Employee Advocacy: Bridging the Gap Between Employee Engagement & Branding
As employees turn to their employers to learn about expectations and aspirations, they are increasingly taking to digital media to express their voices. Companies are capitalising on this trend to create a positive brand image by nurturing ambassadors within the workforce who can shed encouraging light on the company’s overall culture and operational style. Creating a positive image builds trust, delivers partnership behavior with customers and talents, and opens up scope for sustained material benefits for the company.
A team outing or an offsite, an award receipt or just a satisfactory day, a thoughtful policy introduction, or getting instant leave approvals - Every small gesture matters. It all makes you fall in love with the work and the place where you spend a generous amount of time each day. Many like to showcase their awards and accolades and build special spaces for them. At least some of us living with the generation of now-retired people can proudly boast of one such corner in the house to keep gifts, awards, and knick-knacks of the company as an expression of years of proud and loyal service to the firm.
The digital economy has now dismantled the need for such corners and replaced it with social media shares. So now you share your memories beyond your immediate close-knit group of family members. If each employee shares one post on one of her social channels, imagine the number of people who get to know about the event posted? Companies across the globe take this seriously and are tapping into this channel to create brand awareness, generate leads, address customer concerns and deepen company-wide relationships with stakeholders.
Employees are the most trusted voice of any organisation. Not only they are the key components to give opinions on management styles but they can also provide new candidates with expectations from job roles that go beyond the formal job description. A great case in point is American coffee giant Starbucks which regularly engages with its employees, considered as partners, to general positive advocacy for the brand. The tenets of its values resonating with friendship, home-like vibes, comfort, and warmth come directly from its workforce. And what better way to emphasize its brand image and create a heady feeling in customers’ minds urging them to hit the closest Starbucks shop for a cup of froth. As outlined in Edelman’s Trust Barometer study, buyers trust your employees over your CEO, spokesperson, or marketing department to help them with their purchase decisions. There is nothing more telling than this quote:
“Employees are the true ambassadors of our brand, the real merchants of romance, and as such the primary catalysts for delighting customers. [Employees] elevate the experience for each customer – something you can hardly accomplish with a billboard or a 30-second spot.”
Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultzs, in his book, Onward
Generating a school of employee advocates is a two-way street. It gives a sense of belongingness to in-house talents, letting them take ownership of the systems and processes and empowering them to become change agents for progress. Employers get first-hand knowledge of employee satisfaction levels and potential areas to address in overall management. Investors are taking a closer look at organisations’ accountability towards employee satisfaction levels. The trust factor that employees have in their respective employers is playing a key towards several investors’ decisions these days. Adobe realized the potential of employee advocacy back in 2012 and the power it had to generate more revenue than content generated from the company’s handles across social media channels. Adobe encourages its employees to share their life at work and become a window for customers and potential recruits to learn about company culture, events, policies, and decisions. The company’s social champions amplify the brand’s value proposition and boost the credibility of the content that the brand publishes on its collaterals.
The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 73 percent of employees expect prospective employers to provide the opportunity to help shape the future of society.
According to a study conducted by Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today (2015), nearly two-thirds of organisations with formal employee advocacy programs in place state that they have helped them attract and develop new business. The study shed light on how employees who advocate actively and create a positive brand image to external stakeholders of the company play a major role in driving brand awareness. Though encouraged by big and small companies, it is worthy to note that companies too have a responsibility to share policies and guidelines surrounding the communication published by companies. Humana, a health insurance company, mandates its workforce to undertake training before posting content online. Adobe’s Social Shift Program was conceived with the sole purpose of educating employees on the best practices of social sharing.
Companies have seen a surge in reach and engagement, elevated company culture and greater website traffic. They have come to realize how essential it is to tap into the energy of engaged employees and are taking focused steps to communicate the benefits of employee advocacy programs to their human capital.