Advocacy Part 2-What are your Staff saying about you right now?
In my previous blog I rambled on about advocacy from customers and its importance. This stimulated a comment from a reader about internal advocacy from staff.
When a member of staff has a high opinion of an employer, the job, the manager and the organisation it is often referred to as ‘employee engagement’ a textbook HR term that is often overused by people who in my experience have no clue as to its meaning. A bit like ‘emotional intelligence’ now there is another blog. This engagement or internal advocacy is equally hard to achieve, and yet when it is present, the overall atmosphere and culture of a company is very positive.
Quite often we can find staff that will happily talk up an organisation or company and its virtues, but more often we hear people moaning. This moaning can be broken down into two different types and strangely it is not all bad news.
1-Negative moaning-this is obvious really, people who moan in this way, are generally very unhappy and can usually pin point to one particular thing that has affected them directly. This can be a breakdown in a relationship with their manager, a demotion or even a frustration with a process. This type of moaning needs to be addressed and capped off quickly, as it can grow ‘arms and legs’ and get out of control, infecting other employees and team members bringing down morale.
2-Positive moaning-this is a masked behaviour and has a direct link with culture. There are employees who might have worked in a company for a prolonged period of time, having got comfortable and used to things and therefore feel very at ease about moaning on about the way things are done. This type of moaning is very general and is actually a sign that things are OK in the business. Now before the sound of air being sucked over teeth resonates, let me clarify. You know how couples who have been together for ages always moan on about how the coffee cups never get put in the dishwasher properly, who how the loo seat is always left up or how socks never get put in the laundry basket and if they do then they are balled up? That type of thing? Well it is normal isn’t it? Part of the fabric of a relationship, it is just positive moaning, and a sign that things are ‘normal’. The same applies in business, people moan on about not being paid enough, or poor communications or a ‘them and us’ culture and how senior managers are all out of touch blah blah blah. Well this is the balled up sock equivalent. Normal. It is important to listen to what is being said, but not give it too much of the attention it would appear to desire. The attention should be focussed on the previous ‘negative moaning’ and its sources. There is of course a dark side to this too, if things escalate and get out of hand then often the issues of positive moaning can become negative, it just depends on the business.
Motivation. Wasn’t it Herzberg who talks about hygiene factors and motivation factors? He said that there are those things in organisations that are satisfiers and motivators. Often these can be taken for granted and not make any difference to productivity, such as company policy, working conditions, training etc., but take them away and people become unhappy. So the message could be to get the basics right and be careful to understand what employees come to expect from an organisation.
Take Training. I have found that 20% of a workforce takes up 80% training, unless the training is mandatory, and this 20% will attend and enjoy the training, applying what they have learned and then advocating it to colleagues, people on social media, their own friends, peers and other employees. As people then leave a business this advocacy of training keeps the 20% topped up. It can also become an ‘attractor’ to an organisation when it recruits. In fact the most common question in a job interview is ‘what training and development is on offer?” this demonstrates that the needs for what Herzberg terms as ‘advancement’ and ‘possibility of growth’ is very important.
Employee engagement or internal advocacy is vital to the life of a business; it contributes further to the Human Capital element so attractive to investors. This Human Capital is made up of the skills, knowledge and experience of a workforce. The benefits of a high level of this, together with ‘engagement’ can really help a business in terms of talent management and getting towards the holy grail of employee efficiency ‘The High Performance Team’.
Advocacy is often only linked to what customers are saying about the service or products they have bought, if an organisation can start to view it’s employees as advocates on their experiences and help drive this advocacy forward, the results such as improved morale and lower costly turnover will speak for them selves. One key example of this in action is the presence an employee referral scheme. If high levels of employees referring friends and acquaintances is happening, regardless as to whether the referred candidate is successful or not, it shows that people are genuinely engaged and advocate the business.
So perhaps all companies should be asking themselves, employee advocacy; backstabbers or not so secret admirers?