Are your employees crazy about your company? Do they embrace the culture and everything it stands for? If so, then you are one of the lucky organizations that have managed to develop employee brand ambassadors. And having employees in this position can be very good for your company. These are the employees who go out into the world and talk about their jobs. They post about their companies to their networks and rave about their roles with friends and family. All that word of mouth has the power to grow into a strong employer brand backed by the authentic and positive experiences of the employees within a given company. And when the people already in place love to go to work, others looking for their next job hop will take notice.
But wait, what if your organization can’t say they’ve achieved this level of fandom from employees? Then it’s time to take a closer look at why developing employee brand ambassadors is important to the success of your business and how to bring employees on board.
What is a brand ambassador?
Traditionally in a marketing context, brand ambassadors are hired by companies to promote them in a positive light to consumers, therefore increasing awareness and, hopefully, profits. They influence others using marketing and networking, often promoting the company or product on multiple media platforms. Think about Red Bull's Wing Team that works within local communities to push the Red Bull message and create that connection between the drink and a good time. That's a strong brand ambassador program. In a non-marketing context, companies can mimic this strategy within their own organization. Instead of pushing a product, you want your supporters to go out and push the message that your company is the place to be. Sometimes these programs are incentivized and sometimes, if you are very lucky, they are organic. Take Patagonia, for example. Even if you aren't outdoorsy, you've probably heard that it's a great company to work for. You know that because of the work of their employee brand ambassadors, spreading the word throughout their networks, even if you can't pinpoint where you've heard it before.
Why do you want employees to become brand ambassadors?
There are a couple of reasons why an organization would want to get its employees to become brand ambassadors. For one, they become a living example of the corporate values of an organization. If managers and employees buy into the brand, then it becomes easier for others (candidates and customers) to do the same. It's a mark of quality or trust if you have a workforce all saying the same thing, especially if they're saying it loudly.
Employees are often very well-connected via their social media networks and personal relationships. Because of that, they have the ability to influence others with very little upfront effort on their part. A positive post here or there can compound over time until your company has a great social footprint. Better yet, it’s more natural than other forms of marketing, particularly when it comes to targeting job seekers who have been trained to trust other employees over the standard company line.
By getting employees to become brand ambassadors, it validates that the company has something really great going on within its culture. It’s more authentic and believable when it comes from actual employees and that is especially powerful when it comes to recruitment marketing and employer branding.
How brand ambassadors impacts recruitment marketing
Job advertisements cannot give the full picture of what it may be like to work for a specific company. Today’s job seekers use a variety of resources to learn about companies before they apply and one of the things they're looking for is information about the company culture or work-life balance. According to a Harris Poll/Glassdoor survey, 32 percent of job seekers look for employee reviews about companies before they choose to send in their resumes. If there are active brand ambassador employees saying positive things about the business and what it offers to employees, this can encourage them to apply sooner and decrease your time to hire.
And don't just think about your current employees. Even if employees leave the organization, they may still have favorable reviews to give, and this looks even better from a recruitment marketing perspective. Ex-employees or “alumni employees” make excellent rehires and they can also share an honest review about their experience with new hires. This can aid with recruitment and retention efforts. According to The Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) many companies maintain connections with former employees and 86 percent of this comes down to brand advocacy.
Tips for turning your employees into brand ambassadors
If you already have a great brand and culture, it shouldn't be that difficult to transform your employees/alumni into brand ambassadors. Here are a few extra ways to get them to jump on the bandwagon:
- Put people ahead of profits: The organization must be employee-centric in order to produce employee brand ambassadors. After all, you are asking employees to promote your business in an authentic way. If you want honesty and enthusiasm, focus on making the lives of the people who work hard for your company better every day.
- Create a set of corporate values based on employee design: It’s one thing to have a vision for the company; it is another to have a vision that employees can get behind. Make sure employees have a big part in creating the values that make up your corporate culture and vision and keep involving them on an ongoing basis.
- Brand every aspect of the work experience: How can employees understand the brand unless you immerse them in it? Brand the work experience for them with the corporate values, culture, objectives, and brand statements. Give employees brand elements to work with, like logos or imagery, or physical brand symbols like plenty of merch (t-shirts, magnets, hats, water bottles, etc).
- Identify employees who are already influencers: It is natural for employees and alumni who already know how to influence and connect with others to become brand ambassadors for your company. Learn about your employees, what they are interested in, and who has the most active influencer presence either in person or on social networks. Those are the employees you can target to work on brand building initiatives, at least to start with. Foster your brand ambassadors through a structured program and offer plenty of recognition for the biggest influencers who help you by sharing content.
Brand building for a modern workforce
Gaining employee buy-in and thinking about your company's reputation with job seekers is no longer an optional HR activity. Top talent is very informed these days and if you think they aren't paying attention to your employer brand then your talent acquisition program might need an update. Not to mention, investing in creating brand ambassadors can have the added benefit of giving your employee engagement levels and work culture a boost as well. When you spend the time and energy to create a great place to work, it makes sense to shout that message as loud as you can. And by getting your employees involved, you'll be able to reach a wider audience with a more authentic message.