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A lifeline, just in time

Yammer connects help with those who need it

by Kathryn Donelson
ABOVE: Brenda Blair, Sourcing & Supplier Management lead, left, coordinated a group of friends to meet at her house and cook homemade meals for families in need. The group delivered approximately 250 meals and fed more than 1,000 people.

Yammer logoIn the storm’s early days, emails flew between Human Resources (HR), Information Technology (IT), Real Estate & Facilities Services (REFS) and Corporate Communications.

“We knew employees and retirees had been impacted and were willing to help,” said Heather Sirdashney, HR general manager. “The question was, ‘how can we identify the needs, and what’s the best way to get help to those who need it?’”

Sirdashney photo
Heather Sirdashney

“We needed a way for people to connect with each other in real time,” said Emily Knippel, Leadership Development director. “And we needed it quickly.”

After some discussion on which tool to use, Yammer rose to the top of the list.

Knippel photo
Emily Knippel

“We’ve used Yammer groups to connect people around specific topics like Energy in Action! and Office 365,” said Christy Clark, Digital Workplace director. “It’s similar to other familiar tools and doesn’t have a big learning curve. Connecting people is what Yammer does best.”

Clark photo
Christy Clark

Within a week of its launch, the Hurricane Harvey Help group had 137 posts and more than 450 replies.

One of the first to join was Doug Ereon, IT business partner, whose garage was submerged.

“By the time I reached my house to assess the situation, 80 people were lined up to help. It was a huge relief to have all that support,” said Ereon. “The volunteers helped identify my needs so I could update Yammer. Every day, I had the resources I needed. It was truly amazing.”

Ereon photo
Doug Ereon

“The Yammer group was very effective,” said Sirdashney. “The technology allowed people to connect organically, faster, efficiently and personally.”

After Global Completions Chief Eric Davis returned from Perth to help with his flooded home, a colleague referred him to the group.

“Instead of sending multiple emails, I could just update Yammer each day,” said Davis.

Each update was met with additional offers of help, from meals and housing to help with the kids. Some days so many people showed up, the groups had to be split and deployed to other homes.

“People were incredibly generous,” Davis said. “I felt like we could have put anything we needed out there, and somebody would have provided it.”

Eric Davis surveys flood damage
Global Completions Chief Eric Davis assesses the flood damage to his home. 

While waiting for access to his home, Lower 48 Senior Counsel Jeff Hanrahan followed the group discussions from his iPad and learned who to tap for help when the time came.

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Jeff Hanrahan

“After posting to Yammer about finally being able to get into our home, we were welcomed by an army of Conoco­Phillips helpers — retirees and employees, including a crew from the Legal department,” said Hanrahan. “They began carrying out furniture and just doing what was needed. We never could have accomplished all that work on our own.”

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Melissa Hoffman

“In difficult times, sometimes we struggle with feeling powerless,” said Melissa Hoffman, HR business partner. “The Yammer group empowered people to contribute and participate.”

For Brenda Blair, Sourcing & Supplier Management lead, service starts in the kitchen. Blair coordinated a group of friends to cook homemade meals for families in need.

“We delivered about 250 meals and fed more than 1,000 people,” said Blair. “It’s been such a blessing to help others.”

“The Yammer group’s quick uptake and broad reach was astonishing,” said Clark. “We had over 500 people engaging from 13 countries, across all levels of the organization.”

With more than 64,000 reads, the group’s activity level has slowed, and the team is considering other ways Yammer could be used to connect people.

“When another need arises, we know we have this tool we can rely on,” said Hoffman. “This experience, while difficult, brought us together. It reinvigorated us and reminded us why this is an amazing place to work.”

“This event instilled in all of us a sense of community,” said Knippel. “Yammer helped connect us, but at the end of the day it was still people wanting to help other people. To me, that’s the spirit of Conoco­Phillips.”