How Inclusion Drives Employee Advocacy

WRITTEN BY: Carolien Daalderop

Employee advocacy is a term used to describe promotion of a brand by its employees. Why is inclusion such a key ingredient to a successful advocacy programme?

We’ve had a chat with Charu Malhotra who has over 13 years in-house experience in global Talent Acquisition Strategy & Employer Branding leadership roles at Unilever, BP, Ferrero and Primark.

Have a listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

Listen on Apple PodcastsStitcher RadioGoogle Play or SoundCloud.

Why is employee advocacy important?

We’ve always talked about employer branding and the importance and power that our colleagues and employees have. It’s not just about sprinkling hashtags around or forcing people to say that it’s a great place to work when it’s not. Employee advocacy is important, especially with a more disengaged workforce and shortage to fill jobs with the right people at the right time. Advocacy and encouraging employees to be advocates is timely. I think it’s an exciting time for advocacy, because where does it sit, who does it, what does it mean? That’s why it’s important to have conversations internally, that will impact what we do externally.

How do we build a workplace where employee advocacy is encouraged?

First thing, the output should not be a campaign about advocacy. We need an environment where people feel supported, happy and satisfied in their roles, where the leaders are respectful and a culture that’s empathetic. If you’re not in an environment like that, employees most likely won’t be advocates. The starting point is figuring out the current status, because if people don’t feel comfortable with elements of work, they’re not going to promote it. Identify the areas that you feel proud of and the areas that need a more work. We’re now talking about employees and how they feel, that doesn’t just sit with recruitment marketing or talent acquisition.

What part does inclusion play?

The belonging comes first, you have to fit in. We can be our authentic selves in the environments we’re living and working in. It’s important that the environments we work in are happy environments. So inclusion and belonging are elements of creating a great place to work. If we have an environment where people feel like they belong, they’re happy and (given the right tools) become natural advocates. This applies to all kinds of companies, no matter the size or sexiness of the brand.

How will the content and stories develop in the future?

Companies that are doing employer branding and internal engagement are already using both employee-generated content and corporate content. I do see that it changes, it’s weighted towards employee-generated content, but I don’t feel that corporate communications will go away. We’re also in very interesting and challenging times, where there’s a lot of dialogue and pressure about data. I think it’s a delicate balance, how we encourage people to share with the right framework, but we also need to be cognitive about it.

How do you activate employees?

The intent is different, there’s respect for other peoples time, which is also making things easier. What do you want me to do and how, but also what are employees getting out of it. The starting point is the EVP, the messages and themes should be co-created by those very colleagues that you ask to be advocates. Try to make it really clear and simple, identifying not more than 2 or 3 themes, but don’t keep it too bland and generic. Make it really clear that this isn’t just decided by HR or the board. Then just think about tools. Not everyone is natural about sharing on social media, so provide guidelines. What I’ve seen work really well are animation videos, which helped people understand the why and how. Try not to create a dry policy but for instance a fun video.

Who should take the lead on employee advocacy?

When advocacy and employer branding comes in, a big element of your audit is social listening. A lot of advocacy can be happening already, but you’re not aware of it. The starting point is what’s been said externally. People might have been sharing posts on Instagram with a non-corporate hashtag, which is organically being used. For me advocacy sits with communication, so wherever communication sits. Advocacy has become much bigger than recruitment, with all its elements and audience segments.

What are the pitfalls of setting up an employee advocacy programme?

This is an exciting area, I think it’s relatively easy to get momentum and encouragement. This is not a project or a programme that after 3 or 6 months it’s job done. First of all, you have to make clear that this is going to support and enable everything that you do within communications and talent attraction. It’s not an initiative that has an end date. Secondly, recognise that people are intrinsically busy and employees are much more likely to be encouraged by leaders that show their humility. Your leaders really have to live by it and demonstrate that they’re on this learning journey too. I think it’s really powerful to say; “I’m learning too”. Thirdly: measure! Don’t just build on an assumption, but measure, listen and be very good about iteration. Constantly iterate and test to see what’s working or not.

What technologies would you recommend?

I don’t think either of us could argue with how powerful video content is. I really like this internal communications tool called Seenit. It’s a really wonderful video tool where you are able to build in the type of framework that you want the employees to share a video on. They provide it and send it on to a central area where it’s then edited by Seenit and shared back. What I like about this, that it’s really cost-effective. It’s really easy for employees to shoot and film videos using their own phones, but it also safeguards the element of control that a lot of companies have. If you have a communications aim or a campaign, you can actually communicate to all the employees, using this as a platform. Seenit is a relatively small start-up in London, so you can use it for pilots, to see if it works.

What companies are successful in employee advocacy?

It’s a really obvious one, but I love everything that Adidas and L’Oréal do. I really enjoy looking at how they’ve evolved over the last of 10 years with their advocacy programmes. But they also demonstrate that this just doesn’t happen overnight, but by really linking it to business strategies. I love the way they create content, a mix of big budgeted campaigns and employee focused content, I’m a big fan of both organisations!

Connect with Charu on LinkedIn


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