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Everything I Know About Employee Advocacy I Learned from Parenting
By: Patrick Icasas
Parenthood changed the way I see the world. Part of it is the sleep deprivation, I’m sure; but there’s also the challenge of raising a living, breathing Cabbage Patch doll into a functional member of society. The experience opened up my mind to attitudes and approaches that I would never have considered before—and that crept into other parts of my life, both personal and professional.
Employee advocacy, where employees assist in promoting the company, was one of the areas that benefited from my newfound parenting wisdom. I was surprised by how well the two merged, and I think you will be, too.
The carrot, not the stick
I have learned the hard way that when I try to force my daughter to do even the simplest of tasks, she drags her feet and does the bare minimum. I remember doing the same as a kid—it’s human nature. The same goes if you take a hard line stance on employee advocacy because employees will react the same way. And customers won’t be fooled. They’ll sense the fake enthusiasm and think less of your brand as a result.
Instead, get employees to want to be advocates. Reward advocates with company swag. Set up a contest to make it fun. Recognize the best performing employees. The carrot works much better than the stick.
Give them guidelines, but don’t be too rigid
My parents set boundaries for me growing up, as good parents do, but they weren’t authoritarian about it. As long as I didn’t step too far out of bounds, I could do pretty much whatever I wanted. This allowed me to grow into my own person, and, of course, it’s what I strive for in my own parenting as well.
This is the perfect setup for a successful employee advocacy program. Set up some basic guidelines (no swearing, no bashing the competition, etc.) to ensure people behave in a manner appropriate to your brand, and let your team loose. This gives them the chance to do things their own way. Customers connect with personalities, and you’re letting the team express theirs. I guarantee it’ll work much better than giving them a script.
Give the kids something to do
During the summer, we sign our daughter up for various camps, lessons, and sports. Sure, it keeps her from driving us nuts at home, but it’s also an excellent way of meeting people and creating relationships.
When your employees go out to be your advocates, give them stuff to do and talk about. Provide them with lots of content to share and curate so they have significant things to share on social media instead of bland “My company is awesome” tweets. Put all these materials in a single area, whether it’s a server or a tool. That way, everyone can access it, but you can still control the branding and easily update the materials.
Above all, trust
The biggest gift parents can give their children is the independence to be themselves, for better or for worse. I made some mistakes (still do), but in the end my parents trusted me to know better.
Managers who dismiss employee advocacy do it because they’re afraid of their employees misbehaving or bashing the brand. But they need to give their employees more credit. Give your team trust, tools, and motivation, and they’ll advocate the brand as if it were family.