There are close to 15.50 lakh registered companies in India, including 19,000 start-ups. These days many companies have a huge young workforce, and that could be a reason to celebrate or fret – depending on the work culture of the place. After all, the millennials don’t go by the old norms and usually don’t take official dictates too well. Moreover, they are active on social media platforms – a scenario potent enough to pose big challenges to any company management.
It is in recognition of this young, thinking and active workforce that many companies pay extra attention to having a robust internal communication programme. In this digital age where employee conversations are real-time and recorded online, turning the workforce into brand advocates, though a big challenge, it is no longer a choice but a necessity.
Turning Employees into Brand Ambassadors
The first step towards this process is to create a work culture that employees actually enjoy and propagate happily. A remarkable indication noted from our monthly newsletter `PB Buzz’ is that employees appreciate the culture of “openness” in day-to-day functioning of the company. Long-time employees of the company have mentioned in particular that their seniors were always happy to troubleshoot in times of crisis.
Secondly, to create a passionate employee base on social media, a planned programme with set objectives, regular monitoring of conversations and regular revision based on changing requirements should be in order. Companies that are proud of their culture and values encourage their employees to converse through social media. When employees talk about their company fondly, they have a convincing impact on external viewers and it makes the task of customer acquisition that much easier.
But one needs to be careful in pushing employees on to social media or utilising their existing online presence as integrity must not be compromised in this exercise – it shouldn’t look like paid or forced advocacy by the workers.
Creating Communication Channels
It is also necessary to create effective employee communication channels to ensure smooth flow of information and ideas. Regular town halls, off-sites, sports and other activities also help bring cohesion, free flow of information, and camaraderie in the organisation. Companies should inculcate a sense of belonging among employees so that they have a stake in the company’s welfare.
Also companies need to incentivise employees to be active on social media as it could be outside of their assigned roles. Many companies have devised a regular reward and recognition programme with the belief that if achievers are publicly appreciated through trophies and certificates, not only they themselves would be willing to go an extra mile but may also encourage others to do the same.
Choosing a Suitable Social Media
Creating a passionate, focused group of employees is not enough to leverage social media for the brand’s growth. One should also be able to select suitable social media platform to put across the message. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google Groups are some of the popular platforms, but each of these have their own distinctive characteristics. For instance, Twitter is far more instantaneous and personal, while Facebook more social. Similarly, while LinkedIn is focused on professionals, Instagram is patronised by celebrities more than businesses. So, it is imperative to choose platforms that suit a particular brand the most.
Moreover, there are active ‘tribes’ and ‘communities’ on each of the social media platforms. We must carefully select whom to target as per brand requirements. For instance, if we have employees who are advocates of human rights, we should leverage their knowledge and social influence to reach out to bloggers and groups who espouse the cause of democratic rights, and talk about the company’s policies such as ‘Customer First’.
Using Social Media Conversations
Though there are still some companies which do not allow their employees to be active on social media, it is now generally accepted that employee engagement in social media is beneficial to businesses in more than one way. Firstly, employees are more likely audiences of the posts that you share on social media, they in a way absorb the culture, communications and turn brand advocates because of the connect that they share with the workplaces and the brand. Secondly, in general, the content shared by employees attracts several times more engagement than that shared by the company through official channels. And this phenomenon doesn’t happen in a day, but over a period of time, building a strong social brand for the organisation.
One of the direct benefits of social media conversations generated by employees is that it can impact talent recruitment and retention plans. These days, qualified and experienced candidates go online and scan the conversations and news that are available there about a company before deciding to accept a job offer.
Studies have shown that effective employee engagement not only helps in the company’s marketing efforts but also in increasing profitability. A Gallup study showed that companies having a well-engaged and integrated workforce have 3.9 times the earning per share compared to their industry competitors.
Many companies encourage experienced employees to take part in industry discussions and consumer oriented television programmes and webinars. They believe that a happy and aligned workforce can be relied upon to share through media the company’s growth plans, achievements, and even marketing campaigns. Since employees are the best assets of a company, they can also double up as the most trusted brand ambassadors when treated right.