Table of Contents
Table of Contents
What Is Employee Advocacy?
We often hear that “Employees are a company’s #1 asset.” While this phrase refers to how employees drive revenue and maintain organizational culture, it also suggests that employees can be a valuable tool in recruiting and promoting brand awareness.
The term employee advocacy refers to the notion of empowering employees to promote their workplace outside of their job. According to Forbes, “[Employee advocacy] is important because 52% of consumers trust employees at a company more than the company or brand itself.”
Purposes of Employee Advocacy
Employee advocacy is used in many ways and can serve multiple purposes, including recruiting, marketing, and sales.
- Talent. Employees help increase a candidate pool for multiple reasons.
- Your employees’ networks are full of potential talent.
- Your employees intimately know what the culture of the organization is like and can share valuable insights from a unique perspective.
- According to LinkedIn, “Companies with socially engaged employees are 58% more likely to attract top talent and 20% more likely to retain them.”
- Marketing. Organizations can expand their reach by utilizing employee networks. According to Peer to Peer Marketing, posts have “561% greater reach when messages are shared by employees (and 800% more engagement on posts shared by employees) rather than by the brand’s official social media channels.”
- Sales. Sales leads that come from employee networks are more likely to turn into actualized sales. This is because employee advocacy reaches a larger audience and individuals trust employees over brands.
Types of Employee Advocacy
There are many ways for employees to advocate for their organization.
- Social media. This is the most popular method for employee advocacy. It is easy for employees to like, share, or comment on social media content put out by their organization. Whether it be about a new sales campaign or an open position, social media is an effective tool in employee advocacy, as it can reach a large audience quickly.
- Job fairs. When employees who are not involved in the hiring process attend job fairs, they are able to give prospective talent a first-hand, unbiased look at what the organization is like.
- Networking events. Organizations who encourage their employees to attend networking events often reap the rewards of the positive representation of their brand (both their consumer and their employer brand).
- One-on-one conversations. Employee advocacy programs encourage employees to talk about their organization outside of work. Simple conversations where employees serve as advocates for their organization can yield benefits in talent, marketing, and sales.
Why Is Employee Advocacy Important?
There are so many benefits to an employee advocacy program. While it can improve brand awareness, reach, recruiting efforts, and customer retention, it also benefits employee engagement and employees themselves.
- Employee engagement and company culture. Employee advocacy programs help bond employees. They promote a sense of pride in the organization and a shared understanding that “We are all in this together: we succeed together and we lose together.” They also convey a level of trust that an organization has with employees to represent them well. When employees feel trusted, they often feel empowered. Additionally, “Socially engaged employees are more optimistic, inspired, connected, and tenured.”
- Marketing reach and engagement. According to LinkedIn’s Official Guide to Employee Advocacy, “On average, employee networks have 10x more connections than a company has followers,” and “While only 3% of employees share content about their company, those shares are responsible for driving a 30% increase in the total engagement a company sees.” This is likely due to the fact that people intuitively trust opinions and information shared by their peers. When employees share organizational information (about products or job openings) their audience is more inclined to feel that the information is relevant to them because it was shared by a peer.
- Authenticity. When it comes to attaining and retaining customers and top talent, trust is critical. According to EveryoneSocial, “76% of individuals surveyed say that they’re more likely to trust content shared by ‘normal’ people than content shared by brands.” Employees are often able to connect with their audience much more quickly and authentically than a brand can.
- Employee Benefits. While there are many organizational benefits to employee advocacy, there are also employee benefits. Through advocacy, employees are able to build professional reputations and increase organizational relationships, which tends to increase work satisfaction.
How to Create an Employee Advocacy Program
Creating an employee advocacy program from scratch is much simpler and cheaper than you may expect.
Step 1: Identify Goals
Whether your program is intended to increase sales or to widen your talent pool, identifying goals is the best way to get started. Do you hope to expand your reach and obtain more followers, or are you looking to find more sales leads? Do you want to find quality job candidates or are you looking for a higher volume of candidates? Once you have identified the goal, you can create a program that specifically propels your organization to attain the goal.
Step 2: Identify Advocacy Leaders
It is highly recommended to utilize your entire workforce in your advocacy program. Your employee advocacy program should motivate every member on your staff to participate. When this is not entirely possible, identify which employees or employee groups should participate.
No matter the number of employees participating, identify advocacy leaders. These leaders should be independently motivated and have good relationships with employees so as to be able to encourage them to go above and beyond what is asked of them at work. Consider who is already advocating for your organization on social media or in their personal/professional networks. Who is passionate and enthusiastic about your organization and/or industry?
