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Smart Companies Win with Employee Advocacy. Here's How


 — February 21st, 2024

Smart Companies Win with Employee Advocacy. Here's How

In an era of growing, dynamic, social connectivity that weaves across and beyond the workplace, smart organizations know their employees are their most influential voices both within and outside of the workplace.

They can be an organization’s brand ambassadors or the greatest critics—you only have to look at Glassdoor reviews to see how.

Smart companies and their Communication and HR teams now know people are 3x more likely to trust company information shared by an employee than that shared by a CEO.

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So, building brand ambassadorship through their employees is not only good for sales and marketing, but also talent attraction and organizational reputation.

Advocacy benefits employees too—building their networks and personal reputation, as well as feeling more engaged and loyal to the company.

Employee advocacy is all about the positive promotion and support of an organization’s products, services, job opportunities, endeavors, or values by employees through social media, internal and external communication, marketing, personal networks, and word-of-mouth.

Employees can amplify the organizational brand far beyond official, governed channels alone as research shows employee networks have 10x more connections than a company has followers. It’s no wonder, then, that progressive, fast-growing companies are actively engaging employees as their advocates.

So how do we create employee advocates rather than employee adversaries? And how do we leverage our on-tap influencer network to everyone’s advantage?

Here’s how.

1. Create a Culture of Open Communication

Before getting too excited about the positive influence and impact employee advocates could have, let’s be clear on the most fundamental step required to create any organizational ambassador—culture.

Internal Communication and HR have a huge influence on bringing organizational culture, values, and ethos to life, to create a sense of trust and belonging in the workplace.

If you want your employees to authentically advocate for the organizational brand they have to wholeheartedly believe in their organization and its values first.

What an organization stands for has to be role-modelled and championed first and foremost by leadership and management through honest, values-aligned, authentic communications and inclusive, trusted connections.

Employees need to feel psychologically safe and valued in the workplace before any signs of authentic employee advocacy can sprout.

2. Be Clear on Why

As with any strategic effort, having clarity on why you’re doing something is critical to the overall success of any endeavor.

  • What’s the purpose and value of having employee advocates?
  • How does this strategically align with the future direction of the organization?
  • What outcomes are you striving for?
  • What do you want or need your employees to advocate?
  • Why would employees want to be ambassadors—what’s in it for them?

3. Identify Your Early Adopter Pool

Ideally, we’d want all employees to be advocates, but start your advocacy network off small with a mix of leaders and employees primed, supported, and confident to give this a try.

You might specifically approach those already active as brand ambassadors. See them as beta testers. Involve them in the trial, learn together to see what works well and what doesn’t, see what channels have the greatest influence or engagement, and actively elicit their ideas and feedback to keep things fresh and impactful.

Having peers and role models who embrace their advocacy role helps pave the way for and encourage more employees to join in, showing everyone how to do it well.

4. Develop and Refine Your Content Strategy

Effective advocates need content that they’ll proudly and happily want to share and talk about, so developing a content strategy is key. Involve your early adopters in defining content topics and sources that are relevant and interesting to share in line with your overall objectives.

It doesn’t need to be all company-related or curated content; it could be external content aligned on topic, industry trends to generate thought-leadership comments on, or personal stories that are aligned with and reflect company values, for example.

And, of course, your content can be shared with as much impact and benefit internally as well as externally.

5. Onboard, Enable, and Empower Your Employee Advocates

Clarity on your why and positioning will help ensure your employees understand the context and rationale, as well as the personal benefits of being an employee advocate.

It also helps get them fully onboard to advocate in a way that aligns effectively and authentically with the organizational objectives and messaging.

Advocates need to understand how to represent the organization effectively and responsibly on social platforms and through their networks, minimizing risks and maximizing positive impact—to themselves and the company.

This is where appropriate training and guidance is required to enable your employees to feel confident in their role as advocates.

6. Measure and Showcase Advocacy Impact

Having clarity on your outcomes (see step 2) also enables the right measures to be defined and implemented to demonstrate the impact of advocacy efforts.

Understanding what works well and showcasing tangible results, such as increased sales, reduction in hiring timelines and costs, or broader brand awareness, reinforces the value of employee advocacy to both leadership and employees themselves.

7. See the Long Game

Employee advocacy may be seen as the latest fad, but it’s an opportunity that, if effectively championed and supported, can become part of the business-as-usual behavior, reaping sustainable benefits for everyone in the long term.

This requires the willingness to invest in the whole process, an openness to evolve it as technology and opportunities change, and active feedback from employees to help make it something they are continually willing, proud, and easily able to get and stay onboard with.

Engaged employees are more likely to advocate for the company both within and outside the organization, which brings us back full circle to creating a culture that is built on feeling proud, trusted, valued, and included.

Who wouldn’t want to be part of and advocate for an organization with a culture like that?

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