5 Key Pillars of Employee Advocacy, part 1 of 5: Purpose

This is the first article in our series on the key pillars of employee advocacy. In this article, I’m going to look at the first key pillar: Purpose

In this series of blogs, I’ve broken down the 5 key pillars of employee advocacy. When put together, you’ll be able to build the most successful employee advocacy programme for you and your team. Follow these and you have the backbone to a successful advocacy programme, whatever the size of your business and team. 

To recap, the 5 pillars are: 

  • Purpose
  • Content
  • Recruitment
  • Motivation
  • Measurement

In the last article I looked at what employee advocacy is, why social media matters, and why a business should risk their employees sharing on social media in 2021. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a 2-3 minute read here.

What do we mean by purpose?

We think it’s one of the most important success factors in employee advocacy but it is one that is often overlooked. 

With many of the people we’ve worked with, purpose was often not prioritised, maybe due to rushing to get started. They thought they could manage without it or they weren’t sure where to start. It seemed like a gargantuan task to deal with the many stakeholders required to understand the purpose.

We’d recommend spending the time on it to get it right. To succeed at employee advocacy, you have to build your employee advocates up to help them become great storytellers. Having a strong purpose gives everyone something to come together on. 

In this article, I’ll look at business purpose, employee purpose and then how to go about finding the purpose for your employee advocacy programme.

What is the purpose of your business?

Purpose is when companies set out to change something, not just sell something.

The purpose is bigger than the business and the individuals within it. David Hiut of the Do Lectures describes purpose as your superpower.

Purpose is the reason why customers buy from a brand. Purpose takes you from the commodity business to the fan business. Your customer become your fans. They choose your products over a competitor’s even if they are a little more expensive.

TOMS is an excellent example of a brand that’s built a reputation around doing good. The company is well known for its One for One model, which mandates it give a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair sold. The company is now building on this purpose to alleviate poverty through a number of new initiatives. 

But purpose is about more than just your customers. It’s the reason people want to work for your organisation.

It’s the reason they stay. The value of having a business purpose:

  • Sets long term business strategy
  • Creates a differentiator 
  • Inspires innovation
  • Increases brand trust and loyalty
  • Brings employees together across the organisation around a clear set of values.

How business purpose drives employee advocacy

When we’re working with brands putting together their strategies for social media or employee advocacy, we know there’s a direct correlation between those who create a strong purpose and those who create the most successful programmes. 

Learning from the best will help you to create a strong purpose for your business, whatever your size. 

When John Lewis & Partners first launched their employee advocacy programme, #WeArePartners, they invited partners from across the business to sign up. This aligned with their business purpose and manifesto, that they put partners at the heart of everything they do. 

Over time, as results showed that the majority of engagement in the programme was driven predominantly by personal stylists they chose to double down and align the business purpose more closely with their advocacy programme purpose. 

They wanted to bring the personalised experience of personal styling in store to social media, to empower partners to promote their expertise and develop a more direct relationship with customers. The end result? A more empowered workforce and a more engaged experience for customers on instagram.

Why employee purpose matters

The motivation for employees is key – what’s the purpose that sits at the heart of them getting involved in the programme? Do they want to get better at using social media, building their personal influence online, or getting themselves seen to be helping the business which could help them get promoted?

Something we’ve noticed is the brands that have shared business and personal goals do really well. For example: at the Post Office, they have created a purpose around getting behind the business mission to help postmasters thrive. That’s a business goal. 

Postmasters also have a business goal because they want to promote their local branches and reach their customers. 

They also have a personal goal which is to get better at social media in the most efficient way possible to support them to market their business. For the team running the programme, their goal is to innovate in marketing and try something new in their social media strategy. 

Creating the purpose for your EA programme

When you’re crafting a purpose statement for EA, think about what will inspire your colleagues and team to become great advocates – what will be the impact on the lives of your customers or clients? 

Get under the skin of it, what will make your advocates feel passionate about being part of the programme? 

It needs to connect with people’s hearts as well as their heads. 

The purpose of your employee advocacy programme will come from your business purpose and your employee’s personal purpose.

Step 1: Find your business purpose

  • Look at your brand mission statement / vision / 
  • Look at your brand website / annual report / CEO speeches / CSR activity / brand marketing
  • Look at your intranet /employee guidelines / intro pack / constitution  etc
  • What do they say about the brand’s purpose?

Step 2: Look for your employee’s purpose

Remember to spend time looking at what’s in it for the employee advocates in more detail. It’s really important and a step that brands sometimes overlook at the beginning. 

Typically these are the reasons employees sign up to become an advocate:

  • They want to be part of something new, to be one of the people to shape the programme for the company
  • They want to get better at social media for professional purposes including growing their following and sharing better content
  • They want to improve their career prospects and add this to their CV
  • They want to share their expertise with relevant audiences
  • For customer focused roles, they want new ways to connect with customers

Practical questions to ask when working with colleagues

Working together with colleagues is fundamental to working out your purpose for the programme. This is when you bring stakeholders together. 

It’s about going beyond reading reports and guides and actually involving people because if you don’t crack this together, and bring people with you, it’s not going to be an agreed purpose – it will end up being a statement written at the front of a strategy document that never gets enacted, never becomes a living breathing purpose. 

These conversations and meetings can be challenging, but stick with the digging and creative exploration until you get an agreed purpose. 

It can be useful to ask these questions:

  • When you’re at your best as a team and as individuals, you’re like what?

Eg This could be qualities, actions, results

  • What do you want to change about the way you communicate with customers/colleagues/leadership

Eg: CREATE DEEPER Engagement with customers, communicate in a more transparent way, more human way, more  in real time

  • What do you want to happen?

Eg: do you want customers to buy something, do you want to have direct conversations with them, do you want to build thought leadership?

  • If this programme was the very best it could be, what would that look like?

Eg:is it going to be lots of employees or is it going to be a niche group like john lewis

  • What further benefits will this lead to?
  • What does that mean in terms of metrics – or is there a particular group of customer you want to connect to
  • What resources (internal or external) are available to you? This will helpyou identify where you can reach out to for support but also where the gaps are
  • What will getting this say about you – personally or professionally? 
  • What is a next step? You need to commit to action – so what is the next best step you can take for eg, meeting with wider group of stakeholders such as hr or internal comms, talking to employees about what they’d like to see, looking at your marketing reports to see where the greatest opportunities are to align with the programme.

In the next article, I’ll look at the 2nd pillar, Recruitment. How to inspire and motivate people to join the programme.

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