Who should own the Employee Advocacy Program, is the ball in the court of HR or rather Marketing & Communications?
Altimeter Group reported in 2014 that most employee engagement initiatives are led by HR. According to Bain & Company, employee engagement drops with each organizational layer farther from the CEO. This is due to lack of coherence and communication - information simply does not reach every layer of the organization.
Most of the Employee Advocacy coaching requests I get come from people in communications or marketing departments. Quite often their employee advocacy goal is to increase the reach of brand messages with the help of employees’ networks. This approach probably does not drive engagement among employees, as it is not for the employees’ benefit.
Employee Advocacy needs both, communication and engagement. Without communication there isn’t much engagement and without engagement the communication probably resembles parroting.
Employees as Owners
The Bain & Company survey also revealed that the least engaged employees are those who deal directly with customers such as customer service and sales.
In my opinion these departments should own advocacy programs, as they have the most to gain. They will benefit when Employee Advocacy shortens the sales cycle. Employee advocacy at its best is continuous soft social selling — of a company, its products & services and its talent.
Now, how to make that ownership actual?
Engagement arises from overall well being at an everyday level. Employees must be included. In practise that means two-way feedback flow from the planning phase to actual launch of an advocacy program. Not only identifying the people willing to participate, but also facilitating dialog about their goals, coaching needs, interests etc. Those employees who deal directly with customers can give insightful information about optimal audiences - give them a way to share knowledge and swap know-how.
In an Employee Advocacy program there are certain key roles to fill. Choose people that employees trust to fill these roles, like the Community Manager. You might also want include people from the very fore-front of the business, for example the sales function. They not only have extremely relevant networks for the business but can also drive internal engagement with the programme by showcasing the individual benefits. I would encourage you to choose from various departments.
Pay extra attention when choosing the key people to be in charge of the Employee Advocacy program and think outside the box. These people work for the advocates in Employee Advocacy programs, they make certain decisions on behalf of the program owners — like Employee Advocacy Platform selection. Of course, they also ensure that there are department-specific goals driving the program forward. In order to make a company a great place to work, to build brand awareness or to generate leads, also employee goals and drivers must be taken into consideration. Engagement is certainly going to be better and employee advocacy goals better met.