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Factors to consider for employee advocacy programs

24th October 2015

 
Over recent times we’ve noticed the best organisations investing more and more heavily in employee advocacy programs. This is because organisations are recognising that
 

Employees continue to be the most credible and highly trusted sources of company information

 (Edelman, 2015)

And,
 

Trust in Social Media as a source for information continues to grow.

(ING, 2015)

 
 
What the above reveals are two of the three key components of employee advocacy programs: employees and social media – content the other. In simple terms, employee advocacy programs involve employees sharing company content across their own, personal social media networks.
 
 
 

What benefits does an employee advocacy program bring an organisation?

 
The big benefit is the amplification of company content. Organisations are able to take advantage of their employee’s own networks, allowing content to not only reach a larger number of people, but also to hold a greater level of influence when it does.
 
Also, by supplying employees with strong and relevant content – for them to share – organisations are able to help increase employee engagement. As employees will experience a closer connection – through content – to the organisation, and have a clearer understanding of the organisations position and purpose, and in turn that of their own.
 
 
 

Employee Advocacy is more than a platform

 
There is a wealth of employee advocacy tools/platforms now available for organisations to choose from. However if organisations think that all that is needed for a successful employee advocacy programme is the selection and deployment of an appropriate tool, then they are sadly mistaken. There are many other areas that organisations need to focus on in order to achieve valuable results. The below are the areas to consider:
 
 
 

Areas to focus on for employee advocacy success

 

Employee Advocacy can’t be forced

Organisations can’t simply introduce a new tool, and then tell employees to use it. Employees will only share content out of there own free will. Therefore organisations need to build a culture of freedom, honesty and autonomy.
 
 
 

Leaders need to lead by example.

In order to help achieve the previous point; leaders need to lead by example. Leaders are still those who shape the culture of organisations. For example, It can be said that the slow adoption of internal social networks is largely due to the low levels of participation from leadership.
 
 
 

Organisations must be clear on the objectives of launching an advocacy programs.

Yes, employee advocacy is about amplifying company content, but organisations need to be clear on the objectives behind doing so. Objectives could be based, for example, on recruitment, marketing, brand awareness or the promotion of an event.
 
 
 

Analytics

Organisations must measure the content that employees are sharing. Measurement can identify what types of content is working best, the social platforms that are experiencing the best results, and the employees with the greatest influence. Also analytics can help to identify the benefits to the business the content and employee advocacy program is having. After all, an employee advocacy program has to have business benefits – as stated in the previous point.
 
 
 

Set guidelines

We mentioned earlier about the need to give employees freedom and autonomy, yet they need guidance too. Guidelines are not put in place to be restrictive, but instead to support and empower. Guidelines should include such things as best practice for sharing, the reasons for sharing, and the benefits of sharing.
 
 
 

Training

Going hand in hand with guidelines should also be training. One of the best ways to approach this is through establishing ‘employee advocacy champions’. Champions can be established through the implementation of an employee ambassador programme. We’ve actually created a piece of content outlining how to create employee ambassador programs for internal communications, which can be found here.
 
Employee ambassador programs work so well because they act as a very effective bridge between senior leadership and employees, as the employee-to-employee channel is a channel that the majority of employees cite as being the most effective to use for finding out relevant business information.
 
 
 

Ensure content is actually shareable

In order for employees to be willing to share content, the content must be relevant to their interests. A company’s employees will no doubt have many different interests, therefore it is important that an organisation identifies these and aims to create content that covers a wide variety. If employees do not have any interest in the content, then they will likely see it as having no value to them and in turn, no reason to share it with their network.
 
 
 

Easy to share and receive content

Employee advocacy tools certainly help to make the receiving and sharing of content easier. But many organisations need to understand that employees – and their networks – prefer to consume content on mobile and social networks. Organisations therefore need to create content that is visual, quick and easy to consume, and then deliver it to employees through their preferred channels of consumption – not housing it somewhere on say the company intranet, expecting employees to seek out the information for themselves. Go to them, don’t let them come to you.
 
 
 

What’s in it for the employee?

Organisations will always need to address the age-old question of ‘what’s in it for me?’ Possible solutions include:
 
1. Organisations should strive to supply employees with brilliant, and if possible, exclusive content. Content so amazing that employees feel privileged to receive it and thrilled to share it.
 
2. Employees can be rewarded for the sharing of content. There is a great example of this from Loreal, who encouraged their employees to share the experiences they have at work, with prizes such as iPads and GoPros on offer and the chance to be featured on L’Oréal’s social channels. More on Loreals use of social media for employee engagement can be seen here.
 
3. Ultimately, organisations want employees to feel like they have ownership of the content they are sharing, and so are intrinsically motivated to share it.
 
 
The last point leads us nicely on to where the future of employee advocacy looks to be heading…
 
 
 

How will employee advocacy develop in the future?

 

Collaboration.

Instead of organisations creating the content and sharing it with employees for employees to then share it with their networks. Employees will become a lot more involved in the process, by not only identifying the types of content they and other employees should be sharing, but by also creating their own content for the organisation to share too.
 
Therefore, both the employee and the organisation will be advocating for each other. This will create a truly transparent and authentic view of the company, something that consumers are now demanding.
 
 
 

Conclusion

What should now be clear, is that brands need to start applying the same level of attention and resource to their internal audience as they do with their external audience. The rise in prominence of employee advocacy programs is further evidence that organisations are beginning to realise that employees really are their greatest asset – not just for business, but now for marketing too…
 
 
To talk about your employee advocacy program or any other internal communication campaigns that you would like assistance with, please do get in touch.
 
Until next time…
 
Rima
 
 

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