Activism is often associated with noisy sign-wielding crowds, but an employee activist can be a powerful tool for organizational and employer branding.
A new study shows that one in five Canadian employees are current activists and another 43% could easily be turned into activists, but organizations are not making the most of the opportunity they offer.
Employee activists draw visibility to their workplace, defend their employers from criticism and act as advocates, both online and off. However, some organizations are curtailing these activities to the detriment of the bottom line. Canada is behind the world in employee participation in positive online promotion of their employer.
According to a survey from Weber Shandwick, 39% of employees globally have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer, but in Canada that falls to 27%. The study also finds that while one-third of the world’s employers encourage their employees to use social media to share news
and information about the organization, just 23% of Canadian employers do the same.
“This is really recognition of something that is already happening and if organizations can leverage what’s already happening there are benefits for organization,” said Weber Shandwick Canada president Greg Power. “Employees are out there, engaged and want to say good things and talk about good things.”
Employees with socially-encouraging employers are significantly more likely to help boost sales than employees whose employers aren’t socially encouraging (72% versus 48%, respectively). In Canada, 84% of employees with socially-encouraging employers have recommended their company’s products or services versus 61% of employees whose employers don’t encourage social sharing.
Power told HRM fears of negative social media use often overshadow the benefits of positive use. So how can HR encourage such positive employee activism?
First Power suggested that HR should ensure that the values and beliefs of the organization are well communicated and understood. Employees should also know what they’re allowed to talk about and have a practical understanding of the policies around social media use.
“These policies are to protect brand reputation, but the fact is the study shows a lot of employees want to be engaged positively in telling the great things employers are doing,” Power said. “A brand five years ago used to be what an organization said it was, but now it’s what your stakeholders say it is.”
Whether that’s employees, consumers, clients or third parties – getting the right message out is key and employees are a great resource that’s often overlooked.
He also suggested there should be leadership from the top, with a focus on sharing stories about what your organization does and why
“Recognize the value of the people who are already inside the house,” Power said. “When people arrive at work they want to accomplish something good, so give them the tools to share that.”