"Recognition and Employee Advocacy" has been one of the most trending topics among HR managers and marketing teams over the past few years.
Employees hold inherent influence and are considered as the "most credible voices" of a company. That is why an employee advocacy program holds importance to the growth of an organization.
Now, what is Employee Advocacy?
In short, "Employee advocacy is a method used to promote your brand and initiatives through people who work for your organization in an authentic and trusted way, typically on social media or other digital channels."
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A study conducted by Weber Shandwick reported that 98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company.
The importance of advocacy is well reflected in this quote by Simon Sinek:
"Customers will never love a company until its employees love it first."
If your employees love working at your company, talk about it, and promote it on Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media platforms, such organic promotion would look more credible in the public's eyes, whether they are clients or possible recruits.
People build stronger and healthier connections with other people than they do with brands. Thus, they are more interested and receptive to your employees than your brand's account, which is why your employees are your most influential resource.
Social Media Today reported that content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
But, how do you make your employees love your company and give them a reason to be advocates of your company?
The key is having an Employee Advocacy program that places employee recognition as a core value.
A successful employee advocacy program typically has a huge number of people who work for many different roles, voluntarily promoting the company’s initiatives and brand message.
The Goal of an Employee Advocacy Program
The goal of any employee advocacy program is to leverage better employees'social connections, that benefits both employers as well as employees. An employee advocacy program helps increase social media reach, engagement, and referrals exponentially.
One of the primary goals of an employee advocacy program is to encourage employees to become a company's advocates and build its brand reputation.
Now, what does it have in it for your employees? Why would employees want to be a voice for your company?
By being a part of this program, employees get a chance to feel like an influential part of the company, build their professional social networks, better engage with their contacts, develop meaningful relationships, and progress in their careers.
An employee advocacy research by Hinge Marketing found that 79% of firms reported more online visibility after implementing a formal employee advocacy program. 65% reported increased brand recognition.
So, it is evident that employee advocacy has proven beneficial for both companies and their employees over the past few years.
The right employee advocacy program can unify and build your company as a strong community.
Now, here comes the tricky part.
How do you inspire employee advocacy and take advantage of all the wonders it does to a company?
The easiest solution is promoting employee recognition.
Recognition is the Key to Employee Advocacy. How and Why?
Abhishek Ratna said,
"When an employee truly understands the meaning of his work and gets recognition for his efforts, he performs the best."
Recognizing the efforts and contributions of your employees can go a long way in employee engagement.
However, you cannot force your employees to share content online, get involved in influencer marketing, and be advocates for your company. The participation of your employees in the program must always be voluntary.
To voluntarily participate in the employee advocacy program, you must encourage your employees and find ways to keep each employee happy, engaged, motivated, and inspired in their jobs.
Employee advocacy occurs when employees are motivated to promote the company they work for, both internally and externally. When an organization successfully earns employee advocacy, it can be the most powerful form of brand advocacy.
So, why is recognition so crucial for Employee Advocacy?
People crave for recognition. Your employees, too, want to be recognized for the efforts they put into their work.
Getting recognized gives them a sense of inclusivity and fosters employee engagement. Employees feel valued, appreciated, have a sense of meaning and purpose, are empowered to manage their work on their own strengths, and have opportunities to be rewarded and reward others.
A report by Harvard business review analytic services stated that 72% of businesses said recognition given for high performers within a workplace significantly impacted employee engagement.
Peer-to-peer recognition also helps in building work relationships. Getting appreciated or recognized by fellow colleagues is an excellent way of employee engagement. Feeling appreciated and having friends at work is extremely important to employees, affecting their happiness significantly.
These types of employee engagement and recognition initiatives pave the way for employee advocacy.
When employees feel like they are recognized and appreciated enough by the company and fellow colleagues for all the hard work they put in at work, they will get a good feeling about working for the company and be motivated to start talking and advertising the company voluntarily.
It has been proven that employees who are recognized for their work, perform better. That's why recognition can play an important role in incentivizing employee advocacy.
Otherwise, unappreciated and unhappy employees can do more harm than good to your brand image and the company as a whole.
There are various ways to boost morale, create a positive company culture, and initiate employee recognition.
1. Thank your employees for their efforts and hard work
Thanking someone for their efforts and hard work that they put in for your work is the smallest but the most impactful gesture that you can make.
When an employee receives appreciation or a thank you letter from a manager, or even from peers, they know that they have done their job well. It validates their hard work by having it publicly recognized.
There are various ways of how you can thank an employee. Sending an appreciation letter, a thank you mail, a personal conversation, or a special mention about it in a company newsletter column or a meeting are many ways to show gratitude and appreciation for your employees.
2. Recognition from the C-Suite
C-suite refers to the executive-level managers within a company. Appreciation and recognition from the leaders of a company can go a long way.
It's incredibly powerful and impactful for the leaders to reward employees because recognition from the C-suite can boost employees' morale, careers, and, in turn, encourage others to join the advocacy program.
To ensure that this happens, leadership and management must be on board with the initiative from the start.
3. Hand out awards
Handing out awards to your employees on a public forum formally appreciating success at work is a great move.
Celebrating the achievements of your employees gives them a sense of validation. Public commendation of employees is a great way to recognize hard work and a surefire method to create employee advocates. These events can help keep employees motivated to participate in work and employee advocacy.
If you already have annual award ceremonies, you can include additional awards for top employee advocates. You can hand out trophies, medals, or even personalized gifts as a token of appreciation and recognition.
4. Employee perks and rewards
Apart from thanking and handing out awards to your employees, facilitating various rewards and perks to your employees as a way of recognition also helps.
Everyone likes to receive rewards or small facilities and benefits in exchange for the time and effort they put in for a company's growth.
Receiving rewards and perks motivates employees to share and promote it on social media, which initiates advocacy.
There are various cloud-based solutions through which rewards and perks can be facilitated to employees.
5. Help employees grow their personal brand
Last but not least, helping employees develop and advance their careers is also a way of recognition.
Apart from all the appreciation, rewards, perks, awards, etc., the most important thing that employees care about is growth, development, growing their personal brands on social media, and advancing their careers.
Recognizing these needs and letting employees post exclusive content, which allows them to become go-to resources for customers, will keep employees happy and engaged at work, which finally results in employee advocacy.
The Effect of Recognition
The heart of any employee advocacy platform has always been the sharing of content. That will continue to be the foundation of your program and should be encouraged in your work culture.
Now what kind of content your employees share, depends on your Employee Advocacy and your Employee Recognition program.
With an effective employee recognition program, your employees might use various social platforms to act as your advocates by:
- Post a thank you letter or mention in the newsletter that the employee received and show gratitude to your company
- Recognize a fellow colleague for their help in a project or at work
- Talk about the reward that he/she got in exchange for their hard work
- Talk about how great it is to work at your company
- Talk about how an employee hard work and efforts are recognized at your company
And the list goes on.
Now, let me tell you this.
Employee advocacy applies to companies of all types and sizes: social media is the latest frontier in business, and it's only just getting started.
So, investing in a good employee advocacy program will create a better customer experience and earn valuable brand ambassadors.
And remember, employee recognition is where you can start building a great employee advocacy program.