Step 3: Provide Direction and Convey Value
Consider your brand. If you want employees to represent your brand well, they need guidelines to help them know the best way to advocate. Making a list of do’s and don’ts can help employees gain a better understanding of what is expected of them. Consider offering answers to questions such as:
- What type of language should they use?
- How should they respond to comments made on their posts (both positive and negative)?
- Are there any aspects of your brand that you want to be upheld (such as colors, fonts, or hashtags)?
When offering this type of direction, it is important to remember that you are creating guidelines, not strict rules. If you create a long guideline list, employees will not be encouraged to participate for fear of messing up or doing something wrong. Keep it simple.
It is critical to convey value as you provide direction so as to encourage employees to participate despite any guidelines that they may be less inclined to follow. Communicate the value of the program to the organization and the value for employees who participate. Value to employees may include:
- A chance to build professional relationships and networks
- Company rewards in the form of incentives
- A chance to provide value to the organization or to improve their work culture by bringing in strong talent
Step 4: Keep Up and In Touch
Keeping employees engaged can be challenging. It is important to regularly reinforce the goal and the impact of the advocacy program. If you see successes, promote them. Share stories of how employees are making a difference through advocacy. Reach out to employees to ensure that they have what they need to succeed in advocating and answer any concerns. Additionally, as you learn more about the needs of the organization, what employees respond to, or what hasn’t been working, don’t be afraid to make changes to your program strategy.
Step 5: Reward
Like with any great employee program, it’s important to reward employees and measure the success of the program. Here are a few ideas for employee rewards for participation.
- Recognition or being spotlighted
- Company swag
- Gift cards
- Certifications of achievement
Step 6: Measure and Adjust
It is also critical to measure the results of your employee advocacy program and make adjustments accordingly.
- Consider the goals set for the program in the beginning. Have they been met? Are they still relevant and worthwhile? If not, how can they be adjusted and improved in the future?
- Measure success in ways that directly correlate to your goals. For example, if your goal was to increase your candidate pool, measuring the number of employees participating in the program may not be an effective measurement in understanding if you are attaining your goals. It would be better to measure the size of your candidate pool before the program started and once it has been in effect for a while. If your goals were to increase your candidate pool and engage employees, then measuring employee participation along with your candidate pool size would be effective.
- Ask for feedback on how the program is going and on what can be improved. Employee advocacy programs should allow for continual improvement. In order to accomplish this, consider relying on those who directly participate in the program: your employees. By asking for feedback, you can create an even stronger program.
- Measure and adjust as frequently as needed. Depending on your organization and its needs, it may be beneficial to measure the success of the program weekly or monthly, yet only adjust quarterly or annually. Measuring the success of your program frequently will help you gain a well-rounded perspective on how the program is doing. Making adjustments too frequently may confuse employees or discourage them from participating.
Examples of Employee Advocacy
Let’s look at a few examples of employee advocacy.
Making Content Accessible
One of the easiest ways to promote employee advocacy is to make social media content easily accessible. Encourage employees to follow your business social media pages so they can advocate for your organization with just one click. Merck is a great example of using social media and employee advocacy to improve the hiring process. They utilize employee boards to promote their recruiting efforts. Resideo is another great example of utilizing employee advocacy. They regularly post about their innovations and encourage employees to share the successes of the business on their social media pages.
Many organizations utilize swag to help their employees develop a sense of connection. According to Evolue Consulting, “When an employee is given swag, they are sent subliminal messages that they belong, that the organization is invested in them, and that they have something to be proud of.”
Some organizations offer employees versatile and fun swag items that encourage employees to wear or use outside of work. When employees do so, they advocate for their organization.
Many organizations use language to empower employee advocacy. Starbucks refers to employees as “partners” and encourages them to post online according to their guidelines. GE encourages employees to be “brand ambassadors” and to be proud of the work that they do. This also encourages employees to be resources for potential candidates in recruiting.
Another way to encourage employee advocacy is to promote employee voices. Shopify asks employees to speak for themselves online about their product and their workplace. Similarly, Gainsight promotes employees to be “thought leaders” online. This is especially effective as employees develop their own social media following and provide valuable insights to the industry. PepsiCo takes another approach as they spotlight employee success to encourage advocacy.
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Rae has acquired HR experience in team leadership, research, training, recruiting, project management, and mentoring upcoming HR professionals. She is fascinated by workplace culture and the many implications it has on the world of business, especially HR. When possible, she seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge and give back to her community.