Why culture is key, and how to use employee advocacy for marketing your company
Workplace culture is key to creating a successful team and winning over the hearts, and dollars, of new customers.
Unfortunately the significance of company culture is often overlooked, undervalued or misunderstood – and too many employers think culture begins and ends with an office air hockey table or discounted gym memberships.
Staff perks barely touch the surface of true company culture – which is what lies at the core of the organisation and is evident in the workplace and among staff on a daily basis.
Why you should care about company culture
In a healthy workplace culture, staff are happy to be at work, motivated to succeed, supported by their peers and superiors, and communication is open, positive and productive. As a result, their customers feel welcomed, valued, respected and report more positive consumer experiences and higher customer satisfaction. Sounds great right?
But most of us have experienced the very opposite of that culture at some point in our working lives, or as customers of an organisation where there is apparent workplace culture issues.
We have all heard the horror stories of toxic work environments, harmful gossip and workplace bullying, negative attitudes and offensive language, fighting between departments, lack of leadership, and a sense of disconnect and communication breakdown between ranks.
Once this sort of behaviour infiltrates a team, it lowers staff morale, rubs off on new employees, and doesn’t go unnoticed by their customers. If this behaviour goes unchecked, it can quickly become embedded as toxic company culture.
The cost to companies can be enormous if this negative environment results in high staff turnover or a damaged reputation via word of mouth, online channels like Seek Company Reviews or even an employee’s private Facebook account.
Not only is it harder to attract and retain the best talent with a tarnished employer reputation, but poor workplace culture can negatively impact employee health and wellbeing, and lower productivity and performance.
Forbes published statistics from a ten-year employee engagement survey by Queen’s University Centre for Business Venturing which found organisations with an engaged company culture had 65% greater share-price increase, 26% less employee turnover, double the number of unsolicited employment applications, 20% less absenteeism, 15% greater productivity and 30% higher customer satisfaction.
Using employee advocacy as a marketing tool
While a disgruntled staff member can damage a company’s reputation, a happy and engaged employee can be the secret weapon in your marketing toolkit.
Employee advocacy is the promotion of an organisation by its employees, best bundled with a tight content marketing strategy and delivered via digital marketing channels.
It makes sense. If someone appears genuinely excited about their work and their company, we’re naturally interested to know more.
By staff simply sharing company content, positive media coverage or proactive PR updates online, an organisation can enjoy twofold benefits, attracting the attention of new business, and new talent.
Employee advocacy can also be spread face to face, by ensuring staff are providing positive reflections of the company at functions, events or even their weekend barbecue.
Social media networks have become a hub for this style of employee engagement, and LinkedIn reports the most successful employee advocacy programs are:
Strategic: Implemented with objectives and metrics
Sustainable: Designed to be regular and ongoing, and
Organic: Participation should be voluntary, natural and inspired
LinkedIn even has a dedicated employee advocacy platform called Elevate, designed to increase and measure employee engagement in sharing content online.
For businesses new to employee advocacy, the concept can be difficult to grasp. Instead of thinking of your staff members purely in terms of their job title, it requires seeing every individual as a brand ambassador, and a representative of your organisation.
Employee advocacy isn’t limited to big corporates. If you run a small local bakery, your team members could demonstrate employee advocacy by taking a few loaves of your bread to their next weekend get-together, or posting a photo on their own Facebook channel when a batch of freshly iced vanilla slice goes into the cabinet.
But how does that translate to sales?
According to LinkedIn, employee networks are collectively 10 times larger than a company’s online followers – and more than half of Australian small and medium enterprises aren’t on social media at all.
LinkedIn’s statistics also reveal content shared by employees not only reaches more people, but is perceived as 300% more authentic than when it is shared directly by a company. As a result, click through rate of a post shared on an employee’s private social media account is double that of a company page.
Quick tips for introducing employee advocacy in your organisation
- Develop a content marketing strategy publishing high quality, interesting, and shareable content relevant to your industry and your target market
- Review and improve company culture to ensure your team is on board, positive and feeling supported and involved in the organisation’s direction and achievements
- Keep staff members informed, engaged and excited in company developments
- Encourage online sharing of content and news publicly released by your company (and ensure there is a clear understanding of what can and can’t be shared online)
- Make it fun! Provide iPads or other digital tools to encourage staff to take photos, record videos and share content about positive news in your workplace, and post them on the appropriate channels