The easiest definition for “employee advocacy” would be the promotion of an organisation by its staff members but it goes far deeper than that, so what is employee advocacy?

The concept rests on the idea that our lives are very intertwined digitally; roughly half the world is on the Internet, and about 30% is on some form of social media.

Facebook, if it were a country, would be the largest in the world. So the idea is this: if you like where you work (or what is produced by where you work), you talk about it online — and that begins to serve as a marketing channel for your company.

So What Is Employee Advocacy?

This all speaks to the notion of “Earned Media,” which is essentially recommendations from family and friends as opposed to direct advertising.

Nielsen research has consistently shown that all consumers, in virtually all industries, trust earned media more than advertising. Similarly, 84% of consumers trust recommendations and new ideas from people they know (i.e. social media connections), while only 15% trust the same concepts from brands.

There are, admittedly, a few challenges to employee advocacy programs:

  • It requires a shift in business thinking, for one. Most businesses are set up around functional silos and expertise i.e. a marketing team, a sales team, an operations team, etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as specialisation of skills has a lot of benefits for the bottom line. But, employee advocacy requires you to loosen the reins on “who does marketing” a little bit, and that can scare process-oriented companies.
  • There need to be guidelines around how to share, what to share, messaging, wording, etc.
  • Finally, some organisations shift employee advocacy to HR, thinking it’s a “people thing” and thus HR needs to own it. That’s a mistake, as employee advocacy needs to be owned by multiple divisions (typically the rules are set within marketing or communication teams).

Here’s a final benefit (we like to end on a positive). Global trust in the workplace (i.e. employee trust in their employer) is about 46% right now, although about 1 in 5 employees say they have “absolutely no trust” in their employer. Wait, wasn’t this section going to be positive? Here it comes: employee advocacy is a great way to develop employee trust and recognition concepts more thoroughly. You’re essentially telling employees “Hey, follow some rules, but in general we trust you to be a channel for us.”  That’s very powerful and helps foster trust.

Related post: The Biggest Problems with Employee Advocacy…and How You Can Fix It