Are your employees your best advocates?
Would you recommend that a friend seek employment at your company?
This is one of the questions we include in our organizational survey of employee satisfaction and values, conducted as part of our VALCORT strategic study. It’s an important question that can provide a revealing look at an organization’s health. In terms of corporate advocacy, it's the low bar. If your employees wouldn't enthusiastically recommend your company to friends, it's a big, waving red flag.
For your team, those who know you best, should not only trust your company with friends, they should be your strongest advocates. If not, something is out of line.
The diagnosis of the breakdown of internal trust may consider many issues of leadership, internal communication, promise-keeping, and shared values. But today, we look at this important work of equipping of employees to be advocates.
It’s #26 of the Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth: Equip all employees, vendors, and representatives with advertising and promotional materials, and encourage them to promote your company to customers at any time.
Foundational to achieving this goal is to be certain not only that employees and representatives have the tools and materials, but that they are motivated to promote the company. To do this, employees need to be comfortable with and empowered by their knowledge about the brand. Only when advocates sincerely believe in the brand can they do it justice.
It’s being recognized that involving your employees as your company advocates can be a strong element in marketing. Consumers trust others like themselves more than high-ranked company executives or celebrities who are paid to promote the brand.
The Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global credibility survey of 30,000+ people, has showed repeatedly that in the eyes of consumers, regular company employees have more credibility than companies’ highly ranked executives.
The best way to make your employees your greatest advocates is to show them how great your company is. This always starts inside your company walls.
Here are six great ways to strengthen the role of employees and representatives as brand advocates:
- Share the story. Clearly define the company brand to employees. For employees to significantly help the company’s marketing efforts as brand ambassadors, they need to know exactly what it is that they are promoting. Take time to teach your employees about what you do and why it is different or unique. The more they understand, the more passionate they will become and the more they will spread the word about your brand. Gallup surveyed more than 3,000 employees about their company’s brand. Only 41 percent said they knew what the brand was or how it was different from competitors’ brands. If employees are expected to become advocates for their company, they must fully understand what the company stands for and how to present that to the world.
- Build a culture of shared values: Invest in the company culture and take time to develop the company vision and values. Employees are more likely to champion the brand when its values are clearly defined and resonate with their personal values. A culture-based brand must also stay true to its values. It's hard for an employee to advocate for a brand if what they see in day-to-day operations is contradictory.
- Make sure employees feel valued: The more interest you take in your employees, and the more you reach out to them, the more they will become interested in the company and your brand. Show your employees that they are critical for the company’s success; employees need to feel valued and taken care of in order to confidently and enthusiastically advocate for the brand that stands behind them. Ask employees what they need. Seek to understand what they need to learn, and then provide them with that learning. In a 2014 American Psychological Association survey of more than 1,500 employees, 91 percent of employees who felt valued said they were motivated to do their best for their employer, compared to just 37 percent of employees who did not feel valued. Furthermore, 85 percent of valued employees said they’d recommend their workplace to others; only 15 percent of non-valued employees would. Employees who are happy working at your company are more likely to promote your brand.
- Give employees tools and training. Involving employees in brand promotion means they will be called upon to use skills that they may not already possess. Companies can provide the necessary training and increase employee engagement in advocacy programs by having employees train one other on the strongest skills. By giving employees the right training and tools, companies can make it easy for them to be brand ambassadors in any situation. Starbucks is one company that does this well. It not only offers its employees an appealing benefits package, it also invests a considerable share of the company’s budget into educating and training their baristas. The company sees that if it helps employees learn more about the brand and company values, employees will take care of the company.
- Engage and involve employees: Employees who are actively engaged in your brand will be excited about the company's growth and development. Giving your employees a say in the direction of your brand will invest them in the brand identity. Listening to your employees' ideas for improvement or promotion strengthens their loyalty to your brand.
- Help employees go social: Encourage social media advocacy. In today’s marketplace, not taking advantage of what social media has to offer is equal to forfeiting the game in which consumer loyalty and spending is the prize. Although many people have Twitter and Facebook accounts, not everyone is an expert on using them for business purposes. Social media is the fastest way to reach your consumers. Adobe – with its 334.820 Twitter followers, 256,569 Facebook followers, 30,356 Instagram followers and 11,000 YouTube subscribers – knows the value of their employees as brand ambassadors. More Adobe employees share information about the company and its products on Twitter than any other brand in the world, which is reflected in the fact that 20% of Adobes subscriptions are generated through social media platforms.