From email signatures to call center scripts to reciting the accepted “elevator pitch,” employees are active participants in sharing the brand story of your company. However, the power of employees to share and amplify a company’s positioning is grossly untapped, according to a 2014 Altimeter Group survey of HR and marketing executives. Only 41 percent of respondents reported having a strategic approach for employee engagement, and just 43% say they have a culture of trust and empowerment. Yet, Altimer finds that companies who do engage employees in a purposeful digital outreach enjoy measurable business impact, greater reach and improved customer satisfaction.
One of the biggest factors in this untapped opportunity, according to the report, is that most employees don’t have a clear understanding of what they can or should share on behalf of the brand. As a result, most stay quiet.
A quick way to measure the impact on your business is to assess the variance between the collective reach of your employees on LinkedIn, Twitter or Pinterest and the number of fans and followers on your branded corporate pages. That delta is your opportunity – every professional post or pin by an employee is an opportunity to connect people back to your corporate properties.
Of course a purposeful approach to empowering employees must be respectful of everyone’s personal brand and voice. Forcing people to link back will not only backfire in terms of employee loyalty, it will be a turn off for readers. The engagement has to be authentic in order to resonate.
The technology is here – in the past decade there has been a plethora of new digital tools for helping employees connect with each other and with their professional communities. Many are embedded in the CRM and sales enablement tools already in use for outside engagement. Why aren’t people using them internally? Perhaps because the presence of a tool itself is not enough – to create business value the tools must be accessible, helpful and aligned with the business culture.
Marketers who want employee engagement must develop a repeatable and respectful plan for advocacy:
- Cross-Functional Reach – While sales, marketing and service teams often advocate for the business as part of their job descriptions, employees across the organization can also be incentivized to participate. Making these activities a win-win for the employee and the employer is key to participation.
- Training – Most employees would be happy to support a respectful program, but truly do not know what to say. Setting clear boundaries and sharing sample messaging is a start, but also be explicit about the “how to” aspects. Encourage employees to make the message personal – and thus of higher impact – by translating the corporate message into their own voice.
- Content – Most businesses are publishers today – from blogs to social media to customer service scripts. These are rich sources for content that can be easily shared and amplified through employee engagement.
Creating active and visible employees may give some managers pause. Altimer recommends encouraging personal brand building anyway, claiming the risk is low that top talent will be poached. The opposite is usually true, the report says. Employees build a sense of pride and connectedness, and become invested in the company success.
Tapping your employee network to advocate for your business growth is a good idea for organizations of any size and in every industry. Moving to the #TopRight corner of the market requires creating a culture of engagement and empowerment across all your networks – including employees.