Employee advocacy. Everyone’s talking about it. But who’s actually doing it and have a story to tell?
I recently spoke to Alli Soule of SAS, a global software company, to learn more about their approach to employee advocacy. Have a listen below, on iTunes, or keep reading for a summary of the conversation.
What prompted SAS to launch an employee advocacy program?
Back in 2014 we actually launched a social media survey to all of our employees and we had somewhere in the range of 14,000 employees. And we’d never really taken the temperature on social media at SAS, we were sort of guessing and using anecdotal evidence, and so we wanted some real data. And we heard back from almost half of our employees, we knew that social would be a very polarising topic and that people would either love it or hate it and that definitely came through in our survey. But what we heard in our survey which was really useful was that a lot of people were really asking for training and that they were reticent to use social media in a work related capacity because they were afraid they were going to do something wrong or they were going to tweet something and get fired, just were sort of scared. And so we sort of took that feedback and said okay, what can we do on a scalable, organised, coordinated effort to sort of help with this issue? And that was really the genesis of our employee advocacy program. We wanted to do something that was a little bit more heavier on the training and the personal branding and the development, individual development side, we feel like that’s what differentiates our program a little bit from other employee advocacy programs. For us it’s not so much about just sharing SAS content or branded content, it’s about sort of figuring out okay, who are you on social media and who’s your audience, who do you feel comfortable with? And let’s equip you with the training that you need and then we’ll teach you how to find content that matches with what you want to sort of stand for and be associated with and the people that you’re trying to connect with. That’s how it all came together.
How do you measure success and are you able to tie back metrics to ROI?
Great question. So as I mentioned to you earlier we’re doing a lot of surveying so it was important to us to, you know we had some general goals at the beginning of the program, but really we wanted to hear what the goals of our participants were so that we made sure that-what’s in it for them? They don’t care what our goals are for the program. They want to get something out of it. So we tracked a lot of those goals from the beginning and a lot of common goals were things like I want to promote SAS but I want to do it with an authentic voice or I want to get more followers and have the right followers, or I want to help evangelise social media across the company. One of my favourite quotes about that was “I’m drunk off the champagne and I want to get others drunk too.” So those are the types of goals that our participants had. So we found that out at the beginning, we tried to tailor the program to those goals, having specific trainings about things like that and then at the end, we said okay, think back to your goals, did you make progress, do you still have work to do, did you not meet them, etc. And we actually found that 90% of our participants said that they made significant progress on their goals and about 27% said that they met their goals. So those are some of the ways that we sort of measured success.
What type of technology is aiding this program?
So we’ve definitely relied on free tools and a mixture of free tools and paid tools, so in terms of free tools, my team is a huge fan of Buffer. So we’re constantly educating people about Buffer and how to use that. Feedly is another big one. As I mentioned before, we have an employee advocacy platform that we really like, Dynamic Signal. We made a part of training mandatory in order to unlock your license to Dynamic Signal so we sort of used that as a carrot almost for our training program. It worked out nicely.
What’s next for your employee advocacy program and where do you think the trends are heading?
At the end of our program we asked everybody “would you recommend this to your colleagues?”. Because if we heard a resounding no we were going to sort of sulk off into a dark alley and luckily we had 94% of our participants say yes, I would definitely recommend this to a colleague. So we took that and ran with it. So now we literally at the end of this month, beginning of next month are launching this second iteration of our program and basically where before we sort of hand selected individuals, in this next iteration we have basically issued an open call and say, “Hey everybody, if you want to be in this program we’d love to have you, here’s what it entails.” In addition to that we actually got recommendations from individuals in our first phase. So that’s how we’re moving forward that way and it’s going to be sort of an always on program.