Monthly Archives: February 2015

How can you improve Social Care Workforce Planning?

In 2011/12 Estyn and CSSIW inspections identified the need for Pembrokeshire County Council to address problems in the retention and recruitment of social workers. Below, Anne Nicholson tells us how they’ve gone about doing just that.

Pembrokeshire County Council / Cyngor Sir PenfroWe undertook a significant piece of research on recruitment and retention, workloads and support for social workers. We discovered from that research that we have a high number of social workers who appreciate living and working in Pembrokeshire and who want to continue to work for the Authority. This is of course a strength, however they reported that the benefits of living and working in the county did not counter the argument for the “going rate for the job” and the need for manageable caseloads. We had a high number of experienced practitioners with appropriate skills who were committed to working with children, young people and their families.

The safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny committee identified the recruitment and retention of social workers as a priority for Pembrokeshire made it a standing item on their agenda, receiving regular reports on progress with this work.

The Social Care Workforce planning project was selected as one of Pembrokeshire’s Outcome Agreements for 2013-2016. As well as being a priority for Pembrokeshire County Council, it demonstrated a clear link to the Wales Programme for Government’s Strategic Theme of Tackling Poverty. We believed that by providing an effective professional social care service with a sufficiently qualified and trained social care workforce, the outcomes for children, young people and families living in poverty would be improved. We set out to achieve this through:

  • The development of a model for the recruitment and retention of social workers
  • The development of effective mechanisms for referral to the Flying Start project for children & families to receive specialist support.

Together, the pay and grading review and the development of technologies to aid recruitment have proved successful in leading to improvements in this area. The market supplement and results of the Pay and Grading Review produced an increase in the ranking of starting and top of scale salaries in Pembrokeshire and have positioned Pembrokeshire more competitively. The number of vacant social worker posts reduced by 88%; the number of required agency staff reduced by 60% and the overall turnover rate has reduced.

We have reduced costs by moving away from the more traditional, and often more expensive, methods of advertising (which is part of our overall Social Work recruitment strategy) and successfully recruited candidates via new methods of advertising e.g. via YouTube, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.

We now have a robust procedure for the employment of agency workers and there must be a vacancy in a team before they are employed.

Sut gallwch chi wella’ch cynllunio ar gyfer eich Gweithlu Gofal Cymdeithasol?

Yn 2011/12 nododd arolygiadau Estyn ac AGGCC bod angen i Gyngor Sir Penfro mynd i’r afael â phroblemau’n ymwneud â chadw a recriwtio gweithwyr cymdeithasol. Isod, mae Anne Nicholson yn trafod sut mae’r cyngor wedi mynd ati i wneud hynny.

Pembrokeshire County Council / Cyngor Sir PenfroGwnaethom waith ymchwil sylweddol ar recriwtio a chadw, llwyth gwaith a chymorth ar gyfer gweithwyr cymdeithasol. Daeth i’r amlwg o’r gwaith ymchwil hwnnw fod gennym nifer uchel o weithwyr cymdeithasol sy’n gwerthfawrogi’r ffaith eu bod yn byw a gweithio yn Sir Benfro ac sydd am barhau i weithio i’r Awdurdod. Wrth gwrs, mae hyn yn rhinwedd, fodd bynnag, adroddodd y rhain nad oedd y manteision o weithio a byw yn y sir yn cyfiawnhau’r ddadl dros “y gyfradd gyffredinol ar gyfer y swydd” a’r angen am lwyth achosion y gellir ei reoli. Mae gennym nifer uchel o ymarferwyr profiadol sydd â sgiliau priodol ac sydd wedi ymrwymo i weithio gyda phlant, pobl ifanc a’u teuluoedd.

Nododd y pwyllgor Trosolwg a Chraffu y dylid gwneud y broses o recriwtio a chadw gweithwyr cymdeithasol yn flaenoriaeth ar gyfer Sir Benfro gan ei gwneud yn eitem barhaus ar eu hagenda, a bydd adroddiadau rheolaidd ar gynnydd y gwaith hwn yn cael eu cyflwyno.

