One of the business buzzwords of this decade is likely to be “employee engagement.” There’s a very good reason for this: recent studies have found that American workers today are more disengaged from their jobs than ever, showing up and offering minimum acceptable performance simply to receive a paycheck. It doesn’t take a management consultant to understand that employees working at minimum effort levels won’t help lead a company to long-term success.
At the same time, many companies are striving to build their reputations online and in social media through customer advocacy programs that induce happy customers to act as unpaid “brand ambassadors in social media settings.” This is an effective technique because – quite simply – it works. An oft-cited Nielsen report from 2009 found that 90 percent or consumers surveyed noted that they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online.
For smart companies, the place where employee engagement meets customer engagement and advocacy is through “employee advocacy.” It’s a relatively simple idea: leveraging your employees as "brand ambassadors" for your company, and spreading their advocacy across the Internet and through social media. Who can act as a more powerful brand ambassador for a company than its own rank-and-file employees? To customers, the positive messages that come from company employees feel more organic and genuine than the often stale and canned messages coming from the marketing and advertising departments.
Employees who feel that their input and efforts are valued by the company are more likely to feel engaged with their employer, according to a recent article by ClickZ’s Russ Fradin. The trick is to successfully help employees understand how the program will help them and how they can help the company.
“Once you have an enthusiastic group of employees sharing your brand's content, the next challenge is how to grow your program and continue to increase overall engagement,” writes Fradin. “During the post-launch period, engagement is the catalyst to program success. After you've launched your EA program, the challenge shifts toward increasing employee engagement and overall activity within the hub.”
Fradin suggests that there are multiple ways to spur engagement, and these include short, well-defined campaigns to get the word out or boost awareness of a company’s product or service. These campaigns may include using hashtags or keywords, sharing specific content, or submitting topic-related content and rewarding members for participating in these actions.
The more employees feel that their opinions and experience are valued as an asset to the company, the more engaged they will be with their jobs. A successful employee advocacy program can help improve internal operations as well as marketing and outreach programs to customers. As a result, these programs, which often cost a company very little, can be a single solution to multiple problems.