“Employees are consumers of the workplace,” says Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, a far-ranging report on employee engagement. According to Gallup, “the opportunity to work for a company with a great brand or reputation” is one of the top five factors employees say they want when considering whether to take a new job with a different company. When deciding between two offers – and all other factors being equal: doing what they love, work-life balance, job stability and income – the tiebreaker in the competition for the most talented people may be the company’s brand.
In the new war for talent, companies must do everything in their power to attract, develop, motivate and retain great people. One often overlooked opportunity to strengthen the company’s brand is including its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program into the talent management work stream.
That’s because of the way many complex, multi-national corporations are organized. CSR initiatives are disconnected from talent and leadership development programs. Even in well-regarded companies that have a strong brand as well as robust employee volunteer and CSR opportunities, it’s rare when an overarching strategy connects doing well in the world with doing great in the company.
In our practice, we’ve found that high performing, engaged employees are the ones who step up to lead and participate in employee volunteer events. They pour their own energy and emotion into advancing the charitable causes their employers support. They eagerly seek out stretch assignments in the CSR space to hone their leadership skills and to expand their impact beyond the borders of the office, lab or manufacturing floor. Many of them have compelling stories to tell about how their day job and volunteer activities converge to make a difference in the community. Their enthusiasm and zeal make them natural ambassadors for the company.
In fact, Gallup found that referrals from current employees of a company are the second most frequently consulted source that prospective employees turn to for information about what it’s like to work there. The most frequently consulted source is the company’s own website.
“Organizations need to invest in their recruiting materials, but to really energize their employer brand, they must inspire workers to become brand ambassadors,” says Gallup.
We agree. Here are three ways to create a cadre of brand ambassadors:
Entice – High performers at every level of the organization often self-identify by joining in employee volunteer opportunities. Invite these folks into a conversation to learn what they love about the company and the cause. Ask them to share in their own words why the work they do is meaningful, how it helps others, and how they feel about the experience. Honor their input by recognizing their efforts at the next all-hands meeting and on your intranet.
Engage – Harness the passion of the employee volunteers by transforming them into grassroots ambassadors. Develop a toolkit that makes it easy for them to spread the word about your company’s triple bottom line – social, environmental and financial. Begin by scheduling ambassadors to speak to coworkers inside your organization to gain confidence and take feedback for improving message clarity and presentation poise. Find ways to tap into the power and wisdom of your company’s employee resource groups and affinity programs.
Expand – Now that your ambassadors are established, increase their influence outside the organization. Working within your company’s speaking engagement and social media guidelines, empower ambassadors to represent your organization at industry associations, conferences and online. Incorporate the ambassador role into individuals’ professional and leadership development goals. Have the ambassador corps build a recruitment, training and succession plan to ensure a strong supply of trained and able informal spokespersons.
By giving a voice to your best employees, you increase the odds that the word of mouth is authentic and attractive to other talented people.
If you’d like more information about building brand ambassadors, download Bringing Power to Your People: How to Create a Dynamic Employee Ambassador Program from our website. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a confidential conversation.