Dewiswyd y prosiect cynllunio’r Gweithlu Gofal Cymdeithasol fel un o Gytundebau Canlyniadau Sir Benfro ar gyfer 2013-2016. Yn ogystal â bod yn flaenoriaeth i Gyngor Sir Penfro, dangosodd gysylltiad clir â Thema Strategol Rhaglen Lywodraethu Cymru ar gyfer Trechu Tlodi. Roeddem yn credu y byddai canlyniadau plant, pobl ifanc a theuluoedd sy’n bwy mewn tlodi yn gwella drwy ddarparu gwasanaeth gofal cymdeithasol proffesiynol effeithiol gan weithlu gofal cymdeithasol wedi cymhwyso a hyfforddi’n ddigonol. Dyma sut aethom ati i gyflawni hyn:

  • Datblygu model ar gyfer recriwtio a chadw gweithwyr cymdeithasol
  • Datblygu mecanweithiau effeithiol i atgyfeirio plant a theuluoedd i’r prosiect Dechrau’n Deg er mwyn derbyn cymorth arbenigol.

Gyda’i gilydd, mae’r broses o adolygu cyflogau a graddfeydd a’r broses o ddatblygu technolegau er mwyn helpu i recriwtio wedi profi’n ffordd lwyddiannus o arwain gwelliannau yn y maes hwn. Yn sgil ategiad y farchnad a chanlyniadau’r Adolygiad o Gyflogau a Graddfeydd cafwyd cynnydd yng ngraddfeydd y cyflogau cychwynnol a’r cyflogau uwch yn Sir Benfro gan wneud Sir Benfro yn fwy cystadleuol. Mae nifer y swyddi gwag ar gyfer gweithwyr cymdeithasol wedi lleihau 88%; mae nifer y staff asiantaeth sy’n angenrheidiol wedi gostwng 60% ac mae lefel trosiant cyffredinol wedi gostwng.

Rydym wedi gostwng costau drwy symud oddi wrth ddulliau hysbysebu mwy traddodiadol ac, yn aml, mwy costus (sy’n rhan o’n strategaeth gyffredinol ar gyfer recriwtio Gweithwyr Cymdeithasol) ac wedi recriwtio ymgeiswyr yn llwyddiannus drwy ddulliau hysbysebu newydd e.e. drwy YouTube, Google, Facebook a LinkedIn.

Erbyn hyn, mae gennym weithdrefn gadarn ar waith ar gyfer cyflogi gweithwyr asiantaeth ac mae’n rhaid cael swydd wag mewn tîm cyn y gellir eu cyflogi.

From Financial Audit to Good Practice Exchange

Michelle Davies has recently been working with us at the Good Practice Exchange. It’s been great to have her on board, and we’ve been learning from her about her work and vice versa. In this blog Michelle tells us about her experiences of working with us.

Michelle DaviesI’ve recently completed a Good Practice project where I helped deliver the Facing Financial Challenges Webinar (which you can watch in full on Vimeo). For those of you who don’t know me, I’m normally found working in the Mid and West Wales Financial Audit Cluster working on the exciting stuff – Local Government and Health Accounts!

So, Why I did I want to get involved?

I was both curious and ignorant as to what went on with the Good Practice Exchange Team, what do they do and how do they do it, what circles do they move in, what are their goals in our organisation? After working in Financial Audit in the West for over 10 years, I was desperate for a change of scenery. Getting out and about more, even working in the Cardiff office was a change of scenery.

I learnt loads of new skills, from different approaches to researching topics which I had little or no knowledge of at all. And as for social media, well it would be safe to say I am a little rusty around the edges; I needed to move with the times and the promise of being taught how to ‘tweet’ was appealing. Don’t you just love it when people say “it’s easy?”

I guess to work differently; sometimes you have to work with different people. Although a little daunting at first, you soon learn personalities and expectations. You can learn so much from other people, a kind of inner confidence starts to grow as you bounce ideas off colleagues and share their experiences and excitement.

What I learnt

Firstly I had to research the subject area, surfing the web, trawling through the current relevant reports, any conferences, seminars, identify potential speakers and produce a scoping document to present with my findings and identify the key themes for discussion.

