5 steps to employee advocacy

One of the big “future direction of HR” topics for me at the moment is the increasingly close relationship between HR and Marketing/Comms. Nowhere is this clearer than in the  growing area of employee advocacy.

Simply put, employee advocacy is the promotion of an organisation by its own employees: the people who work for you sharing your content across their own networks because they want to. From an employer brand perspective, this is perhaps the ultimate goal. Research (such as the Edelman Trust Barometer) shows that people trust real life reviews and the opinions of “average employees” over corporate and senior executive messages every time. If you’re lucky, your employees may already be sharing your content – but why leave it to luck? Having a strategy and formalised approach could help to maximise your efforts.

Consider this ideal scenario: your employees, sharing your messaging with their friends and family, on the social media network of their choice – without prompting (or bribing!),  talking positively about what it is like to work for you. Employee advocacy is essentially harnessing the power of word of mouth – social media style.

Of course the whole point of employee advocacy is that it needs to be organic. You can’t really force it, and if you try it may well backfire on you. But it is definitely something that you can encourage and make easier for people. So if you want to engage your employees and their social networks, here are five considerations:

1. Make it easy for employees to share your stuff. Send them updates; make it clear not only that they can share this information but that you would positively welcome it. Include sharing buttons for relevant sites – this is practical but important.

2. Don’t just tell your people that you are happy for them to share – provide guidance too! Some employees will need to expressly be told that you want them to share company messages. Of course, you want content to be shared in an effective way that appropriately represents your brand. It doesn’t need to be excessive but if you haven’t already got a policy on social media then launching one before engaging employee advocates is a good move.

3. Reward advocacy. This doesn’t necessarily mean providing excessive or monetary rewards – this might of course generate the wrong behaviours. But a thank you, especially a social media one, goes a long way and reinforces the desired behaviours.

4. Get some role models. You will need leaders to send a message that sharing on social networks is not only acceptable but actively encouraged. But as well as leaders, consider engaging some champions across the organisation. Find out who is already very social, connected or influential and get them involved and part of the team.

5. Train your people on social media. Although social media has been around for some time now, for some people it is still new or confusing. So if you really want to get people social you will need to spend some time explaining what is in it for them to get social and provide practical help on how to actually do so. You’ll also be helping them to find a potential source of professional knowledge – but that’s a whole other blog.

Employee advocacy has the potential be a huge boost to your branding efforts. But ultimately it will only happen if your organisation is a good place to work. If your employees aren’t willing to share your content or express their pride in working for you, then you might have a bigger cultural problem to consider…

If you would like some help with thinking about employee advocacy in your organisation, then please get in touch. I can help with that!

I know we ought to…

I’m now two weeks into life as part of the so-called “gig economy“. So far, it has been fun with lots of variation, some hard work and quite a lot of coffee drinking. I’m speaking to lots of different organisations about lots of different issues, which is a really big change from me after almost twenty years in-house. What’s really interesting though is that a lot of organisations are facing the same, or similar, issues.

For example, on four separate occasions in just the last week I have had the same conversation. Each time with small businesses and each time about social media. A variant on the same theme: “I know we ought to be doing more with social media but…..”

Sometimes it’s about not having the time. Other times it is about not knowing what to do or how to do it. Questions usually follow around which platforms to use, what content to share, who to follow and what to say. Most importantly, how to maximise their efforts for the best reward.

For some of us, social media feels like it has been part of our lives for ever. It is part of our every day and as natural as breathing. But for others it is still a confusing place; a language they just don’t understand – but they feel they should. Some people are just feeling left out and aren’t capitalising on the opportunities for connecting, learning, sharing and branding that it offers. For those of us who do use it every day this might seem strange. It is easy to say that these individuals and businesses should just get stuck in, figure it out and start getting social. But sometimes people need a little help to move beyond those vague guilty feelings of “we really ought to….” and figure out their strategy, what is (potentially) in it for them and then the practical how to.

