“Employee advocacy” is a hot buzzword in 2016 – What company wouldn’t want their employees telling everyone how awesome they are? CEOs everywhere have visions in their heads of armies of loyal employees going around, preaching the Word that is their company.
Problem is, most companies don’t put their employees’ well being first. As such, they might have all the tools to get employees to advocate for them, but not one employee actually wants to. And that’s a problem. The kicker though is this: when companies DO put employees first, data shows that employees WANT to share – And if you give them the technology to find the stories to share, and the ability to easily share it, you’ve got a recipe for success. But again, it only works if you are treating them right to begin with. Don’t take my word for it though – check out this study.
Before you start pushing your employees to become Zombie Loyalists for the company for which they work, you need to make sure they actually can. And that’s where corporate culture comes in.
See, if employees think of a job as something they only go to so they can get paid, you’ll never get them to turn into “Zombies” for your company. And I’m not taking about “Friday is Hawaiian Shirt Day” promotions, either. I’m talking about real world implementations to probe to your employees that there’s no better way to work.
It starts with transparency. Story time: I remember when a good friend of mine found out she was being laid off from her advertising agency job she’d held for six years. Turns out the company lost a key account, and they were letting 200 people go worldwide.
First, she found out her company had lost the account. Then, she found out they were going to have to downsize. Then finally, she found out she was one of the people let go.
The problem was, they found out all three of these things by reading an industry gossip website. At no point whatsoever, over the course of three days, did management bother to inform anyone in the company what was going on, or make any kind of official internal statement. Instead, the rumors flew, employee trust went to zero, and it took several years after those people were escorted by security from the building for anyone to trust anyone else at that company again.
That made for quite a difficult situation. As an added bonus, all of the agency’s other clients heard the rumors, too, and were rightfully concerned. “Are you letting go of people on our account? Should we be looking for other representation?”
It was a bad time, and an amazing lesson in information management.
When you allow your employees to know what’s going on as it’s happening, you do several things. You shut down the rumor mill, you keep people focused on their jobs (because they’re not gossiping about false information as much) and most importantly, you keep a level of camaraderie and focused loyalty within the company.
By keeping your employees informed, you keep them focused on their jobs, via @petershankman
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So what can you do? You can create and foster a culture of open, honest communication. If employees trust management, and management is honest with employees, the lines of communication stay clear, and employees are much more likely to believe that the company for which they work is a good place to be. That will inherently foster advocacy.
How about being relevant? Here’s a question for you – Do you know how your employees like to receive their information? I bet you don’t. Why? Probably because you’ve never asked them! So why don’t you? Fact is, study after study shows that if you engage with your employees the way they want to be engaged with, the chances of them being happy employees increases. It’s not rocket science. Be nice, and it comes full circle.
Respect their time. Employees (especially millennials,) are doing more with less, more than ever before. Respect that. Don’t bombard them with information, don’t ask them to “just share this one thing.” Respect them, respect the audiences they’ve worked hard to build, and understand that they have their own lives, as well.
Finally, don’t make it all about work. When I worked for America Online back in the 90s, it was common for our bosses to ask about our lives outside of work. Not to be pushy, but to find out more about us to know what made us tick. I was a huge fan of Erasure at the time, and would always listen to them. Imagine my shock when I was given two tickets to their concert when they came into town – Not because AOL was kissing my butt, but rather because it was a much nicer gift than a certificate telling me I’m employee of the month or something.
There’s no better way to prop up corp comms than to have employees backing them up with real stories
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In the end – Want your employees to talk about how much they love where they work, and share the news about your business that in turn helps build your business? Make sure to treat them in such a way that lets them, in fact, truly love their jobs. At the end of the day, corporate communications can always use all the help it can get – There’s simply no better way to prop up corp comms than to have employees backing them up with real stories, real love, from real experiences. The number one way to get to that point? Make sure the lines of communication are 100% open, all of the time. Make sure employees hear what’s going on from the source, as it’s happening, and make sure honesty rules the day from the top down. Do that, and combined with the technology to allow your employees to tell your story, they’ll be shouting your company’s praises from the rooftops. And that… Well, that’s the best advocacy you could hope for.