Armed with my research material, I sat and discussed my findings with Ena and Anthony Barrett to agree on a punchier title and to identify speakers that were able to discuss current, relevant good practice identified within the public sector. I learnt the importance of does the title say what it does on the tin?

I held my first speakers briefing with Guy Clifton from Grant Thornton over the telephone, explaining the webinar structure, format and timings and taking away additional housekeeping issues he had for the Good Practice Exchange Team to confirm.

Social Media, i.e. twitter schedules and live tweeting
I had a lesson in tweeting and was asked to tweet live at a few seminars, helping the Good Practice Exchange Team when they were short staffed or at a larger event where there were several workshops running at the same time. A lesson in tweeting, was as I discovered, not always going to ensure it goes smoothly on the day!

Confidence in getting it done
Ummmm, what do I do now, what do I do next, am I doing this right, all my worries and part of the learning curve. Ena would smile at me and say, what do you think, tell me what you feel, what is your gut instinct? Now go and do it!

The Good Practice Exchange Team use a different way of working, they need to be ambidextrous within the team. You learn to work backwards. The team know what they want to achieve, so how do they get there, their focus is on impact.

The good, the bad and the ugly

I’ll do the ugly first – helping on an external seminar specifically to tweet live, I connected to the wifi, ok, sitting at the front of the audience listening to Huw Vaughan Thomas deliver his opening speech – I’m connected but hey – no internet! No matter what I tried it just wouldn’t work! At the end of the opening speech I managed to get Dyfrig’s attention and he miraculously connected my machine, phew! To play catch up I started copying and pasting from a twitter schedule – it wouldn’t work! It took about 15 attempts and a rising temperature before I realised that there were too many characters! Ok – no stopping me now…. except every photo I took of the speakers to upload with their key messages would appear upside down! No photos then!

The bad – well actually I don’t have any bad experiences, so far they have all been good or ugly, and even the ugly one is funny now. You learn from your experiences and I have, tweeting live at the webinar last week went well – phew!

The Good – I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences, I have learnt a new set of skills and gained an inner confidence and passion that was missing. I have been fortunate in meeting many people from all walks of life, with a range of skills and personalities, some impressive, some humbling, some inspiring, and some eager and switched on.

What I would say to anyone else who wants to get involved

Do it! – You won’t regret it and if you have any concerns and worries I can help you overcome them. The sharing of information this way is important to the future of both our organisation and public services.

O Archwilio Ariannol i Gyfnewid Arfer Da

Mae Michelle Davies wedi bod yn gweithio gyda ni yn y Gyfnewidfa Arfer Da. Rydyn ni wedi dysgu lot oddi wrthi hi ei am ei gwaith ac i’r gwrthwyneb. Yn y blog yma, mae Michelle yn dweud wrthym am ei phrofiadau o weithio gyda ni.

Michelle DaviesYn ddiweddar rwyf wedi cwblhau prosiect Arfer Da lle gwnes i helpu i gyflwyno’r Webinar Wynebu Heriau Ariannol (a gallwch wylio hwn yn llawn ar Vimeo). I’r rhai ohonoch nad ydych yn fy adnabod i, fel arfer rwy’n gweithio yng Nghlwstwr Archwilio Ariannol Canolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru yn gweithio ar y pethau cyffrous – Cyfrifon Llywodraeth Leol ac Iechyd!

Felly, pam oeddwn i’n awyddus i gymryd rhan

Roeddwn yn chwilfrydig ac yn anwybodus ynghylch yr hyn oedd yn digwydd gyda Thîm y Gyfnewidfa Arfer Da, beth maen nhw’n ei wneud a sut maen nhw yn ei wneud, pa gylchoedd y maent yn symud ynddynt, beth yw eu nodau yn ein sefydliad? Ar ôl gweithio ym maes Archwilio Ariannol yn y Gorllewin am dros 10 mlynedd, roeddwn yn ysu am newid. Roedd mynd allan mwy, a hyd yn oed gweithio yn y swyddfa yng Nghaerdydd yn newydd.