Even people who are comfortable with the mechanics of it can need a little encouragement. One individual I spoke to this week who has broken through those first, faltering steps to become an experienced user told me this week that he initially felt like he “was bursting into the middle of a conversation between a bunch of close friends” and found it difficult to get started. Eventually he realised that people welcomed him into the discussion.

All of these conversations (and many I had while I was still in-house) are why I have set up #getsocialwithTim. As part of my (newly-independent) work, I can offer practical assistance to individuals and organisations that will help with both the strategy and the practical side of social media, designed to empower people with the confidence and the practical ability to do it for themselves in quick time.

Small businesses and independent practitioners don’t need to spend a fortune to learn to use social media. They don’t need to outsource it to someone else. They just need some straightforward, real world advice and support. Pointing in the right direction with the necessary skills. There are loads of organisations doing social well; boosting their sales and improving their customer service as a result. As an example, I often give the excellent Liverpool artisan bakery Baltic Bakehouse as an example of a company who use Twitter and Instagram to make me want to visit their venues and buy their products Every Single Day.

So if you know someone who is having the dreaded “I know we should be doing more with social media but….” crisis, then please put them in touch. We are living in the social age – it’s time to stop knowing we should do more and actually do it: I can help with that!

The Social Media PLN

The concept of the Personal Learning Network, or PLN, is gaining a lot of interest amongst the HR community at the moment. If you haven’t come across the term before, a PLN basically does what it says on the tin: it is all about creating a unique network of people and sources from which you can learn and grow as a professional.

Continuing professional development is a key responsibility in many professions, to ensure that practitioners keep up to date with new ways of thinking, developments in the field and external influences that might come to bear on their areas of work. How to improve your own practice is also vital for both personal and career development. But it is even more essential for those of us working in a fast-moving profession that is constantly evolving like HR and L&D are. The worlds of work and technology are changing around us – and we must meet this challenge head on.

Once upon a time my PLN basically consisted of reading the HR press and attending the occasional employment law update – when I had the time. Now, my PLN is based around Twitter, where you can find me as @TimScottHR. I engage across many social media platforms, but joining Twitter in particular had a transformational effect on me, my approach to HR and my career. It works incredibly well for me and has become a daily part of my routine that I’d feel lost without. Of course Personal Learning Networks take many forms, they aren’t just about social media.  But social media has opened up new ways of learning for professionals and organisations alike.

So my first piece of advice to any HR professional who wants to develop their own personal learning network is to get on Twitter! There is a warm and welcoming HR community on Twitter who are actively discussing ideas and sharing the work that they are doing via blogs, tweets and podcasts. The beauty of a Twitter-based PLN is that it renders geography and timescales irrelevant. You have access to the work and ideas of thought leaders across the profession, on the device in your pocket, whenever you need it. You can dip in and out whenever works for you. It can help bring the outside in. Not only does the HR practitioner themselves improve but so does their organisation in turn, benefiting from this enhanced knowledge and experience.

In order to develop my own learning I read blogs, listen to podcasts and share my ideas and practice too, for the benefit of others. Social media allows you both to be a resource and to use others’ resources. But it is about finding what works for you.

If you are not already a big user of social media, or aren’t too sure how to make the most of what you are doing to build a PLN, I have three pieces of advice. First of all: dive in. Just go for it and get involved in the conversation. People already doing this stuff genuinely welcome new voices bringing fresh approaches and different experience. Secondly: be you. Just be yourself on social media, like you would in a real life, face to face networking situation. Actually, the same unspoken rules largely apply: four example, don’t be tempted to go straight into “sales mode” – remember it’s a conversation! And finally, share stuff.  As well as helping you build connections, sharing stuff makes you a useful resource for someone else’s PLN and could help to promote your organisation’s work too.

If you want to read more about social media and HR, or learn more about what it can do for you and your organisation then you can download the book I co-wrote with fellow HR professional Gemma Dale on the subject from Amazon here or contact me via the website for training on all things social media!