Every organization expects their employees are sufficiently motivated and engaged to promote their workplace and offerings to their networks. Not just online but even in the real-world – in every conversation and every interaction. How much of that truly takes place is unclear because organizations are unaware of what and how to go about getting their employees on the same page as advocates. There are immense benefits when employees take positive actions on behalf of the organization – these include increased reach, better awareness, greater trust and improved reputations. Despite the benefits far outweighing the drawbacks, not many organizations have taken on board employee advocacy actively. Organizational culture, the environment, openness to change or disempowered employees can be some of the factors holding advocacy back. Here are a few recommendations to build a compelling business case for employee advocacy.
– Know the landscape: There is no doubt that the state of employee-employer relationships has evolved significantly over the years. Employees’ expectations and their clout have increased creating a shift in how employers need to now engage them at work and beyond. With millennials in the workplace, the growth of social media, access to information and increased regulatory guidelines are among causes for organizations to ponder over. Not knowing what environmental factors are influencing your employees’ attitudes and actions can be detrimental.
– Audit your current state of advocacy: Conduct a quick check on who your current advocates are among employees. Free tools can help you gauge the reach and impact on some of the key channels which employees use. Understand what employees share, where and how they engage with the brand beyond the workplace. These insights can help the organization craft suitable interventions that can be scaled up if it warrants an investment of resources, time and effort.
– Understand barriers to change: Not every organization or leadership team may be open to having employees engage, speak or comment on behalf of the brand. For example, the risks of information leakage, social media crises or unwarranted media attention can prevent organizations from endorsing employee advocacy. Internal communicators have a role to play in aligning the goals with the organization’s culture, helping leaders and employees appreciate the power of social media, engaging key stakeholders on understanding the local laws and digital policies better.
– Showcase success stories: Lots of organizations have started and created successful advocacy programs and helping stakeholders understand such case studies can be a starting point in changing views and getting buy-in. Highlight how organizations have gone about their effort – for example, a large telecom company in the US began with interesting video tutorials giving employees information on how they can present themselves as ambassadors of the brand. A global chip maker recruited employees who had the most influence and followers on social media. In another case – a technology services company invested months in training and certifying employees. The methods were different although the intent remained the same – to get employees aligned and focused on pitching the brand positively.
– Demonstrate business benefits: You can begin with a pilot among a group of employees from a cross-section of business teams and see how it goes. Gather insights from the pilot to bolster your case. To build a strong case that will be appreciated by your leaders you need to demonstrate the tangible value that organizations receive. Some of these benefits are obvious and easy to highlight – more reach, larger followership, and increased presence. Others are a lot harder to gather – reduced spend on media costs, return on investment and employee engagement can take more time and effort to decode.
It isn’t about if organizations must adopt employee advocacy practices or not – it is about when and how quickly can they tap the collective wisdom and power of employees to take their engagement to a whole new level. Your employees are already out there speaking, commenting, sharing and even bashing your brand or business. Staying ahead of the curve means putting a strong employee advocacy plan to work for your organization.