Dysgais lawer o sgiliau newydd, o wahanol ddulliau i ymchwilio i bynciau nad oedd gen i ond ychydig wybodaeth amdanyn nhw neu ddim o gwbl. Ac o ran y cyfryngau cymdeithasol, wel byddai’n saff dweud fy mod ychydig yn rhydlyd; roedd angen i mi symud gyda’r oes ac roedd yr addewid o gael fy nysgu sut i ‘drydar’ yn apelio. Onid ydych chi jyst wrth eich bodd pan fydd pobl yn dweud “mae’n hawdd?”

I weithio’n wahanol weithiau mae’n rhaid i chi weithio gyda phobl wahanol. Er ei fod ychydig yn frawychus ar y dechrau, byddwch yn dysgu’n fuan am bersonoliaethau a disgwyliadau. Gallwch ddysgu cymaint oddi wrth bobl eraill, mae rhyw fath o hyder mewnol yn dechrau tyfu wrth i chi drafod syniadau gyda chydweithwyr a rhannu eu profiadau a’u cyffro.

Yr hyn a ddysgais i

Yn gyntaf roedd rhaid i mi ymchwilio i’r pwnc, drwy syrffio’r we, darllen drwy’r adroddiadau cyfredol perthnasol, unrhyw gynadleddau, seminarau, nodi siaradwyr posibl a chynhyrchu dogfen gwmpasu i’w chyflwyno gyda fy nghanfyddiadau a nodi’r themâu allweddol i’w trafod.

Gyda fy neunydd ymchwil, eisteddais a thrafodais fy nghanfyddiadau gydag Ena ac Anthony Barrett i gytuno ar deitl mwy siarp ac i ddynodi siaradwyr a oedd yn gallu trafod arfer da cyfredol, perthnasol a nodwyd o fewn y sector cyhoeddus. Dysgais pa mor bwysig yw ystyried a yw’r teitl yn dweud yr hyn y mae’n ei wneud ar y tun?

Cynhaliais fy sesiwn briffio gyntaf gyda Guy Clifton o Grant Thornton dros y ffôn. Esboniais strwythur, fformat ac amseroedd y webinar gan gymryd oddi arno faterion cadw tŷ ychwanegol i’r tîm GPX eu cadarnhau.

Cyfryngau Cymdeithasol, h.y. amserlenni trydar a thrydar byw
Cefais wers mewn trydar a gofynnwyd i mi drydar yn fyw mewn ychydig o seminarau, gan helpu’r tîm GPX pan oeddent yn brin o staff neu mewn digwyddiad mwy lle roedd nifer o weithdai yn cael eu cynnal yr un pryd. Ond doedd gwers mewn trydar, fe wnes i ddarganfod, ddim bob amser yn mynd i sicrhau fod pethau’n mynd yn esmwyth ar y diwrnod!

Hyder i wneud y gwaith
Ymmmm, beth ddylwn i ei wneud nawr, beth ddylwn i ei wneud nesaf, ydw i’n gwneud hyn yn iawn, fy holl bryderon a rhan o’r gromlin ddysgu. Byddai Ena yn gwenu arnaf ac yn dweud, be’ wyt ti’n feddwl, dyweda wrtha i be’ wyt ti’n deimlo, be’ fyddai dy ddewis greddfol? Nawr ewch a gwnewch e’!

Mae’r tîm GPX yn defnyddio ffordd wahanol o weithio, mae angen iddynt fod yn gallu amrywiaeth fawr o bethau o fewn y tîm. Byddwch yn dysgu gweithio tuag yn ôl. Mae’r tîm yn gwybod yr hyn y maen nhw am ei gyflawni, felly sut maen nhw yn cyrraedd yno, mae eu ffocws ar effaith.

