‘EA Insiders’ — this was an employee advocacy program that was started by Electronic Arts, the video game company, in early 2014. Its aim was to connect its employees with each other, so that such engaged employees could become motivated ambassadors to their community of players. Today, the ‘Insiders’ are personally invested in their organization’s success and reach a collective audience of more than 1.1 million people.

That talent engagement increases retention, improves employer branding and employee productivity are well-known truths. In today’s digital and social media world where marketers deploy emerging technologies to acquire, retain and grow customer engagement, it is crucial for the people function to move beyond employee engagement to employee advocacy.

Employees Are Strong Brand Influencers

Research has shown that employees of an organization are the most trusted sources of information – among other employees, among talent prospects and even with customers. How can organizations leverage this truth to grow happy employee experiences, and their own business?

The starting point in employee advocacy is to look at and respect employees as thought influencers who have significant followers – plus, a potential to multiply them. Enabling them to share experiences can ignite a cascading passion for the organizations they work for.

Authenticity is the name of the game here. Dell is a great example to understand this point. A pioneer in employee advocacy, Dell has used social media as a core driver of its strategy. Today, the company has a highly mature and structured program – and a matching platform to realize its people goals. The company was the first to actively promote the idea of employees sharing their individual content, beyond what Dell would provide them. Its HR was quick to recommend that only 20 percent of content they shared need be about Dell itself.

Employee Advocacy as a Marketing Journey

A recent Gallup survey shows that highly engaged teams deliver 21 percent greater profitability for their organizations. Another research reported by Forbes indicates that 89 percent of HR leaders rate talent and employee engagement activities as essential for business – and that employees who feel their voices are being heard are 4.6 times more likely to give their best at work.

Can organizations raise the benchmarks of engagement to look at employees as their primary customers? Can they treat them as vital stakeholders for their business performance? If yes, marketing tools can be their great enabler to employee advocacy. Especially as organizations today are realizing that the traditional methods of employee engagement are inadequate to deliver the required results in a changed landscape. Change has been significant in the area of people management – the slow pace of change from employee satisfaction to employee engagement has rapidly accelerated to employee advocacy through experiences.

The impact of positive employee advocacy is huge. It attracts the best talent, enhances engagement and boosts productivity. Leveraging productivity and collaboration apps (such as Facebook Workplace, Slack and Asana) can do wonders for goal alignment and enhancing performance. As a marketing strategy, employee advocacy motivates employees to share their companies’ brand values and information. In doing so, they raise the brand awareness of their organizations, and attract both new business and talent.

However, employee advocacy does not sustain on its own. It needs to be crafted with relevant goals and metrics (to measure progress). It needs to be sustainable and future-proofed. Most importantly, participation from employees must be inspired and voluntary.

Big data and analytics will play a big part in making employee advocacy thrive. Google, Facebook and US Special forces, among others, use predictive analytics to foster employee advocacy. The business landscape is being driven by digital and social media platforms and technologies. Hence, now is the right time to focus on employee advocacy. By empowering employees to be responsible, the advocacy program can achieve sustainable success. All organizations have to do is enable employees and recognize the impact they achieve. And yes, make it as an intrinsic and integral part of their ongoing career development.

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