 46 percent of the workers surveyed felt their productivity increased because of their use of social tools. Forty percent said collaboration increased as a result of using social tools and 31 percent said they would be willing to spend their own money on social tools if it helped them work more efficiently.
“While employees are saying: ‘We want new social collaboration tools,’ employers are (still) saying it’s a productivity waster,” said Adam Pisoni, Yammer co-founder and a general manager in Microsoft’s Office division. “We wanted to understand that tension.”
The tension, as Pisoni sees it, comes in part from how our jobs– and the way we work — are changing.
“Increasingly, the job we give our employees are not matching the job they’re actually asked to do,” he said. “Expectations from customers are changing faster than org charts.”
At a time when what’s expected on the job becomes less predictable, having social tools to connect to other people in the company can be very helpful, he said.
Pisoni gave the example of a customer service rep at Nationwide Insurance who couldn’t answer a customer’s question and asked her colleagues’ help through Yammer. She was able to get an answer and respond quickly to the customer that way.
“Businesses have to empower their employees to respond faster,” Pisoni said. “That’s all social is trying to do.”
The Kroger grocery chain, he said, put all its employees on Yammer and have been using it to share ideas with each other about what types of display cases generate the most revenue.
“A year ago, busineses would say the value of social is engaging with employees or engaging with millennials,” Pisoni said. “Now we realize it’s a new way of working in order to adapt to the changing needs of employees.”
Pisoni says he’s been happy with the way Yammer has been integrated into Microsoft.
When it was acquired last year, the company was four years old. “We had had a lot of success but we were still relatively small,” he said. “Being part of Microsoft lets us think at a new scale. … I’m really hoping in the next year, we’ll see a shift from: ‘I guess we need to do this (social)’ to ‘This is the future of work — how we need to organize and collaborate.”