Y da, y drwg a’r hyll

Fe wna’ i’r hyll yn gyntaf – wrth helpu ar seminar allanol yn benodol i drydar yn fyw, fe gysylltais â’r WiFi, iawn. Eisteddais ym mlaen y gynulleidfa yn gwrando ar Huw Vaughan Thomas yn cyflwyno ei araith agoriadol – rydw i wedi fy nghysylltu, ond hei – dim gwe! Beth bynnag roeddwn i yn ei drio doedd o jyst ddim yn gweithio! Ar ddiwedd yr araith agoriadol llwyddais i dynnu sylw Dyfrig, ac yn wyrthiol fe gysylltodd fy mheiriant, yn lwcus iawn! I ddal i fyny fe ddechreuais gopïo a gludo o amserlen trydar – ond wnâi e ddim gweithio! Cymerodd tua 15 o ymdrechion gyda’r tymheredd yn codi cyn i mi sylweddoli fod yna ormod o nodau! Iawn – doedd yna ddim stopio arna’ i nawr … ond byddai pob llun a gymerwn o’r siaradwyr i’w lanlwytho gyda’u negeseuon allweddol yn ymddangos wyneb i waered! Dim lluniau felly!

Y drwg – wel mewn gwirionedd does gen i ddim unrhyw brofiadau gwael, hyd yn hyn maent i gyd wedi bod yn dda neu’n hyll, ac mae hyd yn oed y profiad hyll yn ddoniol nawr. Rydych yn dysgu o’ch profiadau ac rydw i wedi gwneud hynny, ac fe aeth y trydar byw yn y webinar yr wythnos ddiwethaf yn iawn – diolch byth!

Y da – Rydw i wedi mwynhau fy mhrofiadau yn fawr iawn, rwyf wedi dysgu set newydd o sgiliau ac ennill hyder mewnol ac angerdd nad oedd yno o’r blaen. Rwyf wedi bod yn ffodus i gyfarfod llawer o bobl o bob lliw a llun, gydag amrywiaeth o sgiliau a phersonoliaethau, rhai ohonynt yn drawiadol, rhai yn gwneud i chi deimlo’n ostyngedig, rhai yn ysbrydoledig, a rhai yn awyddus ac yn gwybod beth maen nhw’n ei wneud.

Yr hyn y byddwn yn ei ddweud wrth unrhyw un arall sydd am gymryd rhan

Ewch ati! – Wnewch chi ddim difaru ac os oes gennych unrhyw bryderon galla’ i’ch helpu i’w goresgyn. Mae rhannu gwybodaeth fel hyn yn bwysig i ddyfodol ein sefydliad a’n gwasanaethau cyhoeddus.

Working together: National Issues Committee Wales Fire and Rescue Services 

The winner of the Outstanding Change Leadership award at the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community Annual Conference was the National Issues Committee. Christian Hadfield tells us more about their work.

National Issues Committee LogoAll three Fire and Rescue Services in Wales have made the commitment to ensure the people of Wales continue to have a first class Fire and Rescue Service to be proud of, one that is based on continual improvement and providing a value for money Service. Today’s economic pressures place new challenges on all organisations, the Fire and Rescue Services in Wales intend to meet these challenges head on. And in doing so established a National Issues Committee, which has just celebrated its second birthday of successes.

The National Issues Committee is a dynamic leadership team consisting of Chief and Deputy Chief Fire Officers and Chair and Deputy Chairpersons of each of the three Fire and Rescue Authorities, their aim is to build on and optimise collaborative working opportunities for sustained service improvement, efficiencies and economical benefits, whilst keeping the communities of Wales safe.

Key collaborative areas have been identified as potential opportunities to meet these challenges. Project leads have been nominated to focus on these key areas and feedback to the National Issues Committee on realising new opportunities. The next few years will test the leadership and encourage us to look at new ways of working, calling on our creative strengths and the ability to adapt as a Service, as we’ve successfully proven in the last two years since the National Issues Committee team was introduced.

The National Issues Committee have recognised that the key collaborative areas identified will impact on all of us, and are examining all aspects of our work to ensure that the Welsh Fire & Rescue Services deliver on the Governments agenda for improved, more efficient and citizen focused public services.

With strong innovative leadership, the Fire and Rescue Service in Wales are overcoming the challenges being faced whilst continuing to provide a first class service. The innovative strengths and ability to adapt to changing circumstance are enabling and shaping the future services of the Welsh Fire & Rescue Service.

From the outset the National Issues Committee have been determined to keep everyone abreast of its work streams, with progress reports, regular updates and briefings, via a National Issues Committee web page and through sound communication channels, including the use of social media. The positive leadership of the National Issues Committee has resulted in motivated teams working harder than ever to deliver the aims of each collaborative area, and forging stronger working relationships between the three Fire and Rescue Services in Wales whilst meeting the current economical demands and challenges head on.

