Today’s businesses are facing a severe dearth of both qualified candidates and employee engagement. As leaders, we’re forced to contend with symptoms that cost us money and our best talent at the same time. According to a recent survey from Glassdoor, 78 percent of hiring decision-makers report that candidates respond to recruiter emails at a much lower rate than in the past. Meanwhile, according to Gallup, just 32 percent of U.S. employees are engaged at work.
This directly translates to financial drain — when you consider the cost of searching for new talent, onboarding and training them to be to the level of their predecessor, turnover is expensive. Even an annual churn rate that seems low (around 10 percent) could ultimately cost an organization millions of dollars over time.
This begs the question: What can you do to engage existing employees and bring new ones in? One solution: turn your current employee base into brand advocates.
Why Brand Advocacy?
Glassdoor's survey found that 40 percent of organizations believe it's unlikely that candidates will want to work for them if their brand is unknown, making increased brand visibility a top priority for recruiters. As it happens, some of the most well-equipped people to get the word out about a company's brand are the employees themselves.
One of the reasons why so many employees are disengaged at work is because they feel downright in the dark about their company goals. In fact, a 2016 study from BetterWorks points out that 92 percent of employees would actively “work harder” if they had more of a stake in company goals. Employees like these don't want to be perennial job-hoppers — rather, employers aren’t giving them the right opportunities to become integral to their respective companies.
While delegating more responsibilities to employees may not be at the top of your to-do list, doing so seems to have a direct correlation with engagement and retention. And of course, when you empower your team members to help spread the word about your brand, you put yourself in front of new job seekers who might have otherwise not heard about you.
The act of cluing in workers on branding efforts, business objectives and industry news isn’t just another item on marketing’s plate or HR’s, either. When team members gain a sense of investment in the organization, everyone wins.
Rethinking What Employees Can Deliver
The starting point toward a more engaged workforce is a shift in mentality. By adopting the mindset that “HR is the new marketing,” businesses reap the benefits of employees who feel like they’re working for a cause rather than a corporate entity. As soon as workers feel like little more than cogs in a machine, they’re prone to shut down. On the flip side, including those would-be disengaged workers with marketing messages and company goals signals an investment from management.
Putting more power in the hands of your workers from a marketing perspective might seem daunting, but it’s becoming more and more of an expectation. And as trust is such an incredibly valuable currency for businesses today, your own employees can serve as your not-so-secret weapon from a marketing perspective.
"We are witnessing a clear shift in understanding where companies are moving from seeing employees simply as a resource to complete a certain task to understanding that the employees are the core of the company,” says Roope Heinilä, CEO of employee advocacy platform Smarp.
Smarp’s research indicates that the average employee has over 400 LinkedIn contacts and Facebook friends in addition to 360 Twitter followers. Between personally shared content being perceived as more trustworthy and having an army of sharers, the reason why businesses should hop on the brand advocacy bandwagon is crystal clear.
In short, workers are amazingly valuable assets beyond their traditional workplace roles. They have the potential to be a company’s most vocal, trustworthy advocates and provide companies with a sense of much-needed brand authenticity.
Equipping Employees to Become Engaged Advocates
Transforming employees into advocates doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it need to be expensive.
For starters, the training process is key to encouraging new employees to “buy in” to your company goals, and eventually marketing, on your behalf. When employees are engaged from the word “go,” the process of creating advocates goes much more smoothly.
That’s why interactive employee onboarding via live video is so valuable versus expecting employees to pick up on values found in a handbook. “Furthermore, it is impossible to create completely personalized training sessions to suit everyone,” notes ClickMeeting’s Jarek Wasielewski. “While this would enable every attendee to access the information and it would convey complex information, it is not very practical or cost-effective.”
Think of onboarding as a sort of first impression for employees. As soon as workers feel like higher-ups have a stake in them, they’ll be more likely to return the favor down the road.
Additionally, employee advocacy platforms can give workers a sounding board to share company content and constantly stay in the loop regarding industry news.
Aggregating social content to be shared across your teams’ personal profiles is a brilliant move for modern companies. This not only encourages a tight-knit company culture, but also amplifies the reach of any given business’ content exponentially.
Get Everyone Leaning In
The evidence overwhelmingly points to the fact that workers are willing to advocate for their employers, granted those employees supply the trust and tools to do so. In turn, those advocates result in loyal, long-term employees who are clued into your company goals and spark a whole new level of interest in your employer brand.