For every global company, attracting and holding onto the right kind of talent is as big a challenge as it is important to get it right. Especially for businesses with employees scattered around the world, it’s important to have a consistent presence and address employer branding from the inside out… but how? Read on.
Take Vodafone, for example. When you’re in the business of connecting people, you really have to practise what you preach. So how do they, the world’s 2nd largest phone operator, dial up employee advocacy? You’re about to find out! I’ve had a chat with Kimberley Harcombe of Vodafone UK to get the inside scoop. Listen to the podcast interview on iTunes, SoundCloud or keep reading for a summary of our conversation.
Tell us about Vodafone and what you do there?
I work for Vodafone UK, which is a part of the larger Vodafone Group, and it’s a mobile and fixed broadband provider. As a business, we’re currently going through the stages of becoming a more digitally-savvy organisation. As for me, I work in the Social Comms Team, and I’m responsible for managing our employee advocacy program, Go Social, our day-to-day community management for our social channels, that’s our Vodafone UK social channels, as well as Vodafone Social, which is our official consumer-facing blog. I’m also responsible for working on our campaigns from a social perspective.
What prompted Vodafone to launch an employee advocacy program?
Our team is responsible for Vodafone UK’s social media policy. And after doing some research around employee attitudes towards the policy and whether they understood it, whether they even knew it existed, we discovered that the majority of people we surveyed weren’t sure what they could and couldn’t share through their personal social media profiles. We were then prompted to introduce Go Social, which we work with Dynamic Signal on. It gives us the opportunity to activate those advocates within the business, as well as make it explicitly clear what employees can and can’t share on social as a Vodafone UK employee.
What was the primary goal for the organisation?
First and foremost, it was always about reducing uncertainty around the expected social media behaviours, so really coming off the results of that survey. And then, second to that, was supporting the drive to increase ENPS, which is Employee Net Promoter Score, by identifying and mentoring our own advocates. And then, tertiary to that, was increasing the organic reach of our Vodafone UK content in social.
What type of content seems to resonate best with employees?
One of the great things about Go Social is the ability for employees to actually submit their own content. If they’ve seen a really interesting piece on, for example, “Do you actually have to put your phone on airplane mode now when you go up in the air?”, they could submit that into Go Social and, once it’s approved, the content’s available for everyone else to share, which people really like. So it becomes peer-to-peer sharing internally as well as externally with our social networks. And we found that our employees really like to share the content that demonstrates we’re more than just a brand, and that there are people behind the logo. And we’ve also found the employees tend to care about different things, to media or to what our customers might care about, and Go Social gives them a chance to share those stories with their networks that they might not otherwise see.
What have been the main benefits for Vodafone and what have been some of the main benefits for employees?
For the company specifically, advocacy is a major benefit. So, as mentioned previously, we knew that there were advocates out there, based on the survey that we did, but we didn’t know who they were and where we could find them. The Go Social program allows people to be an advocate of their brands; it really allows them to get behind what we’re doing as a business.
And I’ve also mentioned before, for the company, and it’s both for the company and for the employees actually, this one, is reducing uncertainty around expected social media behaviour. And also, obviously, increasing the organic reach of our content, so our employees will share our content, whether that be news or a blog story or a TV ad, through their personal social media profiles. And that reduces the reliance on paid media. And we’ve seen over 20 million impressions to date from a relatively small group of employees sharing that content.
And then for the company, it’s really important for us to know that our employees are happy, and that they’re being presented with all of the information about the company that can help them feel good about what we’re doing as a business. So that support to drive an increase in the ENPS by identifying and nurturing our own advocates is really important. And then, for our employees, the main benefit is answering the concerns we know that some of them have around how we expect them to behave on social so they get clarity and reassurance on what they’re allowed to share.
Has employee advocacy replaced internal communications such as an intranet and emails?
Yeah, a little bit. So we do have internal communications channels. So we have a hub, and the internal content just introduced, Yammer, so we do have all of that. I don’t want to say that it’s replacing internal content at all, but itcertainly makes the process a lot easier and a lot slicker for the content that is, obviously, externally shareable because there is some internal comments that are just for employees only.
What metrics do you use to measure success?
NPS is one of them, absolutely. First and foremost, we use engagement rate. So one of the great things in working with our partners is that they are able to help us assess ourselves against other programs of a similar nature. And we believe the data, that we’ve seen some other companies running employee advocacy programs, that we’re significantly outperforming in terms of engagement rate, and that was at 83%. And that’s significantly higher, so like 50 percentage points higher, than some of the benchmarks, across the board. So yeah, we’re really, really pleased with that.
Are you able to tie back any of these metrics to actual finance bottom-line ROI?
Yes. So, for us, I think it’s important to say that the decision to introduce Go Social was not about financial return. That was never the primary reason for introducing it. Instead, we look at how successful Go Social is and has been in driving employee advocacy, as we’ve discussed. We do also report on equivalent media spend using a very general benchmark, and we estimate that Go Social has driven the equivalent of more than £200,000 in media spend in the last 10 months.
And that’s from a group of users that now number over 1,000. So we started off with nobody in September, and we’re now up to 1,000. And our ambition is to break through the 10% figure, which originally came out in the original survey, of 10% of our employees would be willing to share content through their social media profiles.
What’s next for employee advocacy at Vodafone and for employee advocacy in general?
For Go Social, it’s continuing to drive awareness of the program, and grow the user base as part of our one-year anniversary celebrations. So, coming up in September, there’ll be another drive to get new users joining. Driving strong engagement rate, again, remains a very important priority for us.
So, we do gamify Go Social, there are leader boards, there are monthly leader boards. And our guys can get prizes by sharing content. But it’s completely up to us how we assign those prizes, so we might assign them because someone’s done a really great job promoting a certain piece of content, for example. It’s not necessarily the person at the top of the leader board that wins.
And lastly, it’s really about developing content, and this might also speak to the employee advocacy in general, at least at Vodafone UK. So, our recruitment team within HR had kicked off new social content across the board, Vodafone careers channels. And that is bringing to life what it’s like to work at Vodafone, the types of people who work here, the networks that you can get involved in outside of your daily role.
Follow Kimberley on Twitter @KHarcombe.