How to Start Your Employee Advocacy ProgramJun 22, 2021
Employee advocacy is when employees promote the work of their organization or industry. You see it on social media when people write articles or brief posts about:
- the work they do for their company,
- the exciting things their company is currently doing, or
- addressing false or incomplete information circulating about the company.
I wrote another article about employee advocacy, called Three Ways to Unleash Your Company’s Biggest Asset on a Small Budget. Read it for tips!
In spite of that article being about small budgets, it’s incredibly worthwhile to financially invest in employee advocacy. Academic research from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University explains that:
“Effective employee branding programs have several favorable consequences. Companies benefit from:
✔️ increased employee satisfaction and reduced staff turnover,
✔️ higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty, and
✔️ a favorable overall reputation because the desired brand image is being consistently reflected by employees.
If you don’t have an employee advocacy program in place it can feel overwhelming to implement one. I want to help you get excited and take action on this rewarding program!
There’s one thing you can do to take action that costs nothing and will help you shape a program for your entire company. Read on to learn about it.
The best, and easiest, first step is to reach out to the employees already doing it. Compile a list of your employees who are advocating for the company or the industry it’s in. Much of what’s written about employee advocacy has to do with social media because it’s the most visible. Keep in mind that employee advocacy also occurs when employees are having regular, off-line conversations. If you have any employees who speak at events or conferences, you can also include them in this group. They’re connecting with your audiences and aware of their feedback.
Here are six steps to take when you talk to employees about their employee advocacy activities:
- Thank them! This is really important because their efforts are highly beneficial to the company. It’s also important because you’re going to be asking for their help soon and you want to start off on the right foot.
- Tell them about your intentions. Explain to them that you see their activity as employee advocacy and that you’d like to create a program to encourage and empower other employees to do it too. The term employee advocacy may be unknown to them.
- These employees could be engaging in employee advocacy activities because it comes naturally to them, or because they know it benefits their career in the long term.
According to Hinge Marketing, employee advocacy puts them in touch with other opportunities, helps them develop in-demand skills (as more employers understand the value of employee advocacy, they’ll seek employees who do it) and differentiates them from their peers.
Employee advocacy does benefit employees and some companies have concerns about this. Yes, there’s a risk that your employees will leave, but that risk is always there and the benefits of employee advocacy still outweigh this potential disadvantage. Stay tuned for my upcoming article, Pros and Cons of Employee Advocacy.
Above are the reasons marketers believe that employees benefit from employee advocacy, but why do your specific employees believe it’s worthwhile? The only way to find out is to ask them. So, ask!
Their responses might mirror the reasons listed above, or they may be entirely different. It’s worth understanding their motivations so that you can share them with those supporting your employee advocacy program as well as other employees who you want doing employee advocacy. Take note of their responses and include them in your messages to other employees.
- Next, ask them what the company can do to support their employee advocacy efforts. They may need time to think about it and even then not be sure. A couple of things that will help them:
- Access to brand images, photos and colour codes.
- A head’s up on the company’s public relations, this could include media releases, marketing activities, and any other public announcement that the public or industry will be talking about.
- Employees who post on LinkedIn know that people are curious about them so they want to feel good about their personal brand. Offer to support them in filling out their LinkedIn profile, or point them in my direction for help.
Remember, it benefits the entire company when your employees are advocating on its behalf. You want these employees to keep doing what they’re doing, so do what you can to support them!
5. Now that you’ve shown appreciation and support for them, ask for their help. There are several ways these employees can support you. Here are some examples:
- Ask for feedback on outgoing messages: people doing employee advocacy are in tune with what the public really thinks. As marketing activities and other external events occur, this group can help you make sure your messages will “land.” Meaning that they say what the audience needs to hear without sounding too corporate and without industry jargon.
- These employees answer questions about your company already so they can help you understand what public perceptions are. Use this to your advantage! Your company can anticipate questions and concerns and plan their messages to address them.
- As you build out an employee advocacy program, the people already doing employee advocacy can help you understand how much time employees will need to dedicate toward it, what information employees need to have and if your incentives are appealing. They can also act as internal ambassadors for your company’s employee advocacy program.
As you can see there are so many benefits to an employee advocacy program! It might seem overwhelming, but like anything else, it’s important to take the first step. I’ve outlined some great first steps to take as you embark on your journey.
It’s crucial to have a good relationship with the employees who already have the skills to do employee advocacy. Their support has huge benefits to the success of your program.
As always, I’m here to help! I consult on employee advocacy programs and lead staff trainings on it as well. Contact me for more information.
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