[Updated: Jan 17, 2018]
Engage them now before they detract
According to this article by Lee Ji Hao and Chan Mei Ling, engaged employees display the 3S behaviours at work – say, stay and strive.
These behaviours refer to the extent to which employees are willing to: say positive things about the organisation, stay with the organisation and be part of it. They go the extra mile and strive for the organisation’s success.
This group of people are known as employee activists. Now, you may be wondering, who, or what, are they?
Employee activists make their engagement visible. They defend their employers from criticism. They act as active advocates both online and offline, often out of self-motivation and determination.
Of course, it is sometimes done with the employers’ gentle nudges.
This might interest you: The Heart And Art Of Employee Engagement
As it is, we know that there is no longer a clear-cut line separating personal and professional life (the term now is work-life integration, not much of work-life balance anymore).
With the advent of social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook, anything work-related including the good, the bad and the ugly about their jobs, bosses and organisations can be shared with ‘the rest of the world’ with a click of “Share” or “Post”.
From the Weber Shandwick and KRC Research global online survey of 2,300 employees in 2014, 39% of them were found to have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer while 16% did the opposite, ie they shared criticism or negative comments online.
The survey respondents represented 15 markets (across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific), were between the ages 18–65, worked 30 hours per week or more, and were employed by an organisation with over 500 employees.
Employee activists vs employee detractors
How can employers rally their employee activists to outnumber their detractors? What does it take for employers and organisation leaders to start leveraging employee activism?
Let us get REAL:
Employers need to recognise that employee activism is a movement they cannot stop or have total control over. They can only take intentional effort (the will and lots of hard work, I’m sure) to try to get ahead of it.
The Weber Shandwick–KRC Research study found that strong leadership plays a significant role in driving employee activism.
The reasoning is simple: when employees feel that their leaders value their opinions, or when their leaders make the organisation a great place to work, employees will automatically have a strong tendency to “spread the good news” to others.
Recommended for you: Disengaged Employees? Well, What Do You Expect?
The study also found that 33% of employers encourage their employees to utilise social media to share news and information about the organisation.
Although this seems risky, it is found that this social encouragement brings an impact to employer advocacy among employees.
For example, at Leaderonomics, we share interesting updates, articles and videos across our personal social media platforms because we believe that by seeing and hearing what we do, everyone from all ages will be inspired to grow people into leaders, build communities of love and transform the nation in their own respective ways.
Interestingly, according to LinkedIn research, 61% of their members who follow the organisation are willing to be brand ambassadors (or brand evangelists) for the company they work for by sharing their employee value proposition with their connections and network.
Times are changing whereby employees are now driven to go all out for social causes or values they believe in and are passionate about.
Thus, when organisations align their workforce behind a larger social mission with authenticity, employers are better able to connect with their employees’ sense of purpose, personally and professionally.
As mentioned by Joseph Tan’s article titled “Employee Engagement Excellence”, the two emotional considerations that can capture employees’ hearts and minds are coherence and conviction.
If these two elements are neglected, employees will feel a sense of misalignment between their principles and values compared to the company’s. This can further lead to disengagement and employee detractors.
While Aon Hewitt’s 2014 Trends in Global Employee Engagement annual study indicates that the average employee engagement level has increased globally to 61% in 2013, at the same time, the trend in engagement levels does not seem to reflect the extent of efforts being made.
Does that mean there is somehow a mismatch from what we are hearing from organisations and what we are observing from the employees’ point of view?
The question to ask yourself as a senior leader is:
“Are you really listening to your employees?”
For example, suggestion boxes for employees to drop in their ideas to improve their work processes or environment would not mean anything if no one follows up with the suggestions or employee recommendations regularly.
“Listening and responding are leadership skills critical to driving employee engagement. Ultimately, companies that work hard at communicating and listening – from the mailroom to the boardroom – are the ones that win in the workplace and marketplace.”
– Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick
Within a business, there are ample opportunities for senior leaders to fully embrace their people as advisers, advocates and agents of change.
The challenge now lies in the hands of organisations on what they want to do to actively engage their employees, before they switch sides to become employee detractors.
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