By Claire Walker, Group CEO, Firefly Communications,
So, now we’re in the last week of January how are your New Year resolutions doing? Still on track or consigned to history? Mine rarely change year-on-year, but not so long ago I did have a particularly scary one – start dating. And I was in my 50s which made it all the more terrifying.
All through this strange period in my life, I was clinging on to my comfort zone (work) and drawing parallels: how the dating game compares to a client/agency selection process or a potential new hire process.
These are certainly different kinds of courtship but there are a lot of similarities!
At Firefly, our greater challenge is finding the very best talent. When hiring you want people to think good of you, but you don’t want to talk about yourself too much. You hope the person you’re ‘courting’ believes everything you say.
No matter what outcome you seek, whether a partner, a new agency or a new hire, it can only help to have a friend on your side who can quietly put a good word in – a third party testimonial.
In the hiring game, we’re increasingly in a candidate-led market, where employees can pick and choose where they want to work, and the onus is on the company to woo the candidate before a competitor does.
Couple this with Brexit uncertainty, and it’s a very tricky task. Businesses need to be doing all they can to show off the best parts of working at the company and show existing employees that the company is a great place to work. You want to start a trusting relationship, and that’s where employee advocacy can help in seducing the best new talent.
What is employee advocacy?
Employee advocacy is when a company’s best assets (its people) promote and advocate for their company by acting as a reliable source of truth. This is often through digital means, like sharing company updates on social media, but is also used for other purposes like getting employee testimonials for marketing and recruitment.
It has to be a two-way street; the employee has to love the business, and employers have to provide a good culture that ensures this. For example, does the company acknowledge staff birthdays with a cake and a card? Or do they have monthly social outings or company benefits?
People want to share these things on social media – not just corporate updates or investor news.
Done well, employee advocacy improves staff retention and engagement, and helps companies hear about, understand and resolve underlying issues that may be stopping people becoming advocates in the first place.
In terms of getting started, engaging millennial advocates is a good step. A Hinge Research Institute study found that millennials are the generation that most recognise the benefit of employee advocacy, seeing it as a way to develop skills in high demand (46%), access job opportunities (39.4%) and differentiate from peers (38%) – in short, the benefits are two-way. Companies should use this mutual agreement to their advantage, and often that responsibility falls to marketing and PR teams.
Businesses succeed because of great people, so we all need the best hires possible – and a poor employer brand will stop you from gaining them. In this war for talent, here’s some examples of what marketing and PR teams can do to start their employee advocacy program.
Formalise the program
Use internal communications to ask employees whether they want to be involved in the advocacy program, ensuring you show what’s in it for them. Employee advocacy has to be authentic. It’s effectively earned media, so you can’t force your employees to contribute; they should want to be ambassadors. In the perfect scenario, employees will come to you asking how they can be involved, rather than the other way around.
A good way to get the ball rolling is to make sure senior leadership are buying into it. If they don’t want to be employee advocates, why would anyone else want to be? Having them lead by example and tell other employees about it helps show that the senior leadership team care about their employees’ opinions and want to make the company great (or greater!).
Define how you’ll measure it
Growing your employee advocacy program can be a slow burn, but you’ll need to keep track of its progress to truly understand its value. Before kicking off your formal employee advocacy program, analyse what staff have said about what they do and don’t like about the business, what they want changed, their pain points, awareness of company policies, and more. This gives you a baseline to measure success from later.
If your company doesn’t already have this data, ask the questions and get the true picture. There’s no point in assuming how people feel, so offer the chance for people to submit feedback anonymously or publicly. If they are willing to put their name to their thoughts, they’re probably engaged with the business and you should ask if they’ll be involved in the advocacy program too.
On top of this, take a baseline of how engaged your company’s people are online, through social media channels and review sites. Gauge what the sentiment is and how it could be improved. It’s a great idea to review this for your competitors too, to continually measure how you fare against them.
Make it simple for employees
To have an effective employee advocacy program, you need to make it easy for employees to share and amplify company content to the masses. Social sharing tools like Sociabble and EveryoneSocial make it easy for marketing and PR teams to make template posts with pre-written text and pre-loaded images, which employees can share to their social media profiles at the click of a button. This reduces the effort required for employees to be influencers and allows PR and marketing to (mostly) maintain control of the message. As an added benefit, it can also help build the company’s sales leads by having the sales team (who often have large but unleveraged networks) amplify recent projects and case studies.
These are just three steps to improving your employee advocacy, but there are plenty more tactics companies can use to ensure their program’s success, but get started and see how these work for you!