Stop Asking Your Employees to Advocate for You – Do This Instead!

In an honest attempt to generate excitement about product launches and other company changes, organizations will often ask their employees to share the news. But few employees want to share press releases. 

Leading marketers recognize that. So instead of pushing their employees to advocate for brands with their carefully crafted messages, these marketers are working hand in hand with their HR and communications teams to activate employees’ potential for telling and sharing real stories about their companies. That’s because they understand customers trust real people more than brands.

Consider these findings from LinkedIn:

  • Employees’ networks are 10 times larger than those of companies.
  • Their word is three times more trusted than the word of CEOs.
  • Their content gets two times higher engagement compared to shares from the company account.
     

Companies with engaged and activated employees see higher innovation, more brand recall in the market, and ultimately, more profits.

Move From Employee Activation To Employee Advocacy

The service profit chain, an idea first introduced in The Harvard Business Review, is now a central concept in management that links employee satisfaction to customer loyalty and business profitability.

While multiple studies have shown that customer loyalty drives profitability, one critical factor drives customer satisfaction: value.

The HBR article showed that a company creates value as a result of productivity, which in turn comes from employee loyalty. And employee loyalty comes from employee satisfaction. Which is probably why CEOs and leaders of companies like Taco Bell, Southwest Airlines, and Intuit, which pride themselves on fostering employee loyalty in order to provide exemplary customer service, swear by the effectiveness of the service profit chain.

Employee satisfaction is the weakest link in this chain because it depends on multiple variables from your operating strategy and service delivery system. It makes sense, therefore, to develop and implement an employee activation program that engages and empowers employees to advocate for your brand without being explicitly told to. Such a program features the following:                                                                                                                                      

  1. Uses employee satisfaction as a metric of leadership success and rewards managers who make work a pleasure for their staffs.
  2. Makes sure everyone from interns to the CEO is on board with the company’s values and is committed to making the workplace pleasant.
  3. Provides training and implement programs that solve the most pressing challenges for employees in all roles.
  4. Adopts and improves communication channels, collaboration platforms, and technology that employees are comfortable using.
  5. Creates opportunities for employees to take on temporary or rotating leadership roles.
  6. Identifies subject matter experts and encourages them to set up and run their own social media accounts and websites.
  7. Provides resources that enable employees to authentically create and share content on topics that interest them.
  8. Showcases employee stories, projects, and achievements on your website and brand social channels.

Build Your ‘Employer Brand’

While researching for my upcoming book, Mean People Suck, I found something that reinforced the premise of the service profit chain: Empathy for customers was the biggest driver of marketing results in terms of revenue for the top-performing companies I work with.

And building a culture of empathy among employees is vital to fostering the much-needed organizational empathy for customers.

To build this type of culture, it is important for the organization to let go of the fear of losing control of the brand message, and let employees take over without giving them any predefined scripts or guidelines.

Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer at P&G and now president and CEO of The Jim Stengel Company, describes such an environment in his book “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies,” citing the example of Zappos, where the company tries to make every employee feel like a CEO. Donavon Roberson, operations manager for Zappos Insights, says that in order to replicate Zappos’ success, leaders must turn organizational hierarchy on its head and affirm to themselves: “I’ve got the right people. I trust them to do the right thing.”

The way forward here is for marketing to collaborate with HR on building the “employer brand.” A synergetic relationship between the two departments has the potential to add great value to the organization because both share a similar objective–branding of the organization. However, they are branding for different audiences: marketing for consumers and HR for the workforce.

The synergy starts with competing for and acquiring talent the way companies pursue customers. To borrow strategies from consumer targeting, CMOs and HR leaders can create collaborative approaches toward recruiting better talent:

  • Be human in marketing your employer brand. Use video clips and testimonials of current employees instead of the usual text-heavy job descriptions.
  • Use contextual advertising and remarketing to target great candidates, a la account-based marketing.
  • Give people a great experience at every touch point, whether they’re potential hires, interns, or long-term employees, just like you’d do with the customer journey.
  • Take a page out of your influencer marketing handbook and work with star employees to create content and messaging that attracts qualified and enthusiastic candidates.
     

CMOs should take the lead in creating true alignment between marketing, HR, and other functions across the business to build a customer-focused company culture, to tell better stories, and to use the power and the passion of employees to benefit the entire business.

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