If you want to rent an apartment in a building, don’t meet the landlord - talk to the tenants first. So goes the wisdom in knowing circles. The reason is simple: While the landlord/lady will paint a rosy picture, the tenants will share the real one. The inside view always comes from the insider, which holds at the corporate and workplace level.
In other words, if your next interview is lined up with company X, make sure you read the employee reviews before sending the suit to the dry cleaners. If you are on a Panel that is thinking of nominating company Y as an Outstanding Workplace of the Year, hold the thought until you have had a conversation with their support staff – security guards, drivers, blue collars out how sensitive and inclusive their HR policies are.
If you are a client who has shortlisted company Z for your next project, find out about their work ethics and professionalism by having an aside with their ‘extended universe’ (dealers, channel partners, and gig freelancers) where the real organizational character usually reveals itself first. The industry calls this ‘insider opinion’… EMPLOYEE ADVOCACY.
Data makes a strong case
More people (53%) trust an employee than (47%) a CEO. Even domain experts working for the company pull more trust (65%) than the owner does.
A Cisco study noted that social content posted by employees rake in 8X more engagement than content shared by their bosses and employers.
According to a Linkedin executive who had scanned over 50,000 posts on the site, employees tend to have 10X more followers than the company itself.
In a not dissimilar vein, SproutSocial finds in their studies that people are 16X more likely to check out a social post that has been shared by a friend (who works for brand A) than social content from brand A itself.
LinkedIn also found that even though only about 2% of employees re-share their organization’s social content, they end up garnering as much as 20% of the company’s total engagement.
Talent seeking jobs place a premium on current employees' opinion, with professional and social networks now their trusted, go-to tools for job search.
What is Employee Advocacy?
At its core, Employee Advocacy is all about turning your employees into your company’s 24X7 promotion engine. It’s about them driving awareness for the brand through every channel possible - online (emails, social media, messaging) and offline (trade fairs, workshops, and word of mouth). It’s about employees tracking and intervening in social conversations around the brand with honest reviews, relevant recommendations, and helpful tips on products and services.
It’s about employees developing a sense of ownership and accountability for the brand and becoming fan, evangelist, and mascot rolled into one. A Fast Company article headline says it all…
VOCAL EMPLOYEES ARE A COMPANY’S BEST PR
While the term EMPLOYEE ADVOCACY has several avatars and ramifications, for leaders, brand custodian, and founders, the core connotation is unambiguous and stark: If you want to make an impression with the outside world, look within, Start with your people.
Here's a Quick Look at the Importance of Employee Advocacy in Every Function of Your Organization
Employees who are ambassadors of your brand help you become a GREAT PLACE TO WORK with validation that comes ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ and is therefore regarded much more credible than expert's opinion or theoretical research. As per Linkedin’s B2B University, companies who have a robust employee advocacy program are 58% more likely to attract (and 20% more likely to retain) top talent.
Employees who sparkle for the outer world will naturally spread sunshine inwards, thereby helping create a culture of belonging and pride.
Build credibility into your outreach programs and acquisition funnels by incorporating testimonials, views, and stories of employees and workers at every possible touchpoint – be it video, white papers & ebooks, campaigns, employee advocacy through social media others. Linkedin’s B2B University states that social content that is shared by employees – and therefore considered more authentic – has nearly double the click-through-rate (CTR) of shares at the corporate level.
Increase the quality of your sales pipeline. According to a Deloitte finding, 72% of sales folks leveraging social media consistently outperform counterparts who don’t,
Enjoy ‘better quality’ customers. As per a Deloitte study, customers referred by an employee (who has doubled up as an ambassador) tend to carry almost a 40% retention rate.
Tapping into the power of employee advocacy through social media strategically can also bring down the cost of customer acquisition (CAC), as this graphic clarifies.
Interestingly, advocacy benefits employees too. Almost 86% of employees who took part in a formal advocacy program in their organization admitted that it affected their career paths positively.
Getting Your Employee Advocacy Program on the Road
An Employee Advocacy Program must be strategic, voluntary, and self-sustaining. In other words, it must have a tangible vision with measurable targets, it must not be forced upon your employees, and it must carry enough conviction and steam to run a long course.
