Glenn is the founder and CEO of GaggleAMP, an employee advocacy and social media management platform.
Everything—and I mean everything—starts and ends with company culture.
According to the 2022 Ernst & Young US Generation Survey, 92% of employees surveyed across all four workplace generations say culture has an impact on their decision to remain with an employer.
In addition to improving employee retention, culture affects employee happiness and productivity. In fact, economists in the UK found that happy people are 12% more productive than their not-so-sunny counterparts.
Company culture is a cornerstone of employee recruitment, customer service and product innovation, as well. And it affects the bottom line, with McKinsey research showing that companies with better-than-average cultures dramatically outperform businesses with weak ones.
No surprise, culture is essential to employee advocacy—the strategy by which companies empower employees to engage with the market on social media to build relationships, drive brand awareness, and ultimately, increase sales. By embracing employee advocacy, you are acknowledging that every voice matters and accepting that every employee now has a platform. Maybe, like me, you remember when you needed strict credentials to talk to the press on behalf of a company. Those dubbed qualified received copious hours of media training.
Well, the lid is obviously off.
Anyone from your organization can speak to the outside world using social media. As a leader, you can let it happen unchecked or you can provide guardrails to help employees use social media in the best way possible. You can take a proactive rather than reactive approach and empower them to be company advocates. And you can ensure your culture reflects your digital marketing efforts, and vice versa.
The Employee Advocacy Culture Connection
Employee advocacy programs empower employees to share company content, and their own, to engage customers and prospects in a way that builds employees’ personal brands and advances the company’s digital marketing objectives. These programs work best when they are not overly prescriptive. You need to trust people to use their own style and showcase their perspective.
If the company culture is strong, meaning employees understand your purpose and mission, connect to the values, and understand how their work advances the grander mission, you can be more confident employees are going to voluntarily share mutually beneficial social media posts. On the other hand, in toxic workplaces, employee advocacy programs are doomed to fail.
Employees at companies with strong cultures support one another, even in hard times. We have all seen the LinkedIn posts building up colleagues who have lost a job due to layoffs. These posts not only help individuals, they suggest the company is a safe, good place to work, despite layoffs, helping to attract talent when hiring resumes.
Likewise, a strong employee advocacy program can improve the culture in ways beyond marketing. When you show people you trust them by giving them the tools to represent your company on social media, you also show you trust them to engage the market in real life. To step up as a thought leader and make their opinions known, because their voice matters—to your company, and the market.
Assessing The Culture
If you are wondering about the strength of your culture, start off by defining it. Is that easy for you? Would your rank-and-file employees define the culture the same way?
Turnover and employee retention are culture benchmarks, of course. You can also peruse sites like Glassdoor to get a sense of what people are thinking. Better yet, ask! Many companies focus on their Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand customer sentiment. What about your employees? When was the last time you asked them if they would recommend someone work at your company, and why? Be sure to run the survey anonymously. The answers will help you understand your culture and spot ways to improve.
The act of soliciting feedback goes a long way in making employees feel heard—something that is especially challenging when managing remote or hybrid teams. Another way I make sure employees know I value their feedback is by staying on after our all-hands meeting concludes in case anyone has questions or feedback. It is the digital manifestation of the open-door policy. I also reach out to employees regularly, including people who aren’t direct reports, to see how they are doing, what they are working on, and if there is anything they are seeing that I am missing.
Room For Improvement
I often hear people talk about a “lead by example” approach to culture. We need to be careful here. Obviously, if your organization values transparency, you as a leader need to be transparent. “Lead by example” can wrongly imply, though, that leaders are the expert in everything—the ones the organizations should look to for guidance across every department and initiative.
If the organization is leaning too heavily on the “lead by example” approach, what happens when the leader doesn’t know how to do something? I know I didn’t build an organization so everyone can do exactly as I do. I built an organization so I could hire amazing people with skill sets I don’t have. Those are the ones leading certain initiatives.
In many cases, you will have employees who are better at social media engagement than corporate leadership is. Make sure you are creating an environment where these employees can flourish. Make sure they know you trust and appreciate them. Then, get out of their way.
Everything starts with culture, and employee advocacy is no exception. As a leader, your role is to define and communicate your cultural pillars, continually assess employee satisfaction, solicit feedback so you can improve, and make sure your team knows you are proud to have them out there engaging the market on behalf of your brand.
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