Leveraging employee loyalty
How to inspire your team to speak up and share the goodness of your company.
You probably don't list company advocate as a skills requirement when posting an open position. Admittedly, we don't either. But we realize that this special skill can be instrumental in building a strong culture. Unified, well-crafted, widely-distributed messages about your workplace or workforce can help turn your internal culture into a significant competitive advantage.
Finding employees can be challenging. Finding "right-fit" employees is even more difficult. That's where employee advocates can have significant impact. They know your company values and your special sauce for driving success. Their daily interactions with your product, service, and potentially customers, provide rich source material for meaningful, "sharable" stories. Most companies focus on creating employee engagement and fostering loyalty. We believe employee advocacy should be part of that mix. Advocates will reinforce and expand your culture, help you garner more quality recruits and increase "right-fit" retention.
Converting loyalty to advocacy creates cultural leverage.
Every successful company has a valuable group of loyal employees. They work diligently to accomplish company goals, understand what needs to be done, are productive and dedicated. They make significant albeit individual contributions to their respective companies. When headwinds start to blow, or challenges arise, a subset of the loyal employee base become advocates. They dig deeper, they spread feelings of optimism and positivity, they help everyone pull together to get the job done. They become cultural leverage–moving from making personal contributions to making an organizational impact. Employee advocates are the few that can affect the many.
They can help turn around negative situations and draw others in as they celebrate success. More employees will get on board when one advocate has already taken the step. A chorus singing your company's praises is more valuable than a soloist, no matter how beautiful the lyrics. Most certainly, loyal employees should be rewarded, but employee advocates are where the real leverage is found.
Reverberation inside and out.
As you develop an employee advocacy strategy it's important to consider both the communication (the messages) and the channel (internal or external). Guiding employee advocates to develop a common script will result in more compelling outcomes. As the "advocate chorus" reaches various audiences, internal or external, it is important that the voices harmonize properly. Help your "hyper loyal" employees understand which messages are most important and how their "tone" might be modulated for internal vs. external audiences. For many employees, loyalty comes naturally, advocacy however, is a learned skill. Orchestrated internal advocacy results in the workforce feeling more connected to a common culture and externally can help with public company perception and important recruiting activities.
Keep it organic. Generically Modified Orators (GMO's) aren't good for business.
One key to successful employee advocacy is NOT telling people WHAT to say but rather helping them to understand WHY advocacy is important and HOW it contributes to company success. Most likely they have not thought about advocacy as a "skill". Talking about the company simply comes naturally. Be upfront about why you're doing advocacy training so they can appreciate your intent—to recruit and retain people like them! Help them recognize that while advocacy benefits the company, correspondingly, it benefits their future as well.
It's never too soon to start grooming your employees for this important task. Have honest conversations with them and explain how everyone will reap the benefits of a more unified message about the company. And don't stop at discussing this with your current employees. Potential hires can also be enlisted into advocacy as you make them aware that you value their voice and appreciate their suggestions–no matter what the result of their application. The more advocates the better, no matter where they come from. So yes, perhaps we should all rethink our "required skills" when hiring to include company advocate. Let's get more employees excited about the soapbox and together we'll all climb to the top.