By Gloria Lombardi

Grundfos is the world’s largest manufacturer of pumps with more than 18,000 employees. They also happen to be one of the most innovative users of Yammer in Europe.

Last year we caught up with their Digital Workplace Consultant Martin Risgaard Rasmussen, who told us about the Global Working Culture initiative born inside Grundfos to create a truly global collaborative organisation. To support that vision, the organisation began using the enterprise social network Yammer.

Since then, Grundfos has continued developing its strategy, taking the organisation to an entirely new level of co-operation and innovation. It seems incredible that we featured them only 8 months ago but Risgaard Rasmussen and his colleague Head of Global Working Culture and Social Business Thomas Asger Hansen shared with us the progress they have made in less than a year.

To date, 6,000 worldwide employees are active members of the Yammer community. 1,500 staff are engaged every month and around 400 communities have been created on the network.

Grundfos 365

The company moved from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook in September 2013 in a major Mail and Calendar change management project. This was the first step in a larger programme of moving Grundfos IT to the cloud and as such the success of this first project was very important in setting the scene for the subsequent projects. To make sure that the change reached everyone Grundfos appointed change agents from all over the world who were then invited to a Yammer group where all communications from the change management team would take place on the platform. The group was kept open to volunteers and any employee who had already working experience with Outlook and therefore could give guidance to colleagues.

Anyone who has been involved in changing the way thousands of colleagues use their email and calendar (the two most basic tools of today’s knowledge workers) will know what a viper’s nest such a project can be. Yet at Grundfos the result was a smooth transition with people adapting quickly with the minimum amount of fuss and resistance thanks to the extensive support provided to employees by their colleagues.

Today, the Yammer group has developed into a peer-to-peer Q&A channel. Perhaps one of the most important results of replacing email with open and transparent conversations was that the change management team received significantly fewer emails than usual.

“One of the trends we have seen is that people’s perception of the community has changed from being purely Q&A to become more of a self help community,” notes Risgaard Rasmussen. “This guidance not only incentives people to use the platform but also helps to create that sense of belonging necessary to any community to thrive.”

A Social Business Council

Another interesting initiative is around the company’s approach to governance. To make social the ‘normal way’ of engaging actively and openly in a globally connected organisation, Grundfos has created their Social Business Council in order to better leverage the opportunities and increase the awareness around social business as well as to increase internal collaboration.

They work on the social business strategy both internally and externally by generating priorities. Internally they work on social empowerment, digital literacy, social CRM, and social business intelligence. Externally they look at improving cross company collaboration as well as customer service communities.

Asger Hansen stresses that “social engagement inside and outside the company is key; it underpins all the decisions made by the Council.” How does Grundfos apply this alignment between internal and external? By creating expertise around a particular product, process or service internally that they can then engage customers with.

A good example is given by Ansger Hansen when describing a shared software program (an app) for the configuration of pump solutions. The program has been around for a while but using social technology Grundfos can now engage with their customers by letting them use, experiment and help choose the right installation in an active two-way collaboration. So instead of customers installing pumps on a trial and error basis, Grundfos and client engineers can work together online configuring the optimum solution without so much as picking up a wrench. Among the advantages of being so openly social, is the feedback given by customers, which will help the company to innovate the specific app. Furthermore, it will be an opportunity to close more deals since “there is a positive correlation between customers trying a product and an increase in sales”. In other words, people are more likely to buy more pumps if the last installation was successful and smooth to implement.

Making social business a competence

Grundfos is extremely committed to make social and ‘working out loud’ the way of doing business throughout the organisation. As part of their plan for 2014, the Social Business Council will work on a series of actions.

They will continue strengthening the role of Yammer champions. “They are the ‘Yes Team’ who proved to be crucial for positively reinforcing the value of the platform,” shares Risgaard Rasmussen.

The organisation will also work on making social business a management and leadership skill. An enterprise community requires leaders to fundamentally change the way they lead, communicate with employees, manage content, and information. They need to develop a new level of understanding of – and competencies to deal with – the relationships and work created on the social platform.

“Key skills of the manager of the future are related to communities, collaboration, empowerment and business technologies,” stresses Asger Hansen. Risgaard Rasmussen also adds that this change requires a new degree of “confidence” as well as an experimental attitude.

Thomas Asger Hansen explains the overall social business strategy in Grundfos: “During this year we have articulated and designed initiatives which deliberately focus on 2 categories of ‘Social’: Internal and External. We believe strongly that not only our skills but also successes here are interdependent.

“If we focused primarily on the external part, our internal immaturity would put the organisation under pressure, and if we focused entirely on the internal part, we would not get the business results we aspire for. And we have distinct use-cases for both categories.

In addition, we have identified 2 types of use-cases (which exist in internal as well as external use-cases), and we have named them 1] Serendipitous, and 2] Programmed. ‘Serendipitous’ are the ones which grow out of ‘lucky’ connections across the company (which are much more likely because we now have Yammer), where the ‘programmed’ ones have a much more typical project characteristic.

“Yammer has been the major vehicle for two things: as an internal social tool (and therefore also maturity development) but also a primer for the discussion of what social tech is and what behaviours are needed to develop if we want to succeed with external ‘social’. Therefore Yammer has been an invaluable primer for us – and as you know – developed with viral speed at times during the last year.

“So – figuratively speaking – I see social as a larger circle with a lot of sub-sets inside, Yammer being at the core of all internal efforts (and larger than any other single initiative!).”

Future plans

Grundfos is working on a much deeper integration of Yammer into SharePoint. The platform at present is not meeting all the organisation’s specific needs, and this is at the top of their technology agenda. While pushing for this to happen as soon as possible, Risgaard Rasmussen recognises the benefits of having implemented Yammer before SharePoint. If they had started with SharePoint then the solutions would have been more formulaic and less social.

“By starting with Yammer it served to prove the value of working socially; something that perhaps would not have been so easy to recognise if SharePoint had come earlier.”

As in many other successful social business journeys, leadership is playing its role. Even if at the beginning they were not overwhelmingly involved with social, they have always “allowed us to do stuff; they have never said we should not do it,” explains Asger Hansen. This leadership attitude allowed the team to keep experimenting with social and now they are enjoying the benefits. Among these is the consolidation of a more efficient, open and honest way of communicating which sees the reduction of employees’ reliance on emails.

A better understanding of social as the new way of working also needs to be strengthened.

“This is the most difficult part of the journey, since it is not about the implementation of new devices and features. It is about people, communication, relationships and behaviours. As such, it requires a new mind-set which recognises the value of engaging in dialogues rather than purely broadcasting messages,” explains Risgaard Rasmussen.

To deal with these challenges the company learned from the past that giving a clear purpose to employees for joining the network as well as to help create a positive reinforcement of the activity in the community are key to success. In the end it all starts with answering the big question: “Why are we doing this?”. The lesson from Grundfos is that if you have a purpose that aligns with business priorities and that people find sufficiently compelling the chance of success increases greatly.


This article originally appeared on simply-communicate