The employee advocacy bus is moving along quite nicely and many organisations have wisely and correctly opted to climb on board in an effort to stay on top of the trend and not get left behind. But why is your programme not returning the dividends that other organisations’ programmes are providing.
There are indeed a number of factors that contribute to a successful employee advocacy and by not paying attention to any one of these, or a combination of them, the effectiveness of the programme will be diminished. Too often, programmes are implemented with too much haste and not enough mindful planning, resulting in some fundamentals being overlooked. Ultimately the organisation ends up writing off the entire notion of employee advocacy rather than understanding that it was aspects of the specific programme that were inadequately addressed.
“Employee advocacy works”.
There are just too many case studies and facts to back that statement up.
The “secret” of success is how ensuring all the parts of the puzzle are in place.
By making sure you pay attention to the elements the returns will undoubtedly materialise. Too often we see critical elements missing from the mix. The list below itemises pieces of the puzzle that are often neglected or ignored, resulting in the entire concept of employee advocacy being binned as in-effective:
- Lack of training/skills transfer:- Too often organisations will simply buy or rent a piece of software that “does” employee advocacy with the expectation that employees know what needs to be done and also have indeed bought into the concept. The inception part of the programme is critical in not only imparting the right skills and knowledge into the employee team, but also helping them to understand the reason why they have been co-opted. Part of this session will also deal with the imperative success factor of getting their buy-in by revealing what is in it for each one of them. This buy-in should not rely on any kind of incentives, but rather on helping the team to realise how the programme will position their online personas in a far more professional and visible way.
- A lack of or insufficient guidance:- Some programmes will indeed do well on point 1 above, but can then be too quick to set the team off without any from of mentoring or hand-holding. It is useful to remember that the majority of any employee advocacy team will be new to the discipline and requirements of what content to post and when to post it. Indeed many employees will be new to any type of dedicated activity on social media. Therefore, to get the programme embedded as a habit and as part of the DNA of the organisation, a support layer needs to be added; at least the initial stages of the programme. So, a good programme will have an experienced collaborator available and involved with the the team. This collaborator will walk the team through the practical implications of what they have learnt (in point 1 above), and do on-the-job hand-holding while they get to grips with their task requirements.
- Not giving employees sufficient freedom:- Authenticity is a key component of any influencer marketing activity. So by being dictatorial in terms of the exact content that should be posted, you not only miss out on the opportunity to tap into the creative spirit of your team, but the value of each post is significantly diminished due to its in-authenticity. The additional risk is that the team will become disengaged and disinterested in the activity which should really be a fun and self rewarding activity. Rather let your team express their passion for the organisation and let that enthusiasm be felt through their own versions of the post, whilst giving them guidance and assistance on content creation.
- Not helping out with engaging content:- Point 3 above does not in any way dictate an absence of the organisation in the creative process. Establishing clear guidelines, a content calendar of sorts that talks to what type of posts should go out when, and access to a repository of images, articles, blogs, links and the like, is an important part of the toolbox to help getting the required results. By sharing good examples from other team members, creative ideas are also shared expanding the skills base.
- Not having specific goals in play:- It is important to understand what the desired objectives are for your programme. Depending on the organisation, these can be objectives such as generating a predetermined value in media exposure, increasing web-traffic, or even establishing direct links with clients of your competitors. Whatever these goals are, put them on record so that everyone has a shared understanding of what the ultimate outcome should be.
- No monitoring and feedback loop:- Once the objectives are set, then clearly monitoring the results is a critical to see how the progamme is fairing against those objectives. This allows for progamme tweaks where necessary. However, another benefit derived from the monitoring is the ability to give each team member feedback on how they are doing – not only in relation to their own levels, but also what contribution they are making towards the overall team objectives. In the initial stages of the programme, this feedback is especially valuable when given in conjunction with the guidance measured above. Here each team member, and the team as a whole, can be coached on how to improve their output . A small amount of internal competition can be used here as well to try and elevate the drive of each team member to improve their “score”
- Not leading from the top:- Too often leadership sees employee advocacy as something that the sales team or marketing team should be doing. Wrong! It is something that anyone in the organisation can be involved in and, in particular, it is something in which senior management should participate. This sets the tone for the expected participation levels and standards in that no-one is being asked do do anything in which leadership themselves are unwilling to participate. It can also help to create the space for a bit of healthy competition with the junior members vying to get one-up on their leaders.
- Expecting too much too soon:- Many of the participants will be new to the expected activity levels. This combined with the need to first actively build relevant followings /tribes on the chosen social media channel means that the programme needs space and time to get up to full steam. As the team become more confident in their ability and as they begin to understand what kind of content gets the best response from their tribes, the reach and engagement numbers will concurrently grow. Then, over time, with consistency being a key driver of the programmer, participants will be build their reputation online and begin to be seen as experts in their field. That’s when the real magic will happen!
- Not having all the moving parts working in concert:- Like with any puzzle, it is never complete unless all the pieces are present. Many programmes fail because they do not give sufficient weighting, or any weighting at all, to one or more elements of the programme. So it is no use having a top notch training programme but then not backing it up with a mentoring and hand-holding programme, or not closing the monitoring loop and providing ongoing feedback to the loop.
- Not having a partner or the right partner in place:- Trying to find a home for the implementation and management of an employee advocacy programme within an organisation can prove tricky. Challenges range from not really understanding where it should sit through to not having sufficient expertise or internal resources to effectively get the programme off the ground and keep it running. An experienced partner brings all the required skills, experience and resources to the party and is able to wholly focus on the programme while you get on with the business of running your business. Generally then, after a defined period,
- and once the programme has been embedded in the culture of the organisation and participants are participating in a way which is self-fulfilling, the partner can take a more arm’s length approach by providing peripheral services such as the monitoring and feedback roles.
Another analogy of an employee advocacy programme is that each element of the programme is like a spoke in a wheel.
If one spoke is weak or missing, the rim will fail at some point.
To reiterate; that does not make the wheel an inherently bad idea, it just means that it hasn’t been put together well.