Gweithio Gyda’u Gilydd: Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol Gwasanaethau Tân ac Achub Cymru

Enillydd gwobr Arweinyddiaeth Newid Eithriadol yn Gynhadledd Flynyddol Cymuned Gwelliant Parhaus Cymru Gyfan oedd y Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol. Isod mae Christian Hadfield yn esbonio mwy am ei waith.

Logo Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol

Mae’r tri Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub yng Nghymru wedi gwneud ymrwymiad i sicrhau bod pobl Cymru yn parhau i gael Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub o’r radd flaenaf, gwasanaeth y gellir ymfalchïo ynddo, a gwasanaeth sy’n seiliedig ar welliant parhaus ac sy’n darparu gwasanaeth gwerth am arian. Mae’r pwysau economaidd presennol yn gosod heriau newydd i bob sefydliad a bwriad y Gwasanaethau Tân ac Achub yng Nghymru yw ymateb yn uniongyrchol i’r heriau hyn. Er mwyn gwneud hyn, sefydlwyd Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol, sydd newydd nodi ail flwyddyn o lwyddiannau.

Mae’r Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol yn dîm arweinyddiaeth deinamig sy’n cynnwys Penaethiaid a Dirprwy Benaethiaid y Gwasanaeth Tân ac Is-Gadeiryddion y tri Awdurdod Tân ac Achub, a’u nod yw adeiladu ar y cyfleoedd i gydweithredu a manteisio i’r eithaf arnynt er mwyn sicrhau gwell gwasanaethau cynaliadwy, arbedion a manteision economaidd yn ogystal â chadw cymunedau Cymru yn ddiogel ar yr un pryd.

Mae meysydd allweddol ar gyfer cydweithredu wedi’u nodi fel cyfleoedd posibl i ymateb i’r heriau hyn. Mae arweinwyr prosiectau wedi’u henwebu i ganolbwyntio ar y meysydd allweddol hyn ac i gyflwyno adborth i’r Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol ar wireddu’r cyfleoedd newydd. Bydd y blynyddoedd nesaf yn rhoi’r arweinyddiaeth ar brawf ac yn ein hannog i ystyried ffyrdd newydd o weithio, gan fanteisio ar ein cryfderau creadigol a’r gallu i addasu fel Gwasanaeth, fel rydym wedi llwyddo i’w wneud yn ystod y ddwy flynedd ers cyflwyno tîm y Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol.

Mae’r Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol wedi cydnabod y bydd y meysydd allweddol ar gyfer cydweithredu yn effeithio ar bawb, ac maen nhw’n archwilio pob agwedd ar ein gwaith er mwyn sicrhau bod Gwasanaethau Tân ac Achub Cymru yn cyflawni agenda Llywodraeth Cymru er mwyn sicrhau gwasanaethau cyhoeddus gwell, mwy effeithlon, sy’n canolbwyntio ar ddinasyddion.

Gydag arweinyddiaeth arloesol gref, mae Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub Cymru yn goresgyn yr heriau sy’n cael eu hwynebu gan hefyd barhau i ddarparu gwasanaeth o’r radd flaenaf. Mae’r cryfderau arloesol a’r gallu i addasu i amgylchiadau sy’n newid yn sicrhau dyfodol y Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub yng Nghymru ac yn ei lywio.

O’r cychwyn cyntaf, mae’r Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol wedi bod yn benderfynol o sicrhau bod gan bawb y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ffrydiau gwaith y Pwyllgor, gydag adroddiadau cynnydd, gwybodaeth reolaidd a briffiau drwy dudalen ar y we a thrwy sianeli cyfathrebu da, gan gynnwys defnyddio’r cyfryngau cymdeithasol. Mae arweinyddiaeth gadarnhaol y Pwyllgor Materion Cenedlaethol wedi arwain at dimau brwdfrydig yn gweithio’n galetach nag erioed i gyflawni nodau pob maes cydweithredol, a meithrin cysylltiadau gwaith cryfach rhwng y tri Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub yng Nghymru gan ymateb yn uniongyrchol i’r gofynion a’r heriau economaidd cyfredol.

