Turn employees into leaders

Collaborative learning is your ticket to employee advocacy, writes Michelle Yandre

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Age is no longer a barrier to leadership ambition. Even our youngest employees crave opportunities to lead, to feel accountable and to be successful. Pair this enthusiasm with a yearning to be part of a larger mission, and you have the perfect recipe for employee advocacy. In a general sense, employee advocacy means leveraging a company’s greatest asset – its employees – to promote the company using both online and offline channels. If implemented successfully, employee advocacy efforts can lead to some impressive, and perhaps surprising, results. If one were to click this link now, they’d know what characteristics to look in the repertoire of the recruits to achieve the company’s objectives.

Research from MSLGroup says brand messages go 561% further when shared by employees, as compared to sharing via an organization’s social media channels. This statistic – though initially staggering – is not, on reflection, far-fetched. As human beings, we are much more likely to put our trust in other people than in brands or corporations, at least to start with. Further, we put even more trust in those we know. Nielsen reports that 84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family members, friends or colleagues about products and services. With this percentage in mind, think of the power behind leveraging your employees to tap into their own social following, which likely comprises friends, family and likeminded professionals – people who could be your next client, customer, investor or partner.

Aside from potentially reaching an untapped market through your employees’ networks, your employees are also your best bet for securing new business leads outside of their close-knit groups. In general, new business leads developed through employee social marketing convert seven times more frequently than other leads, according to IBM. Now, what would happen if employees begin to leverage marketing in a way that goes beyond simply explaining what your organization brings to the table, using standard ‘marketing fluff’? What if they start to demonstrate their knowledge – and therefore your organization’s capabilities – through employee advocacy initiatives?

The key driver behind employee advocacy success is having you employees deliver messages of contextual relevance to target audiences. Teach your prospects something, showcase in-depth knowledge of industry challenges, and allude to innovative solutions your team can deliver. Show, don’t tell – but how? The answer lies within collaborative learning.

Leveraging collaborative learning to fuel employee advocacy

Consider your current workforce. Some employees are more eager to lead than others, but if statistics prove true, every employee wants the opportunity to grow, learn and climb the corporate ladder. Collaborative learning-fuelled employee advocacy gives each employee the opportunity to do just that, while helping the overall business grow at the same time.

Below are a few steps to help employees get started:

1 Understand industry challenges by conducting research 

The best way to understand what types of messages will resonate among your specific target audiences is to conduct research by consuming expert content. Encourage employees to learn about your prospects’ industry challenges, innovations and trends, written by those who live and breathe these topics. Then encourage employees to think about how this content relates specifically to your prospects, and how presenting the material to them can be a tool for earning their trust – and ultimately their business. By learning, researching and thinking critically, employees are building up their own knowledge, thus better equipping them to take on more responsibility.

Compile the most relevant resources into a discovery path 

Once employees feel they’ve gained a broad understanding of a prospect’s business, have them curate a chapter from a relevant book, plus a video and an industry report that showcases their understanding. The point is to package the relevant content into a bite-sized path that your prospect can easily access, consume and learn from.

 Add context to the content 

This step is the most crucial when it comes to demonstrating knowledge and what your employees, and thus organization, can bring to the table. It’s also the step in the process where employees have opportunities to truly showcase their leadership. Adding context to the selected content means having your employees explain exactly why the chapter, video and report is relevant to targets. It’s where employees add their own ideas and interpretations. So, when a prospect opens the discovery path, not only do they receive expert content, they also receive a message that proves your employees’ in-depth understanding of their business needs.

Share the discovery path and encourage open feedback 

Once the content is curated and context added, it’s time to share the packaged content with your prospective client. Have your employees invite the prospect into the learning process by sharing the information, then follow up and offer an opportunity to collaborate and discuss the content and concepts derived. The key is to encourage collaboration, and come up with next steps – whatever they may be – together with the potential client.

The steps above outline a highly targeted approach to marketing to a new business prospect. This process can be carried out prior to the first meeting, or shortly thereafter. It is important to note, however, that this type of targeted marketing can also be generalized. For example, if you are in the business of consulting startup companies on how to secure funding, your employees can develop more general discovery paths that focus on various issues related to startups. The topics then speak to a wider audience, and the paths can be shared directly to employees’ social media platforms. However broad or targeted you’d like your employees to be, the main idea is to bring collaborative learning into employee advocacy efforts.

Involving employees in collaborative learning-fuelled employee advocacy will provide them with opportunities to emerge as leaders more quickly by learning from industry experts, showcasing their own knowledge, and earning the trust of other professionals.

— Michelle Yandre is PR manager at BlueBottleBiz – the first collaborative learning platform for business professionals