four cheerleaders in cheer poses

Advocates... Assemble!

Charlotte Blank
Chief Behavioral Officer, Maritz

Editor’s Note:  There are a lot of reasons why an organization should foster an environment that nurtures engaged, supported and healthy employees. Now there’s an organizationally selfish one: It’ll be good for the bottom line. A few birds with one stone. I mean, you should just treat people well because it’s the right thing to do, but in case you’re not feeling that – looking at you, (redacted past manager name) – do it for this reason, too.  (With apologies to Marvel's Avengers...) 

 

If you were to select someone to publicly advocate on your behalf, whom would you choose? Would it be the guy who takes your coffee order every morning? How about the lady who delivers mail to your office? No, picking someone who knows you really well and is supportive of your success would be the smartest move, right?

 

Then one question remains: Why don’t more business leaders apply the same principle to identifying and engaging brand advocates? Too often, employers completely overlook the one group of potential advocates that could really emanate the most influence: their employees.

 

In-house brand ambassadors

We’d all like to be considered advocates of things we’re passionate about. We want our voices to be heard, our knowledge to be considered authority and our opinions to influence change. Your employees are no different, except for one thing: They are in the ideal position to truly strengthen your company through their advocacy.

 

Your employees are on the front lines of your business. They’re the ones seeing firsthand what’s behind the curtain. They’re building trust with your customers and engaging with your product or service day after day. Therefore, they should be an obvious choice when it comes to identifying influencers who can deliver your brand’s message to the masses.

 

Empowering your employees with advocacy opportunities can have numerous benefits for your entire organization. To start, employee advocates are more fulfilled by their work – increasing motivation, productivity, and engagement, as well as reducing turnover rates. They’re also more willing to put in extra work and take on more difficult assignments in the name of organizational success.

 

Empowering your employees with advocacy opportunities can have numerous benefits for your entire organization.

Employees who are satisfied professionally are also better at generating powerful and personal messages of support for your organization. This, in turn, will inspire colleagues, new customers and existing customers to join together, promote your business and remain loyal to your brand. The MSL Group found that employee-generated brand messages were re-shared 24 times more frequently than brand messages released by companies. And employee advocate referrals have a 37 percent higher retention rate than referrals from other sources.

 

The key, however, to earning every ounce of your employees’ devotion and creating the ultimate army of advocates is to continually engage and empower your workers in new and exciting ways.

 

Give your employees a platform.

For business leaders looking to engage employees as corporate advocates, trust is essential. Employers can lay the foundation for a mutually trusting relationship by taking a step back and granting employees the freedom to share their brand pride in whatever manner they feel comfortable; that way their message will be personal, genuine and inspiring to others. The only thing employers need to do is remind workers how much of an impact – good and bad – their messages can have on the brand.

 

Create a media strategy for your corporation’s advocacy and outreach that gives your employees plenty of freedom, opportunities and platforms to vocalize their enthusiasm and support. Also, offer your team some guidance on how best to advocate for the company without jeopardizing your brand’s image.

 

For business leaders looking to engage employees as corporate advocates, trust is essential.

Support employee-led tribes.

Humans enjoy being part of a community, and we thrive when we can connect with others who share our interests and passions. When employees are allowed – or better yet, encouraged – to form workplace “tribes” centered on common interests, they're happier, personally and professionally. These tribes have been shown to increase positivity, promote trust, decrease interpersonal conflict, spark innovation, reduce turnover and boost employee engagement.

 

Encourage your employees to form tribes focused on shared professional interests, especially employee advocacy. In these groups, they can connect, brainstorm and experiment with spreading the brand’s message in new ways. Not only will these employee-led communities make your workers happier, but they’ll also give your teams a sense of purpose, infuse your company with new ideas and embolden your employees to take the brand to new heights.

 

When employees are allowed – or better yet, encouraged – to form workplace “tribes” centered on common interests, they're happier, personally and professionally.

Set your sights on corporate social responsibility.

One of the quickest ways to unite, inspire and engage employees is to rally them around a worthy cause. Companies that focus on community outreach and volunteerism – also known as corporate social responsibility – experience stronger bonds throughout the company, higher retention rates, and a boost to corporate image. Additionally, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that 88 percent of young talent would prefer to work at a CSR-driven organization, giving those companies a competitive edge in recruitment.

 

Rally your team around service-oriented work by finding a social, economic or environmental cause that really aligns with your brand’s image or message. Explore ways your team members could put their talents to good use, and make sure you give your employees plenty of time and opportunities to get involved.

 

For inspiration, take a look at how IBM continually empowers employees through its Corporate Service Corps. In fewer than 10 years, the company has sent almost 3,000 corporate advocates around the world to serve those in need – an experience 80 percent of participants considered "life changing."

 

 

One of the quickest ways to unite, inspire and engage employees is to rally them around a worthy cause.

Your employees know your company better than anyone, which is why they would make the ideal advocates for your brand. Give your organization a competitive advantage by offering your employees new and empowering brand advocacy opportunities right away.

 

Charlotte Blank
Chief Behavioral Officer, Maritz

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