"People have a hunger to communicate more and more with one another," says Laping, who was the seventh Yammer user at his company. "For people to be satisfied at work, they need to feel connected: connected to one another, connected to the best practices in the organization, connected to the way others are working, and connected to the current state of affairs in the company."
Laping says social networking tools like Yammer do a better job at many-to-many communications than e-mail, which is hierarchical, not immediate enough and not truly searchable. Instead of e-mail, Red Robin employees use Yammer to give feedback on corporate initiatives, share operational improvements, and discuss issues that are impacting the business - all in real time.
"You get better adoption on initiatives and greater return on strategy when people feel involved and bought in," Laping said. "You can have great ideas and the promise of returns, but what gets between them is this nasty feature called behavior change. If you can't drive or enable behavior change, you don't see the return. That's where Yammer helps us tangibly."
Companies that fail to adopt social networks internally are losing out on the opportunity to build a more engaged workforce, Laping warns.
"Companies are missing a great collaboration opportunity, a great feedback opportunity, a great pulse check," he says. "Social networking ups the ante in terms of getting work done. It improves how employees connect with the work they are doing and how incredibly impactful that work can be."
Similarly, Salesforce.com is seeing dramatic uptake of Chatter, which became available as a separate application 10 months ago in addition to being integrated with Salesforce. Among the 100,000 companies that use Chatter are Kelly Services, Burberry, Saatchi & Saatchi and Dell; these companies have created 200,000 custom Chatter applications.
"What we're seeing happening with social technologies is that the barriers are falling down in terms of who is an influencer,'' says Scott Holden, senior director of product marketing, Sales Cloud at Salesforce.com. "Everyone gets a voice, and the best ideas are bubbling to the top. Employees are using these technologies to turn themselves into meaningful voices in the room."
In surveys, more than a third of Chatter users say they are seeing productivity gains from the social platform. Specifically, 30% said they are sending less e-mail, 27% report attending fewer meetings and 52% say they are finding key information faster.