• Matt Black

The High Stakes of Low Employee Advocacy

Las Vegas is fuelled by humanity’s willingness to take risks – in fact, its very existence depends on it.

Few visitors actually think they’re going to leave town with more money in their pocket than they arrived with. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it happens from time to time… but it’s certainly not the norm.

And yet we’re perfectly willing to visit Sin City knowing the deck is stacked against us from the start.

The allure of chance and luck are all we need.

In fact, some of the world’s most admired and successful people insist you should consider taking risks in many areas of your life, including Sir Richard Branson himself. And as you can probably imagine, there are a dizzying array of reasons for this: learning new lessons, reflects confidence and helps you stand out from the crowd, allows you to conquer your insecurities and fears… trust me, the list goes on.

But in my opinion, there are some instances where chance and success don’t typically intersect too often. In these cases, the cost of failure can have an irrevocable effect on personnel, position in the market and profits.

In the business world, if there’s one thing that I suggest you take zero chances with, it’s Employee Advocacy.

A key aspect of every organization’s operating strategy should revolve around what their employees are saying about them and where they’re saying it. Employees who have a genuine belief in what they do and who they work for enjoy promoting a positive image of their organizations. Ideally, this type of advocacy stems from employee loyalty and when done right, feels organic, genuine and self-propelled. Best of all, it’s infectious and often causes similar behaviour in other employees who want to participate.

In 2015, much of the discussion that employees feel compelled to start takes place on social media. Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, your employees want to be heard.

And if you’re doing your job as a leadership group, the tone of their voices will be positive.

However, if you haven’t invested the time in creating an atmosphere that your employees are proud of, a culture that they legitimately want to promote and advocate for, a sense of value and meaningfulness… you’re pitting a really low-percentage hand against the house.

And the house always wins.

With the stakes being so high, here are a few other reminders of just how crucial employee advocacy is to your organization:

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Hey, how do you like working for Company XYZ?”

The next time somebody asks one of your current or former employees a question like this, what would you like the answer to be?

Given that the majority of the workforce is now composed of Millennials, many of whom aren’t interested in sticking with the same organization for more than 3-4 years due to a lack of opportunity or evolving interests, every little detail counts. The hiring and recruiting process, the onboarding and orientation you provide them with, the introduction to the corporate culture and leadership… along with a million other moments that matter, first impressions are a huge part of building a high level and rate of employee advocacy.

Word-of-mouth has been reincarnated by social media platforms, amplifying ideas and opinions across the globe in milliseconds. If you’re hoping to attract quality candidates who can legitimately make a difference for your organization, you simply can’t afford to have anything other than a sparkling reputation. Granted, you’re also not going to please everybody – just because one employee has a negative experience doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be plagued by it forever. But, if the issues are systemic, and more employees than not depart the company with a bad taste in their mouths? Look out.

Your employees are people first, job title second.

It’s important to remember that in the grand scheme of things, the people who work for your organization are just that – people.

There is far more to any of your employees than meets the eye, and finding ways to tap into that is key to enjoying a high rate of employee advocacy. Given the amount of time we all spend at the office or in the workplace, it’s natural for your people to want to share their stories and experiences.

And based on how you nurture and support them as an employer, it’s entirely up to you how they choose to do so.

Okay, not literally… but figuratively. If you treat your employees like people first and their job title second, their interest in and willingness to promote your culture, products and services will grow. I’m not saying that the boundaries between personal and professional have to be completely crossed (i.e. social gatherings with employees at your home), but if you ignore the fact that life is more than work, you’re taking unnecessary risks that may haunt you down the road.

Turning people off will turn them against you.

While many people who leave an organization never get the chance to “spill the beans” on their true experience for fear of damage to their reputation or future employment prospects, others simply don’t care.

And it’s the latter half of that equation who make it dangerous to foster low employee advocacy.

The fact of the matter is this – not only do you have to worry about your employees not buying into what you’re doing and therefore not feeling inclined to share across their networks. But you also have to be mindful of not isolating your people so drastically that they become spiteful and seek to make sure people know about it once they leave.

Some might say that you can’t control people once they’ve left, and they’re going to say or do as they please.

But I’m here to tell you that you can, and you need to.

Not everyone is going to love working for your organization – there’s simply no getting around that. But there’s absolutely a way to build an employee experience that leaves even your detractors feeling valued and supported.

Happiness is contagious.

A fundamental aspect of the human experience is the intrinsic need for collectiveness.

People want to feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves.

If you can offer them that through work – you know, that part of our lives that’s supposedly dreaded, maligned, and impedes our ability to do the things we really want to do – you’re further ahead as an organization than you realize.

And best of all – your employees will want to tell everybody and anybody they get within earshot of. Oh, and be able to broadcast their triumphs under your great brand’s umbrella to all of their social networks.

Don’t forget: happy, positive stories go viral too! I think we forget that far too often these days given the fact that tragedy and controversy dominate the majority of our headlines.

Striving for a high level of employee advocacy has to be a cornerstone of day-to-day operations if you expect to be successful. Happiness is contagious – and your customers aren’t immune (or ignorant!) to it either!

Tell me more about what employee advocacy means to you. Do enough brands pay close enough attention to this aspect of their business? I’d love to see some examples of companies doing it right in your eyes. Feel free to discuss in the Comments section below!


©2020 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto