What is employee advocacy?
Imagine that IBM says, “We are a great company to work for!” Let’s say you believe them. And you add them to your list of companies you’d like to work for. You might even see IBM as a company you would like to do business with. Now, compare how convinced you would be if IBM’s employees say, “IBM is a great company to work for”. Whether or not this is true, it is more convincing when employees engage online with relevant messages. This is employee advocacy. Employees advocating on behalf of a cause, a brand or an employer.
Research shows employee advocacy is a good idea
Research shows that content shared by employees receive eight times more engagement than content shared by brands. Yet only 17% of organisations have formal employee advocacy programmes. B2B engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors in particular, have significant opportunity to digitally engage and interact with customers. Here is a simple infographic showing top nine stats for making a case for employee advocacy:
Because of the level of participation required, success comes down to having a conducive corporate culture. Leadership support, aligned business goals, and training are some of the key elements that help sustain employee advocacy.
Case studies from engineering companies
The stats show that content provided by technical experts is highly valued, more so than traditional promotional content. Sharing knowledge positively influences employees’ personal brand. It allows them to be credible as thought leaders and experts in their field. Still, it seems challenging to motivate engineers, scientists and researchers to participate online. Professional visibility is one of the most motivating factors for these knowledge workers.
Some engineering/technology companies that have made employee advocacy work for them. Examples include LR Senergy, Landis+Gyr, Amec Foster Wheeler, Rackspace and GE.
See our book on social media advocacy
The benefits of employee advocacy
You are in a room full of people and you are telling them your story. You tell them why you do what you do, your values, what you offer, why they should care and how they can get it. Think about employee advocacy on social media as a way to exponentially increase the number of people in a room. In addition, each of your employee advocates has a room of their own. So think about the number of rooms you could have at any one time and the combined reach of your message…
The shear brand reach, recognition and visibility of employee advocacy leads to faster business growth. It also shortens sales cycles and helps to identify new revenue streams.
Finally, check out this recent report by Hinge Research Institute and have a look at SlideShare for what YO! Marketing can do for your firm.
I’ve recently published a book about social media use in a business setting. It covers challenges and approaches to employee social media advocacy. Employee social media advocacy is the act of employees sharing employer-provided content online on their own social channels. Such initiatives have been known to increase brand reach, thought leadership, shorten sales cycles and improve company culture. Personal branding is an integral part of employee advocacy. It gives the employee credibility such that what they share online is believable and accepted as you would accept information from an expert.
More and more, it’s becoming crucial to have an online presence, to be findable and credible. Even if you are not part of an employee advocacy programme, boosting your personal brand could help you get a new job, change your career, successfully launch a business, find experts in your field or find a business partner. The possibilities are endless!
Many people worry that a strong personal brand means that you have a million followers on Twitter. No. I believe building your personal brand needs to work for you. That’s why I developed the 4Ps of personal branding. I highlight four key elements to getting started. They are Profile, Platform, Participate and Persist. I’ll briefly explain each element:
What do you want to be known for? What do you want to achieve with your online personal brand? This element is a key starting point. There are incredible amounts of distractions online and on social media. Decide early on what your goals are. Having goals makes it easier to focus on what is important.
On which social platforms do your target audience hang out? How do these platforms work? The number of social platforms out there keep growing. There is often pressure to join as many of the platforms as possible. But that’s exhausting, and may not be worth your while. You need to identify the platforms that will bring the most value to you. Are the companies you want to engage with there? If your target audience is the oil and gas industry for instance, there is probably no point being on Snapchat. You might find that you get more engagement from LinkedIn.
It’s not enough to set up a profile on a couple of social platforms. You must participate. Personal branding requires that you engage in conversations through commenting or asking questions. 90% of people on social media just watch. They don’t comment or “like” content, they skim and move on. 9% of people on social media engage with content. And then there’s the 1% of people actually create content. Think about how you are going to engage because this could set you apart. Creating content might be writing articles, producing videos or sharing interesting information you find online. Make sure it’s relevant to your audience.
There’s nothing worse than arriving at a website and finding that it hasn’t been updated in a year. Personal branding requires maintenance and persistence. When you start participating, make a plan for how you are going to keep going. It might be once a month or once a week. Whatever it is, keep at it. Don’t give up. It takes time to build relationships online like it does in real life. Consistency pays off.
Start building your personal brand today.
I originally wrote this post on the LR Senergy blog in February 2016.
Culture is notoriously difficult to mould and even more onerous to sustain. But Mick Beavers, Managing Director of Control Valve Solutions gets an ‘A’ from me for his deliberate leadership in cultivating an authentic company culture. I interviewed him on 27th June in their Portlethen office in Aberdeen. Here’s how he has built one of the most admired oil and gas services companies in Aberdeen. Control Valve Solutions (CVS) is a £4M a year business, founded in 2009. It was recently nominated for best customer service. The company culture has something to do with it. It is transparent, authentic and autonomous.
Mick says he stumbled onto his philosophy by accident. It emerged during a very busy time in the early days. He noticed that the more he left people to get on with what they were doing, the more productive they were and the better the business became. Mick says he suddenly realised that he didn’t need to micromanage his staff. He wasn’t worried about people management. He laughs as he explains,
“The simple recipe is not to hire assholes”
In the hiring process at Control Valve Solutions, Mick explains that himself and the team look for people who seem to be coping with life, people who are themselves. Mick himself remembers a time when he was in the job market. He describes several interviews for senior positions where he wasn’t himself. He says,
“I always said what I believed the interviewers wanted me to say…Looking back, the interviewers didn’t create an environment where I could be myself”
It is this relaxed, authentic environment that Mick consistently strives to create for his employees. The company focuses more on personality and appropriate coping mechanisms than on technical ability when hiring new staff. Mick admits that when it comes to personality and technical requirements, there needs to be a balance. One of the key areas of development at Control Valve Solutions has been hiring people from diverse technical backgrounds and conducting training programmes to increase the overall technical competence in the company.
Yet, culture at Control Valve Solutions has generated positive customer reaction such that customers feel comfortable and valued in dealing with the company. Less focus on technical capability has not hindered business growth. When I ask Mick what he does day-to-day to maintain his company’s culture, he says,
“It’s a team effort”
He walks around to see employees every single day he is in the office. He chats to them not necessarily about the job but about how they are doing and perhaps what they got up to on the weekend. Mick says he can pick up when people are having a bad day and acknowledge it. It’s not for him to solve but that acknowledgement goes a long way in making employees feel valued. Mick understands the pressures of the job and explains the reason for his approach,
“Myself and the managers try to make people feel human again, rather than just working away”
Mick has earned the respect and trust of the employees at Control Valve Solutions, occasionally getting involved with issues outside work. While there have been difficult times, he feels honoured to have earned the people’s trust. Mick is a naturally trusting person, which comes across in his dealings with friends and strangers alike. He explains,
“I trust people once they walk in the door but when they lose that trust, it’s gone”
He also explains that there’s certainly a hard side to business. And that leaders need to find the right balance.
Mick is active on LinkedIn and explains that it’s instilled confidence in him. He notes,
“If you write positive things, you feel positive within yourself”
“It’s really important to be positive just now because there are a lot of negative stories on social media because of the way the oil and gas industry is at the moment”
Mick says it’s disappointing to see such stories because we have to stay positive. He admits that he doesn’t like being in the limelight but says it is easy to hide behind social media. Mick finds opportunities to post something in areas of engineering, sales, marketing and leadership. Many in the industry perceive Control Valve Solutions as one of the fastest growing oil and gas services companies in Aberdeen. Mick believes this is partly because the company has done a great job of celebrating its successes on- and offline. Even in very difficult times, the team have found creative ways to push out positive stories about the Control Valve Solutions brand and its best-in-class productivity.
Social media has had mixed reception at Control Valve Solutions. Some employees are engaged online and there are some that don’t get it. The marketing team educates employees on the impact of social media on the company’s brand and why it is an important tool for marketing. Mick admits that he first got into social media to wind up industry peers – and he believes he was successful. He laughs,
“I’m surprised I didn’t get a black eye while doing it”
Control Valve Solutions has generated significant external engagement and has a group of employees who are engaged internally. The company’s social media activity has kept its peers on their toes. Mick adds,
“It keeps us on our toes too, we keep getting better. I know that if we need people to come together and make something happen, we have the people within the organisation to do it”
About four years ago when PPI claims became popular, Control Valve Solutions launched their own KPIs for the business. There was a song on the radio that went, “♩ ♬ this month we will be claiming our PPIs, PPIs ♫ ♫”
Mick describes going to the shop floor and hearing the employees singing, “♩ ♬ this month we will be claiming our KPIs, KPIs ♫ ♫” Mick says it showed the team had really taken KPIs onboard. Mick smiles when he says,
“It was great feeling”
It was around that time that the slogan, ‘Living the dream’ emerged on the shop floor. The phrase caught on, with employees requesting the phrase to be put on the newly-introduced corporate clothing. Employees and customers have embraced ‘Living the dream’. Mick says it really sums up the culture at Control Valve Solutions, that the employees came up with this on their own. Sustaining culture is quite a separate matter. Mick says people join the company and immediately notice the authentic environment, compared to where they used to work.
But employees start to take the culture for granted over time. The management team wants to now focus on reinvigorating the culture. Mick explains,
“I think it’s good for the guys to remember how shit it used to be at their last workplace”
Mick sees his role as a supporting one, and advises leaders to keep business as simple as possible. He explains that everyone at Control Valve Solutions understands what it takes to run the company in terms of overhead costs, margins and revenue requirements. The team know exactly what it takes. When things are going well, Mick notes that it is easy to be everybody’s friend. Nevertheless, he intends to continue to be in tune with the business so that people can come to him with both good and bad news. Keeping the communications lines open is crucial to sustain the ‘A’ culture at Control Valve Solutions.
Mick grew up in Derbyshire and credits much of his success with his upbringing in which he was much rebellious as he was challenged. He cites a hunger for criticism and feedback as one of his biggest driving forces as well as a deep suspicion of complacency. It is this attitude which keeps Control Valve Solutions driving forward, always pushing to improve and innovate.
Mick has worked in the valve industry for 21 years with a brief spell working in IT from 2005 to 2007. This mix of IT knowledge and a passion for valves led to the creation of Control Valve Solutions in 2009; a valve company firmly rooted in the development of technology. One member of staff once described the company as ‘A software company that happens to sell valves’. Mick believes that you should always start as you mean to continue because it is much harder to add things to a business retrospectively, especially a focus on culture or technology. That you need to have a solid foundation and vision on which to build from the beginning