Findings of a study showed that “An identity of entrepreneurial thinking manifested in customer orientation and pragmatism helps loyalty, an identity of caring that manifests in cohesion and comfort helps satisfaction, and an identity of success by unruliness that manifests in risk-taking and freedom helps identification. If all these are present, advocacy is the highest.”
Looking to kick-start or fine-tune your Employee Advocacy Project? Here is the base roadmap that covers the essential milestone-boxes you need to tick:
1. It all starts with the Culture
Culture is an emotion code. Your workplace is wired around. Rites of legacy, habits of the founder(s), and ongoing innovations by Talent Leaders contribute to creating your company’s culture. A strong culture weaves in the sense of belonging to and affection with the organization – something that can turn employees into spontaneous fans. Areas to focus on while creating an ‘advocacy culture’ are :
(a)Start with Why
Nothing binds employees closer to the organization (and converts them into loyal advocates) than when they share a common target or when their goals overlap on critical points along the journey. A corollary of Simon Sinek’s now-famous theory around this concept is that companies that start with a strong sense of purpose will more easily attract similar-thinking talent since the allure of a ‘common adventure’ can be irresistible.
The organic teamwork that develops engineers' better value and impacts for society – and the company’s markets naturally - via the power of synergized momentum.
Honesty and trust are crucial to intimacy between worker and company. Employees who are kept in the dark about developments and happenings inside the boardroom, or feel that they aren’t being told the full story, will always feel like an ‘outsider’ – not the best recipe to create supporters who advocate your vision spontaneously. Make workers feel they matter by nurturing communication and supply data at every step and turn of the workflow.
Tribes are happier than individuals. Employees who feel like part of a team nurse greater attachment with the company. Be it big announcements or small banter, ensure the free flow of interactions across rank and file to build cohesion and chemistry, which are essential to making a vocal brand evangelist.
Figure out the pulse of your employees via surveys and feedback and create an ‘enabling organizational matrix’ that not only records them but implements them as well. This allows you to maximize potential, fulfill wish-lists and help teams be more productive (thereby lifting their self-esteem) via flexible role design, intuitive (as opposed to intrusive) coaching and mentoring, or continuous learning and growth opportunities.
Employees who feel empowered and find their worth steadily growing to tend to be grateful for the opportunity, and not surprisingly, make for lifelong cheerleaders for the organization.
(e)Rewards and Recognition
A culture that fails to spot and celebrate its employees’ potential and performance - or doesn’t stimulate and sharpen it regularly – will either lose its competitive edge or lose its best minds. Usually both. Create target-to-role fitments that recognize and leverage your employees’ talents, stoke competitive spirit and nudge behavior to help them punch above their weight and achieve goals they never thought possible, and recognize success publicly by rewarding appropriately and instantly.
2. Set the Strategy
Your employee advocacy program needs to have specific crosshairs and goals. What do you want the exercise to achieve? Gain Share of Voice (which means garnering a bigger slice of online conversations and mentions), enhance organic reach, build hype for an oncoming product launch, lower marketing costs, create sustainable lead pipelines, attract the best talent, or something else?
A clear employee advocacy strategy will help you custom design the right frameworks and processes and ensure your Employee Ambassadorship program delivers the best results. Keep channels of communication with your employee-advocates open at all times so that they stay updated on changes, behavioral expectations, and goals at all times while sharing their views and feedback with you.
3. Identify your Advocacy Heroes
While everyone in your organization is officially eligible (and ideally, expected) to be its bonafide champion, not everyone will be equipped or ready for it from Day One. Every organization has ‘natural born socialites,’ that is, individuals who are more familiar with and savvy about digital dynamics and social media behavior. You will optimize your Employee Advocacy program's efficiency - and boost its outcome – much if you can successfully spot these employees.
Let them lead the show internally and ensure sustainable momentum over the long term by
(A) becoming early adopters
(B) spreading awareness and clarity on protocols, guidelines, processes, and benefits with peers - via intranets, word-of-mouth, and similar bridges
(C) collect doubts, queries, and suggestions from employees and solve their hurdles from time to time so that the program can run smoothly
(D) encourage employees to become more vocal and active advocates and
(E) setting the communication tone and flags on the company’s online properties and social spaces so that it is easy for others to understand and follow best practices, participate regularly, and power the movement forward.
