Employee advocacy, a new era for communication?

Meeting with Hervé Monier, Director of Communication and creator of TheBrandNewsBlog

Communicator in enterprises for more than 15 years, Hervé Monier is Director of Communications in the insurance sector. Passionate about issues of corporate communication and marketing-communication, brand management policies and reputation issues, he created TheBrandNewsBlog, a site dedicated exclusively to brands and their management. He answers our questions about employee engagement in the age of social networks.

What definition would you give to “committed collaborator”?

He is an employee motivated by his work and his company, who feels involved in its strategy, its objectives, its communication and who is positioned as a player to help the company achieve its objectives.

It is often opposed to the collaborator “weakly engaged” or “disengaged”. One could say of the first that he is not motivated by his work and that he does not feel concerned or not in line with the strategy and the objectives of the company. He is a “freelance” collaborator, living his work as a purely food constraint. For the second, it is someone who is truly negative, who disagrees with the company’s strategy, sometimes even preventing his team from achieving its objectives.

Of course, commitment is a relative notion: there are several levels of engagement and disengagement that can be measured and evolve over time, sometimes even within the same person.

How is this commitment measured?

To have a fairly complete vision of the commitment, there are several things to consider. I would distinguish four of them:

  1. The adherence of employees to the strategy and objectives of the company and how this employee feels concerned by this strategy
  2. Professional involvement in his daily work, in the relationship he has with his colleagues, his internal clients, his superiors, …
  3. More general satisfaction or well-being with respect to the company’s atmosphere, position and personal well-being
  4. Lastly, the maturity of the collaborator to act as an ambassador for the company by recommending it to future hires, to relationships on social networks or to his direct entourage.
What are the tools to put in place?

The tools may vary from one company to another but generally companies set up regular surveys or barometers measuring the 4 items listed above to identify the brakes and drivers of the commitment of each of the employees. Once the results are gathered, it is important to involve employees in identifying barriers to development and, conversely, as “energy liberators” to make them feel more motivated and engaged.

These brakes or “liberators” can be individual (degree of autonomy and accountability, interest of the position, missions to be performed, level of professional competence, openness to change, quality or nature of management, recognition of work, customer orientation,…) or more collective (organization of work, environment and rules, remuneration or advancement policy, management of professional development and careers, communication and information flow, …).

It is then necessary to define improvement objectives and a roadmap with reciprocal commitments of the employee and the company but also the corresponding action plans, to release energies and increase commitment.

Can communication play a role in mobilizing employees?

In terms of communication, the stakes are multiple. Make sure that employees know and understand the company’s strategy. It is therefore necessary to set up communication circuits that are more collaborative and not just top-down. It is also necessary to encourage active participation of employees in the dissemination of communication, by sharing information internally or externally and by allowing them to participate in the identification of topics or even the production of content.

However, this must involve the implementation of tools and training that allow them to become actors of communication and consequently true ambassadors of the company: I think of trainings to the social networks, to the setting up of social networks charters or content distributors as Sociabble.

In one of your last articles you talk about the end of the top-down communication and the so-called “e-to-e” and “employee advocacy”. Can you tell us more?

In e-to-e communication, “ecosystem to ecosystem”, it is about using collaborators or other stakeholders to communicate and convey messages to other stakeholders: employees, customers, … “employee advocacy” is the mechanism by which a brand or a company mobilizes its employees to become its ambassadors, not only in their professional life but also in their personal lives, particularly on social networks.

All this is based on one observation: companies realize that top-down, hyper-controlled and disembodied communications work less and less towards their different stakeholders (employees, customers, shareholders, partners, …), and that the best ambassadors of the company are precisely these stakeholders, considered more credible and relaying information less “language of wood”.

Which companies have already started these steps?

Many have done so, as I recently mentioned in one of my Blog articles[1]. Among the precursors are American companies such as Dell or IBM, which have integrated employee advocacy into their communication strategy for more than 8 years, relying on very large networks of ambassadors and thousands of trained employees (16,000 at Dell today), able to use content and messaging platforms designed specifically for the Think Academy at IBM.

French companies are also numerous today to have put in place original initiatives like Faurecia, which leaves each week the management of its Instagram account to an internal team so that she tells her daily life, as part of an operation called “A week in a life of”; there are many others such as Orange, Elior, Avril, … each incrementing this policy of employee advocacy with its specificities and according to its own needs[2].

According to the French Association “Entreprises & Media” regrouping Communication Directors, more than a large company out of two today launched an employee advocacy approach in France, and nearly 94% of communication directors say they have already done so or want to do it very soon.

Are there any impact measures?

Yes of course. We can measure the number of subscribers on the social networks, the number and rate of sharing on each publication, the number of likes, the number of views of each message, … The KPIs are very numerous in terms of employee advocacy.

It should be noted, however, that Europeans remain focused on rather “institutional” indicators because what matters to them is first and foremost the promotion of their institutional image and the benefit of a new channel for disseminating their messages. The Anglo-Saxons companies go further and already measure the sales generated by the recommendation online. They are therefore very focused on “social selling”, while French companies are just beginning to consider it.

Is not it a double-edged sword?

Indeed, there is always a risk for the company if the ambassadors (employees or other stakeholders) take the floor and reveal confidential or negative information about the company, by not understanding or not respecting the social networks charters of the company: the ambassador can never be totally controlled!

For the collaborator, the risk can also be to be considered as a parrot, if he just retweets or likes on his social networks accounts information of his company not always interesting: they themselves will generate little commitment to their community (which in itself is not very serious). It can also serve the company if its publications are only shared by collaborators or ambassadors, because there will not necessarily create much impact on other stakeholders: customers, partners … and this will artificially inflate its sharing statistics.

It must be remembered, however, that these changes are inescapable: the release of employees’ words on social networks did not wait for companies’ advocacy policies to exist. It is a fact of society. And, for communicators, it is important today to support this movement rather than wanting to control everything, by training employees, giving them tools (internal charters and sharing platforms) and associating them to the production of quality content.

[1] https://brandnewsblog.com/2018/10/

[2] https://media-companies/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/advocacy.pdf

French version / version anglaise