Today’s post was written by Celine Schillinger, head of Quality Innovation and Engagement at Sanofi Pasteur.
Improving quality and performance are common business goals, but at Sanofi Pasteur, these goals have exceptional implications. As the vaccines division of a multinational pharmaceuticals company, we are responsible for creating rare, specialized products that prevent disease and save lives. When we improve any aspect of our business, we are also improving the lives of the people who receive our products. It’s an enormous responsibility, and one that is getting a surprising boost from the Microsoft social networking tool Yammer.
Too often, corporate social networks are seen as not having real business value. At Sanofi Pasteur, we know that these networks can have tangible benefits that support our corporate mission. When we first discovered Yammer eight years ago, I had no idea it would blossom into the largest group of its kind in the company, or that it would go on to inspire my current work using social networks to crowdsource change at the company. By supporting a movement of internal activists with a “quality mindset,” and connecting them through a large Yammer group dedicated to sharing best practices and ideas around working better together, Sanofi Pasteur took a decisive move toward improving the quality of our manufacturing processes. The result was an outpouring of innovation, such as an operator who saved his manufacturing unit more than €100,000 (US $105,000) by changing the way a particular material was handled in the production process, or a shop floor manager who has created a way to empower shop floor operators around key pillars of the production, thus reducing human errors by 91 percent. These are the kind of solutions that flow on Yammer. They are shared by their proud authors, recognized by peers and management, and replicated on other sites. They inspire more ideas and create a vibrant culture of improvement wherever people sit in the hierarchy.
Ours is a very stringent industry, with incredibly strict guidelines, and my challenge was to turn quality from an imposed constraint to a shared passion. Yammer helped me create a platform where this shared passion could grow. The Yammer effect is one of democratization and liberation of knowledge. In the past, the siloed company structure put pressure on managers to exchange information with their peers. Today, everyone has the opportunity to share their experiences on Yammer more openly, creating a rich resource of insights from every individual, regardless of title or level within the company. Our chief quality officer will regularly ask for and receive input directly from Yammer. Yammer groups have also helped us facilitate more collaboration between departments. Today, groups that would never have had a reason to interact before are learning from each other’s success.
It is my belief that no one understands a company better than the people working there, and Yammer allows us to tap into this expertise at every layer of our business. When we invite the company at large to share best practices and initiatives on Yammer, we are inundated with great ideas that solve problems. With every success, participation increases, driving a global corporate sensibility for personal responsibility and change.
Yammer also speaks to the very different working realities of all our employees at Sanofi Pasteur, from those on the shop floor to every level of manager and associate in the company. For employees without access to a company computer, the mobile nature of Yammer allows them to tap into all the benefits of an engaged workplace culture from their smartphone. Sharing pictures is easy and intuitive, bringing people’s conversations to life and adding color to the discussions. The reality of a global enterprise like ours is also supported by Yammer, as it provides multilingual translators that remove geographical barriers to enable a global conversation. A couple of employees took to Yammer to launch the idea of a cross-site running group, to promote the quality improvement movement and its collaborative nature. A few months later, this network has gathered runners from 14 sites in eight countries, from Argentina to India, from France to China. Altogether, they ran 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles)! When you see the pictures on Yammer, the bold challenge, the smiles and the pride, you realize that our company is closer and more cohesive than ever.
I knew when I started the Yammer community that our purpose was to create a living ecosystem where people could care for each other and work toward building better business outcomes. The result exceeded our expectations and has led to savings in time, money and resources as we move ahead with our mission to prevent illness the world over.
For more on Sanofi Pasteur’s ability to promote and support the “quality mindset,” read the full case study.