Employee Advocacy – the go-to buzzword if you are looking for a solution to turn your employees into brand ambassadors for your organization by sharing company news and updates with their own social networks, in order to increase revenue whilst decreasing marketing costs.
Research shows the benefits of a formal Employee Advocacy not only for the firm, but also its employees, however, it does not suffice to “start doing Employee Advocacy” and expect positive results to come in automatically and immediately. Implementing Employee Advocacy as a part of the company’s strategy requires more than giving your employees a tool or a platform to play with. Today, I want to investigate the most common pitfalls of an Employee Advocacy Program, and how you can overcome those in order to create a truly engaged workforce.
Your brand is your culture and your culture is your brand
Gallup (2013) found that globally only 13% of all employees feel engaged in their jobs, defining employee engagement as being emotionally invested in and focusing on creating value for their organizations on a daily basis. The same research determined the overall increasing need for firms to focus on employee engagement to stay competitive in an ever-changing environment. Employee Engagement, however, cannot be bought; it starts from within. Only when your culture encourages knowledge sharing and open communication, you can make your Employee Advocacy Program work.
Trust Your Employees
Many times, I hear managers in charge of their companies’ Employee Advocacy Program state, that they want to be able to tell their employees exactly what to share, where to share and what to tell their networks. While this is a way to be in control of what your employees are saying about your company, it takes away the authenticity at the core of Employee Advocacy. Try not to put words into the mouths (or keyboards) of your employees, but let them share the content they feel comfortable with, in a way that comes most natural to them. In the end, they know their networks better than you do. Empower your team to share content that is relevant for them and that meets their own interests, in order for them to become a truly credible source of information and thought leaders within their networks.
Advocating for your firm means advocating through their own personal brand. Rather than dictating, provide the support they need and see how they will make an impact for you in the long run. Take into consideration that your team consists of individuals with each their own story, background, expertise and interests – let them make informed decisions on what to share – and what not to.
Finding the right Motivational Factors
Everyone loves doing a good job and being rewarded for it. Nevertheless, gamification aspects, such as collecting points or being at the top of a leaderboard only incentivizes up until a certain degree. Actually, ¾ of respondents by a HBR research indicated that the most powerful driver for employee engagement the recognition from top management.
Additionally, if you reward your employees every time they share news with their networks, you could create an attitude of expectations that you are not able to hold up in the long run. Rather than having your employees being engaged because they expect something in return, you want your employees to want to make a positive impact – not only for their own personal and professional development, but also for the sake of the company.
You can read an earlier article of mine on gamification and motivation here.
Knowledge is King – Content the Key
Next to creating a culture in which Employee Engagement can sprout, your company needs to be equally prepared to lead and to support your team.
It is easy to tell your staff to do something, but telling them how to use a platform is only one of the aspects, your employees need to know. They need to understand why they are doing it, and how their efforts have an impact on not only the organization as a whole, but also on them as individuals striving to improve their careers.
Leading by Example
Employee Engagement and Advocacy can only happen when it is implemented and lived from the top down. You cannot expect your employees to actively advocate for your firm, if management does not do the same. Set expectations and train your managers to ultimately empower employee engagement by leadership. The aforementioned Gallup research shows that managers are primarily responsible for their employees’ engagement levels – coaching them to take an active role in your Employee Advocacy Program can greatly increase overall engagement level.
Before you start expecting results from your Employee Advocacy Program to roll in, you have to make sure that you know what your goals and objectives are. Are you hoping to increase your website traffic, improve your brand awareness or turn your employees into thought leaders? No matter your objectives, make them clear to both the management team that needs to see proof of its success, but also for your employees and brand ambassadors.
Content is Key
Oftentimes, employees are not engaged because they do not know what to share, do not have access to “share-able” content, or are scared of doing something wrong. Providing them with a platform of pre-approved content, while showing that you trust your team, helps increase employee engagement. Make it easy for your team to find relevant content – whether it is by setting up different content categories or content streams that provide relevant content to share automatically to your team.
Training & Support
Your team can only be successful on social media if they know how to use it properly. To best turn them into brand ambassadors for your organization, give them proper training and support to become social media experts. In order to achieve that you can, for instance, provide professional LinkedIn courses, set up an e-Learning academy on social media usage, or give company-wide workshops for ambassadors. Only when your team is ready to embark on their journey on professional (social media) networking, they can become effective ambassadors.