4. Prepare a Content Pipeline
Make a blueprint of the kind of content you want your employees to share about your company. Build a healthy blend of proprietary and curated material, make sure content formats are easy to share, keep the content on-brand (play up the organization’s unique achievements, contributions to the community, CSR initiatives, and team activities), and keep things exciting and aspirational so that employees will feel good sharing them.
Keep tracking KPI’s that were agreed upon at the beginning of the program - such as organic shares, leads, or ‘share of voice’ (and make sure your employees are aware of them too) - so that you can keep refining the content iteratively.
5. Turn the Experience Rewarding - Literally
No good deed should go unrewarded, certainly not when it comes to your Employee Advocacy program where motivation, as always, is key. Recognizing employees has always been the simplest way to improve morale and performance and keep them pumped about their job. Charing up your champions with incentives (that are matched to the performance and mapped to wish-lists) can play a big role in making your Employee Advocacy program a success.
Gamify progress to stoke a healthy spirit of competition and maintain a leaderboard to track daily wins and weekly winners.
Rewards don’t always have to be of the material kind: You can link an active employee advocate (whose enthusiasm clearly shows and garners positive reaction online) to career growth in subtle and meaningful ways as well. Just keep in mind that you have to come through on your promise (if you don’t, the premise and pillars of the activity – which is transparency and trust - will crumble), so keep your word by rewarding your glorious ambassadors without delay. An incentive delayed, after all, is an incentive denied.
Do What They Did
COOL SUCCESS STORIES OF EMPLOYEE ADVOCACY
Let Content Lead
ZENDESK – a player in the B2B space - empowers its sales team to establish themselves as thought leaders in the industry (which, as a side effect, boosts the employees’ own resumes and corporate clout) by letting them share articles produced by the company’s content team. This not only turns employees deeply grateful (amping up loyalty and reducing churn-cost exponentially) but is a reminder that high-quality content – when supported by the right technology, such as BAMBU in the case of Zendesk - has few substitutes when it comes to lifting authority rank in the sector one is in, be it the company’s or its advocates.
Start From Day One
ZAPPOS is quite an industry poster boy when it comes to employee engagement. Stories of its high energy workplace make their way into the top publications and trends on social media regularly. CEO Tony Hsieh’s book ‘Delivering Happiness’ is the definitive guide when it comes to creating a people-first culture. The learning here – particularly for owners of small/medium-sized businesses and founders of start-ups – is that employee advocacy initiatives are best started small. In other words, from Day One.
Cheer From Home
TRELLO - a mobile app that lets teams plan, collaborate, and manage projects from anywhere - is known for the fun posts its employees share on social media. This not only showcases company pride but lets potential employees know that Trello is a great place to work. Most of Trello’s employees work remotely, which underscores that one doesn’t really need traditional models and frameworks to run a successful employee advocacy program. Certainly not in the #NextNormal. All that’s needed is the will.
Recognize The Fan Within
STARBUCKS - the popular coffee company - takes its employee ambassador initiative to the next level with a whole separate website built for the program. Employees can share their pics, videos, and information for the world to see. And while having the right tech platform helps, Starbucks’ real masterstroke lies in calling their employee-advocates ‘PARTNERS’. When you are valued so powerfully and publicly, you will be a natural superfan and need little push to promote your employer’s image.
Build WORKPLACE LOVE in your employees and turn them into staunch advocates of your organization with Xoxoday’s plug-and-play, motivation-first SaaS innovations:
EMPULS lets your employees get better and better at what they do by sharpening success behavior through nudging and coaching while building a high-morale culture with open and connected workstations that are agog with purpose, energy, and laughter.
COMPASS lets your ‘extended universe’ – comprising sales and dealership channels, partner and distributor networks, gig freelancers, call center & BPO workers, and blue-collar armies - earn more and grow fast by hacking competitive spirit through alignment, gamification, and incentives.
PLUM celebrates every little win and every big performance - be it client projects or employee advocacy programs - via awesome and instant rewards.
At Xoxoday, we deeply understand the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and engagement drivers of people, be it an employee, supplier, contract staff, gig or consumer. We bring simplicity and continuity to a complex, everyday problem.