Employer Branding

Why Employee Engagement is the Key to Employee Advocacy

We spoke to Dave Hawley, VP of Marketing and Sales Development at SocialChorus about why is employee engagement is critical to boosting employee advocacy and what the benefits of employee engagement are.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud (embed below) or keep reading for a transcript of our conversation.

Dave’s mission to “bring work to life”:

One of the key things that we look at SocialChorus is how can we get better information to employees? How can we allow employees and the enterprises they work for to better connect? One of the problems that we’ve noticed, and we’re solving for large enterprise customers, everyone would agree that employees are your greatest assets, but it’s difficult for them to keep up with the amount of content. They’re largely not engaged with the enterprise mission, values, and priorities – lots of research out there on that topic. And they certainly generally are not empowered to represent, advocate, or refer for the enterprise, and that costs the enterprise billions.

The good news is that mobile has changed how we live. Your personal life, you have a smartphone, you’ll get your news, your recommendations, your files, your social networks, your apps. You can organise those in a way that you can see the signals from the noise. And it’s very easy for the average person with a smartphone that’s using them to go ahead and say “These are the things that are important to me, and that I want to stay focused on in my life.” Your enterprise life does not do that for you. Company updates, access to people who have the information, getting to files, getting your business apps all happens really on the desktop across a series of different applications. It’s not easy to find what you’re looking for. It’s not easy to surface the signals from the noise.

And so, that’s really what we do with SocialChorus – we build mobile employee engagement applications that allow you to connect what’s happening in the company; the people, the value, the experiences, to be more engaged with relevant content and projects at your work life. And to help you as an individual grow as an employee, which of course has a myriad of benefits for the enterprise itself. And so that’s how we think about it – bringing work to life.

The benefits of an engaged workforce:

Time – Employees in any modern enterprise today are looking at intranets, they’re looking at emails, they’re looking at the company blog, they’re looking at Twitter handles from executives, they’re looking at HR systems, the list kind of goes on, and on, and on. It’s difficult to look at all those systems to know everything you need to know. And so what our app does is it brings, it aggregates all that information into a single feed, it allows the enterprise to say “These are the things my employees need to know today.” And it makes it really simple and easy for them to access that information, to know what’s prioritised, and when its appropriate to share that information with their social networks as well.

Aligning – Aligning to the employee, aligning and bringing work to life. You know, one of the things that we see consistently is that organisations use intranets that were never really designed for news communication to send information to their employees. That and email were the primary methods. And if you ask any employee how they’d like to get the information, well, they’d like the enterprise to meet them where they are. For us that means providing that kind of information in a mobile news app that they can read in two minutes a day, while they are at line for coffee, and they can know what’s important, and kind of move on. And they can access all the other applications they need when they need them, but they’re not digging through lots of applications as well, and this saves lots of money for the enterprise, in terms of making sure there’s no confusion, there’s no misunderstanding of what’s happening.

Employee advocacy – So once you have an engaged employee who has relevant content and you’ve answered the question “What do they need to know today?”, many organisations will then make it easy for their employees to go ahead and share. There’s tons of data around this, you’ll see employees, their reach is more trusted, and it’s about 10 times your brand’s reach as well.

How employee engagement boosts employee advocacy:

Engage to encourage sharing – If your goal is simply to get the employees to share you will drastically limit your appeal to the employees, and you’ll limit your ability to roll out enterprise wide. And so what we’ve said is without truly engaging your employee you’ll never get the benefits of employee advocacy beyond a small group of people who are already inclined to socially share – typically that’s marketing and sales.

Provide valuable content – It’s a big miss for large and mid-size enterprises to only look at what’s usually less than 5% of their employees as potential sharers of information. The other 90%, 95% of your employees will not share. They’re not naturally inclined to do so unless you give them something that’s valuable to them, because when you give them something valuable for them, for example the news and content they need to know on any given day, then they’re very likely to say “Hey, my network would benefit from this”, and they start sharing.

dave hawley

The 4 steps to launching an employee engagement and advocacy programme in 30 days:

1) Create a team – Start with a group that is inclined to learn more. So you wanna start with a motivated group, you want to sit down, and you want to engage them with the kind of content, the information that they’re looking for.

2) Content- Provide content on a regular basis, so everyday there’s a place for them to go to see what the news and content is, you want to get their feedback very quickly.

3) Feedback – Do things like support surveys in-app, so you can start to get a sense of where they’re headed for. And you want to make sure that they’re trained, and that they understand the social media policies – what to share, what not to share. And if you can, as you do with our app, there’s certain information you can and you can’t share.

4) Expand to the whole company – Roll the content out company-wide and get all employees involved.

The common pitfalls that companies should avoid:

Providing information that you want them to share only. We see that time and time again, where there’s a new product launch, there’s a message from the CEO, there is corporate social responsibility content. That is all great content, absolutely, and you want your employees to be aware of it, but we see it time and time again, that people just put that content in there. So that’s one. You wanna look more broadly, you wanna think what’s on the mind of the employee, things like what’s happening internally, company culture, what’s the competition up to, what does the broader market landscape look like and how is it changing. These are the kinds of things that employees want to read as well. So you have to really balance it with things you want them to share, and things that they need to know, that’s number one.

They don’t update the content frequently enough. If you want a news app and you wanna keep your employees informed of the news, well, if they go back to the same application, they go there one day to get some news. They come back to the application the next day and it’s the exact same information, you’ve probably lost a lot of them right away because they expect real time updates, they expect the information to be curated, and they expect it to be timely.

Make it easy. I think if you look at the average enterprise application user, if they can’t figure out how to use your platform in 20 or 30 seconds, you’ve probably lost them. People are stretched for time. They have a very, very high bar for their consumer applications.The average enterprise user is going to bring those expectations that are set very high by application providers on the consumer side, and if they don’t get that same experience they’re very unlikely to use it unless they’re told to use it, they have to, for things like HR, for example.

How to measure your return on investment:

A more engaged workforce. – If you read any of the research out here, the number of disengaged employees ranges anywhere from 70% to as high as 90%. What this means really is that employees are in there, they’re not engaged with their work, they’re not really sure what’s going on, what’s happening. What this really leads to is lower productivity and higher attrition. So people do less and they leave more often. And any business leader will tell you those are two things that can kill a company. So what you really want to look for is people reading the information, understanding what the organisation stands for, and what the near-term goals are, and then you’d see more employees falling in line with those visions, those goals, and making sure that their work is aligned.

Speeds up communication – And it’s not just the productivity benefits but also the speed at which information gets moved around the organisation. What we talk a lot about here at SocialChorus is surfacing the signals from the noise, so actually understanding what the organisation wants you to do, what’s happening more broadly, get you as an employee to a place where your day starts earlier, you can get more focused, and you actually can get a lot done.

The next big thing for employee advocacy and engagement:

Relevancy – I think that relevancy and personalisation component is going to be huge, in the sense that people, or employees, are able to just kind of cull the information that they want very quickly and easily out of the system.

Personalisation – And I think we’re seeing things like location-based content personalisation, as well as the ability to measure this beyond just the share. Again, looking at the engagement that you’re creating, getting feedback from employees, and then tying that to real direct ROI.

Learn more at SocialChorus and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveHawley33[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

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By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.