this is the 4th post in a series about employee brand advocates. it looks at how much consistency we found when we compared the messaging we found on the LinkedIn company pages created by Fortune®’s top 25 Best Companies to Work For, and the messaging we found on the profiles of 250 employees who work at those companies.
where are the advocates?
not here, unfortunately. cutting to the chase:
- Highest percentage of advocacy found at a company: 50%
- Lowest percentage of advocacy found at a company: 14%
- Average (mean) percentage of advocacy found at a company: 23%
and these numbers are generous, since the way we found these profiles guaranteed a perfect score on one of the dimensions reviewed: our assessment process includes an analysis of whether a person has linked their current experience to the right company… since we got these profiles by starting with the company’s LinkedIn page rather than a list handed to us by the client, we knew ahead of time that this score would be a gimme. we left it in anyway. take it out that dimension and the max advocacy rate drops to 42%, the mean drops to 14%, and the min drops to zero percent.
how we scored advocacy
simply, we looked at whether or not individuals’ profiles included company messaging, and for those that did, we looked to see if the messaging had been incorporated into the person’s story, or if it was boilerplate messaging that had been cut-and-pasted into the profile.
this series kicked off with a figure from the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, which indicated that when it comes to learning what it’s like to work at a company, 63% of people trust employees, versus 21% who trust the ceo and 11% who trust the company spokesperson.
the 25 companies we looked at are the ones at the top of Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list. they have employees who love working there. they invest in having strong cultures. they invest further in marketing those strong cultures. their LinkedIn pages are evidence of this, as the companies themselves scored well in terms of their ability to communicate a strong employer brand.
but they’re not making the one investment that would really pay off: in helping employees themselves get the word out.
actually, it’s a bit of a leap to say that they’re not making the investment. it would be more correct to say that they may be investing, but aren’t seeing behavioral change yet.
considering that my network includes a disproportionate employer brand leaders (including people in hr, recruiting, and senior management), this is a problem. if the employer brand leaders aren’t leading by example, how do they expect to pull employees along, especially considering how person social business channels are?
here’s what their LinkedIn use looks like
the below word cloud shows represents the 250 profiles we saw, including keywords from both summaries and current experience fields. 500 fields total. considering that the people we looked up worked for companies as different as grocery stores and investment firms, we didn’t expect too many company-specific terms to rise to the top. but since every firm we looked at has a strong culture that it promotes, we did expect to see a common thread related to “Best Companies to Work For,” “Great Place to Work,” “Fortune,” or more generically, “great culture.”
the only two words that came up that were possible matches were “development” and, to a lesser extent, “team.” unfortunately, development here was almost always used in the context of either business development or self-development.
a person’s LinkedIn profile is how they showcase themselves to the world. it’s seen by clients and peers. bosses and coworkers. recruiters and prospective bosses. and usually, it’s seen before the viewer has had a chance to send a deck, memo, or cover letter. and as this word cloud shows, professionals appear to be in a race to commoditize themselves.
shifting now from analysis to interpretation
people in this sample use similar terms on their profiles. they appear to be trying to stand out and fit in simultaneously.
companies have an opportunity to exponentially amplify their employer brands by making this balancing act far easier for their employees. if they can make it easier for employees to showcase their talents without commoditizing themselves in the process, companies will get professionals work more efficiently, plus work together passively to communicate a more consistent brand message to the world. to the latter point, Edelman’s numbers suggest a significant, 3-6x gain is possible. to the former point, IBM, Duke, and Rutgers teamed up to show that inside sales people are 20% more effective at opening new business when engaged on social media—and that’s just with inside sales. the wins here just keep coming.
engaging employees: win-win thru opt-in
the key to all of it is making the engagement opt-in for the employee.
based on what we saw, there is evidence that these companies are asking employees to include company messaging on their profiles. but the verbatim language we saw from one profile to another within companies, however, suggests that these firms regard “opt in” to mean “email out company language and ask people to opt to copy-and-paste it onto their profiles.”
we could imagine—both from this study as well as our experience training and consulting—the programs these companies are running. picture it with us:
- the employer brand team gets the results from Fortune, issues an internal communication congratulating employees on their success, and puts together an external campaign to promote their accomplishment
- meanwhile, the digital team runs employees through social media training, conducts LinkedIn training that is functionality-heavy and shows people how to join groups and send effective requests, and spends an hour walking people through profile functionality
this program has its heart in the right place, but is never going to yield the results the company wants, because it falls short in showing employees the connective tissue between LinkedIn and their ability to do their jobs more efficiently; nor does it offer the tactical writing support employees need.
if these companies were to spend a bit more time internally, specifically helping employees develop effective messaging, they could get a much higher percentage of employees to optimize their own profiles with company messaging included. showing people how aligning themselves with the company would help them fit in would give them the freedom they need to stand out. it’s a matter of explaining the “why,” as opposed to demanding the “what.”
does explaining “why” really work?
nearly 100 years of organizational behavior and decision sciences points to a single answer: yes. my next post will unpack this concept further, and look at both what an effective program looks like as well as which profile fields it should focus on.
links to the whole series
age of the employee advocate (almost) | enabling employee advocacy | finding your employee advocates | creating opt-in advocates | what employee advocates look like on LinkedIn | would your company benefit from employee advocates | maximizing the social spend: profile optimization vs. status updates