Was employee advocacy nonexistent before social media? Certainly not. It did exist — word-of-mouth and seeking personal recommendations were the norm. In the past too, employee advocates promoted their organisations, by recommending their products or services, or by talking good about the company in public. However, today, employee advocacy has gained momentum as the public space has gone virtual, thanks to social media.
The internet and social media have actually revolutionised employee advocacy. A lot has changed since social media became mainstream, and leaders across various sectors started dominating the same. Now, the in-demand skills are constantly changing and shifting, and people are increasingly taking to these platforms to vouch for themselves.
Naresh Kumar Puritipati, human resources director, Lactalis Group
People value genuine, unbiased views, which are not orchestrated by the company. In a way, existing employees serve as micro influencers for the organisation, driving traffic or new recruits towards the company.
Tanvi Choksi, HR head-India and JLL Business Services Global, added how it is not the bigshots who are massively popular on social media today. “Many employees in an organisation, who are not very senior from a hierarchy standpoint, have a great social-media presence because of their own interests and passion.”
Amit Das, CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Company
Not all micro influencers are present on social media. Some are present in the company, at social events, with great inter-personal skills. The old-fashioned way of socialising and advocating the company is a good way for any person to understand the values and the atmosphere of an organisation.
“What is there on the social media is not always a true representation of the core of an organisation,” remarks Naresh Kumar Puritipati, human resources director, Lactalis Group. He suggests that prospective employees should go a step further and rely on ‘passive advocacy’ to get a genuine feel of the company by socialising with existing employees.
It needs to be mentioned here, that such employees, to some extent, have preconceived notions about the company regarding what they see on social media.
Amit Das, CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Company says, “The tonality of messages and visual images posted by the engaged employee communities on professional and social-media platforms, create the right kind of imagery for top-of-the-mind recall of the employer brand. Any organisation is retained in the memories of its employees in the future, through its behaviour and action of today.”
Companies have been adopting employee advocacy lately, harnessing the use of social media in building their brand. Not only is it cost effective, but secures the loyalty of employees and aligns them with the values of the organisation.
Rajorshi Ganguli, president and global HR head, Alkem Laboratories
This can, however, only be done by building an inclusive culture where employee-employer connect is needed and a sense of belongingness is cultivated. This will automatically make employees stand with the company through thick or thin. Das also mentioned how leadership also needs to be empathetic and receptive to drive home the sense of belongingness.
There are two sides to employee advocacy in the current world. While it helps companies build their brand through employee posts on social media, it can have a positive or a negative connotation.
Pro bono advocacy, untouched by propaganda, will always be sought after by prospective employees. Rajorshi Ganguli, president and global HR head, Alkem Laboratories, agrees, “As long as employees forward the unbiased and spontaneous views of the organisation, and do so in the true spirit, it’s good.”
He also explains how far it benefits both the existing employees and the ones deliberating joining the organisation, “Advocacy creates a good impact on the existing employees and those who are looking forward to joining the organisation, or are considering the organisation for employment.”
Social media allows a degree of anonymity to all individuals, and there is always a risk of disgruntled employees misusing it to tarnish the organisation’s name. Reviews left by employees on platforms, such as Glassdoor, will always be sought out by potential employees. However, word-of-mouth to scavenging for dirt on social media sites is also common today.
Companies should build an inclusive culture to combat negativity and brief employees on social-media etiquette. This will ensure that what they put online does not stray from the truth or malign the organisation. However, this should not be overdone or end up in a situation where the company turns into a dystopian George Orwell novel.
Tanvi Choksi, HR head-India and JLL Business Services Global
Puritipati agrees, “The problem arises when this comes as a mandate, with people being pushed to write something. It should not go as a target, where five people write good about the organisation daily. Through word of mouth, this can boomerang and make people question the trustworthiness of what they see.”
Companies need to step up to change so that they are ready to tackle any storm that may be brewing on social media no less. Building transparency, a positive work culture and keeping employees in mind is a good way to start.
“As a company, we have to provide a genuinely good experience for employees to talk good about us. The focus now is not about controlling the narrative but genuinely providing a good employee or people experience. It’s also a big pro for prospective employees because they get a very honest view of the organisation,” Choksi adds.
This pans out quite well in the current HR market scenario, as employee experience tops the list of priorities for most companies right now. Personalisation is the heart of employee experience, as no second employee is the same with the same set of needs or wants.