If you are trying to get your employees plugged in, then you might need to consider how your employees feel about the load. If you don't craft programs carefully, you might be facing a burned-out crowd. You can’t afford to have employees frustrated and exasperated by what you are asking them to do. You need employees who are engaged by choice that advocate for your brand.
What is Employee Advocacy?
When employees stand up for their brand and support the company mission, they are brand advocates. According to a study by Weber Shandwick, nearly half (47%) of employees have posted positively about their company, but only 21% are dedicated to regular, positive support of their workplace. This means there are a lot of untapped opportunities for brands to guide employees towards better posting tendencies.
Advocates of a brand are the ones who support the brand through good times and bad; personally vying for the company when the opportunity arises. Employees have some of the best insights and reason to be loyal to their employing brands, because they see the day-to-day realities of the company. Furthermore, employees have outside connections to friends, family and acquaintances that can extend the reach of the company. These connections are not only ones that are outside of the reach of the corporate profile, but they are also far more likely to be affected by the word of someone they know than by the company profile. While brand marketing is effective, a personal recommendation or endorsement is one of the top ways the average person is influenced. With most employees already on social media, brands need to take the opportunity to turn employees into dedicated and engaged employee advocates.
Encouraging Employee Advocacy
Brands need to encourage their employees without putting pressure on them. Employees have to have the guidance and support to post professionally, but they also have to have the space to post on their own terms. Company leaders have to find the right balance that provides empowerment to their employees while ensuring that integrity of the brand voice.
Towing the Line Between Privacy and Professionalism
Companies need to set the guardrails and educate their employees on how to have a brand voice, be authentic and understand the rules of the road. This means that companies will need to have policies and training in place that support a professional approach to social media. It is important that employees do not feel as if they are being analyzed with every post, so they must also have a level of autonomy. Specifically, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights to organize, including certain aspects of their online posting. This means overly broad posting policies can be deemed unlawful. Instead, the NLRB requires employers to refrain from reacting to online discussions about wages, working conditions or other conversations protected by the NLRA. Companies have recently been sued for letting go of employees that publicly complained about a fellow employee on Facebook. Costco was recently sued for an overarching policy that employees were not allowed to post anything that harmed the company’s reputation.
Examples of Employee Advocacy
So, who’s out there doing this right? Let’s look at a few companies that know how to get their employees on board.
The national coffee brand has long been an example of a brand with supportive employees. Starbucks refers to employees as “partners” and has worked on an internal #tobeapartner campaign that encourages “moments of connection.”
The global technology company has put a lot of time into studying employee development and engagement. Employee advocacy has been a core tenat of their social programs and have empowered over 13,000 employees through their internal program to be brand ambassadors
Avoiding the Burnout
Asking your employees to do more work and be more engaged is not easy. If you are asking your employees to post on your behalf and support your brand, then you need to give them good reason to do so and there has to be something in it for them. Core to success is think first about how the employee can becoming better educated and the company and initiatives, become smarter about their area of expertise and increase their own professional (and social capital).
Understanding Generational Workplace Expectations
Employers have to understand the expectations and preferences of their employees. Employers are finding that the younger generations prefer a more blurred line between work and personal life. Rather than striving for a work-life balance like the older employees of Generation X, the Millennials are interested in flexibility that allows their work hours to adjust to their personal lives and their personal lives to often include work. This change means that companies who are encouraging employee advocacy on personal time and personal space will have to understand the give-and-take nature of the work relationship.
Making Engagement Easier
In order to lessen the burden, employers can provide employees with content to share. With the right platform in place, like EveryoneSocial, companies can sort content that will appeal to their employees. This makes the posting process faster and provides employees with plenty of inspirational material. A social platform can organize content that the company is putting out to help employees find and repost the content they want to share.
Additionally, content should be specifically written to support the needs and interests of your employees. Just like you write content that is designed to encourage engagement from your consumers, you will also want to design your content to be valuable for employees to share. The more directed your content is to your various audiences, the more natural the engagement process will be for those individuals.
Avoiding Flash-in-the-Pan Approaches
Employees that are too enthusiastic early on, often experience burn-out when their company “honeymoon phase” is over. Companies need to focus on a long-term approach to their employee advocacy program and not force an aggressive approach. Building the advocacy program should take time and be a gradual change that permeates every aspect of company policy and culture. Effort on the part of leadership needs to be consistent to help employee engagement be consistent as well.
Making Engagement Valuable
If your goal is on reducing the burden, you will additionally need to consider the benefit that directly impacts your employees. Your employees will want to look good, positing as experts. They will also support the kind of company that has an atmosphere worth supporting. This means your strategy needs to include specific points of how the activity will benefit the employees themselves.
This does not mean directly soliciting support from your employees. It is important that the social media posting of your employees is because of their personal desire to share the content to support the company. If the posting is forced or coerced, then the posts are going to be strange, unauthentic and unsupported by the employee’s day-to-day exchanges with friends and family.
The kinds of incentives that could support advocates of the brand should not be monetary. The incentives should be fun, provide greater internal employee exposure and create healthy competition.