Once Again, Employees Build Your Brand

We know that employee reviews can have a major influence on your company’s reputation, and that employees have the loudest and most trusted voice to speak on your company’s brand and reputation. A new study from Weber Shandwick tells us that this influence goes even farther, with some “employee activists” emerging as brand advocates for the companies they work for.

The survey (full results here) asked 2,300 employees in 15 different worldwide markets about their habits as employee activists. In the survey, we learned that:

  • 50% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer
  • 39% have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer
  • 33% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer without any encouragement from the employer
  • 16% have shared criticism or negative comments online about their employer
  • 14% have posted something about their employer in social media that they regret
employees rising workforce activism spectrum weber shandwick employee activist survey

employees rising workforce activism spectrum weber shandwick employee activist survey

In all, Weber Shandwick found that 1 in 5 employees can be identified as a ProActivist, highly social employees that have the highest level of employer engagement and conduct positive actions with nearly no negative actions.

Employee Activists Greatly Influence Your Brand

weber shandwick employees rising infographic employee activist survey

weber shandwick employees rising infographic employee activist survey

Note that while a significant number (39%) of the employees who post on social media share positive comments, and do so without any encouragement, there are some that share negative criticism, even comments that they regret. With employees ranking as the most trusted voice from a company, it’s essential that organizations understand the impact that employee activism can have on a brand.

What Stands Between Your Company and Employee Activism?

The Weber Shandwick survey identified a few factors that may be holding companies back from realizing the benefits of employee activism:

  • Pervasive organizational changes. More than eight in 10 employees (84 percent) have recently experienced an employer change such as a leadership turnover, extensive lay-offs, merger/acquisition, financial slowdown, etc.
  • Ineffective internal communications. Only four in 10 employees can describe to others what their employer does (42 percent) or what its goals are (37 percent).
  • Weak employee engagement. Only 30 percent of employees are deeply engaged with their employer. This low level of engagement is not surprising given the acceleration of change combined with poor communications.
  • Employees are on the defense and often serve as “first responders.” Nearly six in 10 respondents (56 percent) surveyed have either defended their employer to family and friends or in a more public venue — such as on a website, blog, or in a newspaper.

Still, there are some employers that have caught on to the potential of employee brand activism. The survey revealed that 33% of employers actually encourage their employees to share company information on social media. And, doing so is clearly beneficial to the bottom line: 72% of employees with social-encouraging employers were likely to help boost sales, versus 48% of employees without any social encouragement. There is also a 50% increase in employees that recommend the company’s products or services when social sharing is encouraged by employers.

How Employers Can Encourage Social Activism

Weber Shandwick found that above all, leadership influences employee activism. Also important, but to a lesser extent, are internal communications, HR policies, and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Ultimately, employees must recognize and be recognized as important and influential. Companies should give them a reason to share positive feedback about their workplace.

A major part of encouraging social activism among employees is simply having passionate employees. Today, Amazon announced to great interest that they now offer warehouse employees up to $5,000 to quit their jobs. The “Pay to Quit” program sounds like a great way to lose a lot of money in a hurry, but in reality, it’s a smart move for ensuring that only employees who are happy and supportive of the company continue to work there.

Amazon isn’t the first company to share this offer with employees: Zappos has offered new hires full pay and $2,000 to quit since 2008, and in fact, Amazon credits Zappos with the idea for their new policy. Interestingly, Zappos has found that 97% of employees are not interested in the deal.

Zappos, and now Amazon, are able to filter out employees that just aren’t that crazy about working for them, keeping only those that actually want to be there. That means they’re able to weed out employees that Weber Shandwick’s survey might identify as Detractors, who take negative actions against their employers and are not engaged, or InActives, who demonstrate little to no employer support and are rarely motivated to share or do a good job, even by pay increases.

In addition to weeding out lukewarm employees, employers can do a better job of communicating with their workforce. Leadership should understand how important listening and responding are to employee engagement. Employees should understand what their employer does, what its goals are, and above all, kept in the loop about new developments and changes to the company’s outlook. Employees who understand and care about a company’s future will be more actively involved in making positive contributions.

Weber Shandwick identified 12 important drivers of employee activism that every company should know and utilize:

  • Employer values employee ideas and opinions
  • Leadership makes it a good place to work
  • Employer has a very good reputation
  • Leadership is trustworthy
  • Leadership listens and responds well to employees
  • Employer does a good job of keeping employees informed
  • Employer communicates frequently with employees
  • Employees have many opportunities to grow and learn
  • Employer provides training and resources needed to do the job well
  • Employees are treated fairly regardless of their differences
  • Employer plays an active role in the community
  • Employer works to protect and improve the environment

The survey also recommends that employers encourage employees to be online activists by providing tools and content to enable sharing:

  • Provide readily accessible tools for employees to use in
    social media
  • Provide messages about the employer for employees to use
    in social media
  • Provide easy-to-understand guidelines to employees for
    using social media
  • Ask employees to stay alert to social media postings about the employer
  • Provide training for how to use social media properly
  • Provide access to social media at work
  • Provide updates about changes in social media so that employees can stay current on the latest tools and uses
  • Provide employees with one or more social media accounts
    to use

The Reward of Employee Activism

Companies that can deliver on these drivers of employee activism enjoy a multitude of rewards, including employees that take the following positive actions:

  • Encouraged others to buy company’s product or services
  • Recommended employer to others as a place to work
  • Made positive comments about employer where others could see or read them
  • Defended employer to family and friends
  • Done volunteer work for a cause employer supports
  • Defended employer where others could see or read it
  • Voted for employer in a poll or contest

It’s clear that supporting employees as activists for your brand is a smart move. Is employee activism alive and well at your company? What can you do to better support your employees as they share information about your company, both positive and negative?