The Long Game: Building Momentum To Create An Employee Advocacy Juggernaut

The Long Game: Building Momentum To Create An Employee Advocacy Juggernaut

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The power of employee advocacy is a game-changing force for brand promotion, EVP communication, audience engagement, and talent attraction. But here's the catch: starting strong is easy, sustaining momentum is the real challenge.

From content approval roadblocks to finding a steady stream of willing advocates, employee advocacy programs can quickly lose steam without the right strategies in place.

Enter Hassan AlHindwan, the mastermind behind several global employee advocacy success stories. Hassan has spent the last four years creating, implementing, and sustaining employee advocacy programs on a global scale. 

Get ready to dive into Hassan's proven strategies, best practices, and tech tips to keep your advocacy engine running at full throttle.

Hassan, in your experience what are the key elements of a successful employee advocacy program?

“In my experience you have to start with a very solid foundation for your advocacy program, a clear reason to start the program whether that’s to build brand awareness or attract a particular type of talent.

Once you’ve established the program and you know what your success metrics are, there are four key elements I’ve found to sustaining a successful advocacy program:

  1. Continuous Learning: Employees need to be supported through continuous learning, feedback mechanisms, and recognition programs to keep them engaged throughout their advocacy journey.
  2. Leadership Sponsorship: Having leadership actively participate and sponsor the advocacy program is crucial to showcase its importance and encourage wider participation.
  3. Clear Guidelines and Selection Criteria: Establishing clear guidelines and selection criteria ensures alignment with talent strategies and attraction needs.
  4. Continuous Content Calendar: Maintaining a robust content calendar ensures a steady stream of relevant and engaging content for employees to share.

If you have all of these - you’re well on your way to success.”

We mentioned potential challenges, what are the top challenges you've encountered when scaling and growing employee advocacy programs?

“The main challenge I’ve seen coming from a highly regulated industry is that the communications functions and leadership are cautious and worried about the risk of employee sharing. So the social media policies become extremely strict, discouraging employees from sharing their stories. 

If you are in a similar position, I highly recommend coaching your leaders to weigh the risks vs the rewards of sharing content. There is a balance that can be found between creating clear and articulate frameworks on what can and cannot be shared (particularly with a focus on the can!) and encouraging employees to be authentic. 

Deploying social listening agencies to engage with the comments and provide an additional check for leadership can help get this over the line.

Other challenges that I’ve seen while scaling advocacy programs are:

- Sustaining Engagement: Engagement tends to wane after the initial excitement wears off. Strategies to continuously engage employees, such as peer-to-peer encouragement and recognition, are vital.

- Articulating the Value Proposition: Convincing both leadership and employees about the value of advocacy programs requires creative articulation of the benefits and incentives involved.”

Sustaining engagement is a challenge we see time and time again. What strategies do you recommend for sustaining momentum in the long term?

“Advocacy programs rely on continuous engagement and sharing of content from your people but you have to remember that people have their day jobs to manage and this is something they volunteer to do. So here are a few tips I have for encouraging advocates to stay engaged: 

  1. Strategic Selection: in your selection criteria ensure you select those with the highest engagement probability to join the program - e.g. regular and recent activity on social.
  2. Emphasizing the Why: It is critical to really emphasize the WHY and what is in it for the advocates and continuously communicate this in different engaging formats—it is very powerful. 
  3. Peer-to-Peer Sharing & Competition: Encourage peer sharing through social tools, training sessions and competitions to incentivize maximum long-term engagement.
  4. Recognition and Rewards: it’s critical to recognize your top advocates, and this can take shape in many different ways from senior leadership shout-outs, gift vouchers, a simple thank you in public channels and invites to important conferences.
  5. Continuous Learning: split your advocate group into different levels before planning additional learning. I split mine by engagement levels, employees who are highly engaged are supported by 1-1 coaching, get more exposure, and support with their content while others can be invited to general masterclasses to create their content.  
  6. Content Calendar: it’s important to differentiate between company content to be shared through employees (this needs a continuous calendar and it is important to be aligned to talent and business needs) and for content which will be shared directly by the employee ( this requires ideation, cocreation and approval but the content comes from the employee for wider initiatives e.g. development month, DEI, etc.)"

These are great tips! To action these are there any particular tools or technologies you rely on?

“We rely on several technologies and tools. One is a content management/sharing platform to simplify and facilitate sharing—there are a couple in the market, like DSMN8, Sprinklr, and Everyone Social. We recently started using The Martec which has in-built social sharing and content management for employee advocates. Many of these tools also provide metrics you can report back on. 

If you don’t have a tool to track and support social sharing then it comes down to setting expectations with advocates, once they share content from their own profiles, ask them to share the results. A great way to do this is using a simple tool like Teams to drive engagement and community sharing by having employees share links to the content for their peers to share.”

Lastly, do you have any other advice for talent brand leaders looking to unleash the full potential of their employee advocacy program?

“The main point is to start with the why and align it to how it supports the talent strategy and use that as the foundation for all your next steps.

Getting your infrastructure isn’t just about having the fanciest tool. It needs to be backed by a strong foundation of leadership engagement, clear advocate selection criteria, rewards and recognition and a continuous content calendar that meets your talent and hiring goals. Lastly, educate your people but don’t over-engineer it, show people the space in which they can play and let them share their stories (within your company’s framework).

The greatest stories are the authentic stories of your people. They get the highest engagement.”

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