Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 | 7 min read
Building and implementing an employee advocacy program is a challenge. For a long time, this is what I did for clients. But keeping employees excited and sharing in the long-term is a whole other can of worms. This is what I’ve learned from nearly nine months of leading and managing the development of an employee advocacy tool, Sprinklr Engage, for our company.
When the platform was in beta, we saw great success and felt that we’d unleashed the power of our most important resource – our employees.
Recently, we rolled out Engage to the entire company. While the beta testing process taught us a lot, we learned even more from taking the program out of its infancy and putting it into the hands of all of our employees.
Based on my experience, here are five best practices for maintaining and sustaining an effective employee advocacy program.
For our beta testing group, we chose a group of employees who were already active advocates of Sprinklr on social. We treated them as the special, valuable audience that they were by creating a dialogue – we asked them what they would want from a program like this, and how they thought we should change the tool.
Their activity gave us early insight into what content works and how to generate engagement. We rewarded the most active beta tester with a prize, and encouraged participants to provide feedback through multiple surveys.
After beta, we expanded into different departments and planned the full company roll out in coordination with our recent Digital Transformation Summit. We were happy with the product and wanted to tie its official launch to something that the company was already excited about.
Early on, we worried about how to survive the hype cycle – how to make sure that once the honeymoon period was over, we would still have a sustainable employee advocacy program. Here are some key takeaways on this front.
We did everything we could to create internal advocates. When an employee would share an interesting article in a chat group, one of our team members would say, “That’s great! Add it to Engage!” In that way, we started building employee advocacy into the DNA of how employees find and share company-related news.
Similarly, whenever we made an announcement that needed amplification, we would announce on multiple platforms that people could go to Engage to find the assets that they needed to share the news. Eventually, employees started encouraging others to use the tool as well.
Another way to keep employees engaged is ensuring that social content is interesting and relevant. We share articles that come from a variety of sources and are applicable for anyone who is passionate about tech.
Employees enjoy serving as thought leaders. And while sharing exclusively branded content won’t help them get there, curating content from third party publications, or promoting region specific content can help make it happen.
Making it easy for employees to recommend content not only relieves the burden on the people running your program (see point number four), it also keeps employees more engaged. Employees get to see their ideas come to life, and the company can promote a more diverse supply of content.
Everyone likes being recognized. Every week we updated the board of employees leading the way in terms of social sharing. This encourages fun, healthy competition among colleagues, and gamifies a process that can be a bit mundane.
Initially, we created Engage to increase Sprinklr’s share of voice in the market, drive traffic to our blog, and promote our PR placements. These were all successful endeavors, and we were happy with how they went.
Then we began to uncover new use cases. We started using Engage to support our event marketing team with employee advocacy – for promotion both before and during the event.
Eventually, we plan to expand our recruiting reach through employee advocacy as well. Job openings can have their own section in Engage, and employees can seamlessly promote their team’s openings on social.
One misconception about employee advocacy is that it takes a lot of people to manage. In reality, we found that our lean team was more than enough to maintain an active program.
Each regularly contributing team has one person responsible for uploading content, and we have one ultimate approver. The key is to have employees serve as eyes on the ground to suggest content. To that end, at Sprinklr, all active employees on Engage can recommend industry news for their colleagues to amplify.
For us, having all suggested content filter through one approver was the most streamlined option, though it may differ for companies with different advocacy goals or structures.
With an effort like this, it’s important to have support at the executive level. We gained that by showing our company leaders how Engage contributes to bottom line business initiatives.
We created reporting dashboards for our executives that track how active our employees are. That makes it easy for them to get an overview of performance of advocacy efforts.
Additionally, we report on how advocacy is supporting other initiatives at Sprinklr. Since Engage serves to support our content marketing and PR efforts, we measure the number of page views and downloads that result from employee sharing.
By reporting on how employee advocacy is contributing to company-wide initiatives, we show executives results that they care about, and – while goals could differ from company to company – give them a reason to support the project and motivate employees.
Ultimately, we haven’t changed our tune since the beginning. The first step to a successful employee advocacy program is to support a regular cadence of content that employees want to share. If you don’t have that, it won’t matter how awesome your tool is, or what kinds of prizes you offer – people may be able to tell that sharing isn’t genuine.
Sustaining an effective program takes listening to employee feedback, engaging employees after the rollout, connecting other parts of the business, and sharing success with executives. It also requires that you fully enable and trust your employees.
When you do that, and when you align advocacy with as many company initiatives and goals as possible, scaling will be seamless.
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