Our Yammer journey – how we implemented an enterprise social network at the Wales Audit Office

In a few online and offline discussions recently, we’ve ended up discussing how the Wales Audit Office is using social networking to improve internal communication. Mark Stuart Hamilton has blogged about how we’re using it and the work involved.

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side / Intranet Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru, gyda ffrwd Yammer ar y dde

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side

We’ve recently introduced Yammer at the Wales Audit Office – for internal use. Like other social media, Yammer is a platform where people can post messages to each other, start conversations and improve knowledge sharing.

The difference between Yammer and many other social networks is that Yammer is designed specifically with business in mind.

We had been thinking about launching an internal social media platform for ages, but the time was never quite right. But after redesigning our intranet we revisited the idea.

Our old intranet had a system called post-its, which allowed people to post short messages to the front page. Original discussions focused on expanding that system (such as post-its being targeted to specific groups of people). But we soon realised that a different solution was needed.

Various options were explored and, after careful review, it was agreed that we would choose Yammer.

Yammer has a paid-for enterprise version and a free version. The enterprise version offers more administrative tools, although the free version was good enough for us for testing purposes. So, we set up the free version, along with a small pilot group.

At the start, this pilot consisted mainly of people who had asked for a system like Yammer since they would be more willing to start new discussions and breathe life into the system. We wanted as much content on Yammer as possible before the launch, so people would think of Yammer as something others use on a daily basis – not something to use a lot for the first day or so and then immediately forget about. In line with this philosophy, we expanded the pilot over time, so that more groups and content would be created.

That said, we still wanted to generate hype behind the main launch and get people excited – to encourage as many staff as possible to join in once it was officially launched. We have two television screens in the Cardiff office that display corporate news on a slideshow.  One of these slides was changed to read “Stop! Yammertime” and posters featuring MC Hammer were placed around the building carrying the same motto.

At the start, we provided no other information about Yammer. We wanted to generate discussion and a sense of mystery. Over time, we revealed more and more information, but the intent was always to instil Yammer into people’s minds rather than introduce it as a surprise.

We scheduled training sessions for people to attend about how to use and get the most from Yammer. Some staff were initially sceptical about Yammer and we have worked hard to show how Yammer can be beneficial for business, for networking and social interaction with colleagues. However, it is worth noting that marketing Yammer as “Facebook for business” is likely to generate a more hostile reaction from people who do not use or dislike Facebook (or other social media).

A few weeks after the Yammer ‘teaser’ advertising and the ‘taster sessions’, we officially launched the redesign of our intranet. We wanted to integrate Yammer into the homepage to further solidify the intranet’s role as the primary communications platform. The homepage now has an embedded Yammer feed in the sidebar.

The new intranet was originally planned to have a Yammer notifications icon that displayed the number of unread Yammer messages received, but this was cut from the release for technical reasons and will be re-added later*.

Our old news ‘comments’ system was also replaced with a ‘separate’ embedded Yammer feed. Yammer comments automatically provide a link to the article being read thanks to the Open Graph protocol.

Before we launched Yammer, our vision was that it would become a knowledge-sharing utopia. Almost everything would be sent to specific, targeted groups, and these groups would be made public so that people in different areas could provide insight into things that they otherwise would not know about.

In practice, it is hard to tell how much knowledge sharing has occurred, since people who learn something do not usually leave a comment to say that they have learned something. We also underestimated the importance of private groups. Some members of staff feel more comfortable if their messages are not sent to the whole organisation.

We will be doing a bit of work soon to evaluate how it’s being used by staff and analysing the take up, activity rates and value to the business.

Overall though, we consider Yammer to be a success – based on the amount of interaction taking place – and expect it to stay that way in future. Generally, it has been positively received and this is reflected in the kinds of discussions that are happening.

*For the curious, the unread messages icon is actually deceptively hard to create. The short version is that it requires creating a Yammer app, using the Yammer API to make the app impersonate a user by getting and storing their bearer token, and then getting their unread message count. The problems are performance-related and should be fixable by moving certain code client-side.