Have you heard of employee advocacy? In simple terms, employee advocacy refers to the act of employees promoting the company through their own personal actions and through their own networks. This is often on social media. It is separate from paying employees to promote the organization (such as hiring a social media manager).
Employees can promote the organization’s products/services, or they can promote the organization as a whole. Either way, it can work to enhance brand reputation.
Benefits of Employee Advocacy
Clearly, having your biggest asset—your employees—also be an advocate for the company can be beneficial. Here are some of the many benefits of an employee advocacy program:
- It can help the organization to obtain new clients through positive interactions with employees.
- It keeps the employees engaged and shows them that the organization trusts them as a promoter.
- By asking employees to be advocates for the organization, you’re indirectly encouraging employees to become more knowledgeable about the organization and its products or services.
- It can be an extension of your existing social media work, increasing visibility for the organization without costing more money. Employees may have large networks of their own, separate from the employer’s online network. Employees also may have a presence on more social media networks than the organization is publicly curating. An employee may be using Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, and more, while the organization’s social media efforts may be focused on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- It can be a way to get an advantage from the time employees are probably already spending online while on the clock.
- It can increase brand recognition and trust, as employees are seen as more trustworthy brand ambassadors than direct company marketing and sales efforts. They’re viewed as experts on the product. This is especially true when employees are speaking to their own networks—their own friends and family who already trust them.
- When employees promote the organization, it can have the effect of improving the employment brand, which can help with future recruiting efforts.
Some Considerations when Implementing an Employee Advocacy Program
Despite the benefits above, there are also some caveats here. An employee advocacy program may not be a good fit for every organization. Here are some considerations:
- If the organization does not have much positive employee engagement (i.e., if there are low engagement levels or a high level of dissatisfaction), those issues should be addressed first—otherwise, asking employees for advocacy could backfire.
- Having a positive company culture is the first priority before considering such a program. It’s essentially a prerequisite for an employee advocacy program to work. If the organization doesn’t already have a strong, positive employee culture with highly engaged employees, work on that first.
- When implementing this type of program, employees will need guidance. But employers must be careful not to be too restrictive, as doing so could risk running afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Employers need to be wary of inadvertently restricting employees from speaking about negative things, as that could be seen as restricting concerted activity—which is specifically protected by the NLRA.
- Be careful not to create an obligation for employees; the program should be voluntary. Making it an obligation turns it into more of a job requirement and takes away some of the authenticity that makes employee advocacy so powerful. Employees who advocate for the company who truly believe in the company are the best promoters. Encourage, but don’t force.
What has been your experience with employee advocacy programs? Does your organization encourage employees to promote the company outside of work?