Congratulations! You’ve gotten the approval to move forward with an Employee Advocacy program and it’s time to get to the nitty gritty.
How do you inspire and more importantly, sustain employees’ interest in being advocates? The landscape is strewn with programs that start out as the bright shiny object, and then quickly fizzle out because the demands of “real work” intercede.
Our research found that successful Employee Advocacy programs have at their core this fundamental belief – that informed, engaged, and productive employees will be more excited to be advocates. If they aren’t organically passionate about the company, they won’t become advocates. To create that kind of enthusiasm around sharing company-related content, organizations must focus their efforts in two areas, getting the right content to employees and making it easy to share.
Get the Right Content Into the Hands of Employees
Let’s start first with the kind of information and content employees want to have. Employees share because the content is relevant – and to be specific, the employee’s perceived relevance of the content to their work and social networks. Employees are people first and foremost, and they share content because they believe it will be interesting, helpful, or useful to friends, family, and colleagues. If they are not excited and passionate about the company – if they don’t truly believe in what the company is doing – they simply won’t share, no matter how many incentives or gamification tactics you use.
At Lenovo, the company launched an advocacy program to facilitate content sharing to employees, as well as highlight content coming from the company. The company-posted content was widely shared and supplemented by employees’ personalized comments – enabling them to put an authentic touch on items they found interesting and relevant to their jobs. When employees see content they like they can easily share it externally to their own social media profiles (assuming that the content is approved for external viewing).
Employees who are in-the-know feel empowered to learn and share via @charleneli #EmployeeAdvocacy
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The result: employees who see all of this content feel that they are “in-the-know”, rather than being “in the dark”. They feel empowered to learn, share, and in the process, develop their own social capital, visibility, and credibility. So start with ensuring that the right content is being developed and inspired – if you get this right, you’re about 75% of the way to creating excited, passionate advocates.
Encourage Sharing by Making It Easy
Now that you have the right content in the hands of your employees, the remaining 25% is all about making sharing easy. There are three best practices to keep in mind:
- Establish clear guidelines and training. When employees have been told repeatedly for the past decade not to share, there is going to be trepidation about what they can and should post. To get employees comfortable, review and revise your social media policies, develop guidelines for sharing and provide robust, scenario-based training. The goal: develop confidence in each employee’s ability to exercise good judgment when sharing. When BMW established its Employee Advocacy program, it required employees take training and apply for access to social media channels from inside the firewall.
- Personalize the content for each employee. The goal here is to increase relevancy by ensuring that the right content is sent to the right employee at the right time. In the early stages, it could be content about the employee’s location, role, department, or interests. More sophisticated algorithms based on actual employee behavior could prioritize content based on results the employee has achieved by sharing.
- Enable mobile experiences. Many employees – such as those who work in manufacturing plants – don’t have jobs that use computers. Instead, they rely on their mobile devices to learn what’s going on in the company, accessing it during work breaks or after work. This means employees should be able to consume and share content seamlessly from their mobile device (while at the same time ensuring hourly employee labor laws are respected).
It’s all too easy to think that simply installing technology will result in employee advocates. As Lenovo and BMW found, it requires thoughtful planning to ensure that employees have access to the right content and make sharing easy There are no shortcuts, but the payoff is engaged, excited employees who feel “in-the-know” and are ready to share and advocate.