Reputation Advocates on the Job

April 07, 2014

Reputation Advocates on the Job

I have been preoccupied of late with the launch of our new research at Weber Shandwick that reveals a rising social movement ignited by social media – employee activism. We define employee activists as those that draw visibility to their workplace, defend their employers from criticism and act as advocates, both online and off. We partnered with KRC Research to conduct Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism. Through an online survey of 2,300 employees covering 15 markets worldwide, the study explores the employee activist movement to help organizations understand what it takes to catch this mounting rising tide. We learned that one in five employees (21 percent) is estimated to be an employee activist, and another 33 percent have high potential to be employee activists. Just as there are uprisings around the world such as Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, Gezi Park and a host of others,  it seemed to us that a social movement among employees has to be on the verge. Clearly so since we found 21% of employees to be “activists” and taking nearly all positive actions in support of their companies. Employers have an enormous opportunity to engage and capitalize on these powerful advocates, or risk missing out on an important group of supporters. They might also want to learn how to better curtail detractors who have the potential to upend company reputations. We unveiled this research on April 2nd with an outstanding panel with representatives from LinkedIn, Zappos, Dell, Dynamic Signal and our own Employee Engagement expert. The panel was moderated by the WSJ Management editor. 

This idea came to me a few years ago when I saw a former employee of a big oil major defend his company online when a negative article had been written in a top tier newspaper. At the time, I thought it was odd that someone would risk signing their name and defending their company. However, that is no longer the case. We see it everyday and it is only growing. 

Here are some eye-opening facts from the study that highlight how employees are already talking about their employers, like it or not: 

  • 50% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer
  • 39% have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer
  • 33% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer without any encouragement from the employer
  • 16% have shared criticism or negative comments online about their employer
  • 14% have posted something about their employer in social media that they regret

Some employers have joined the movement.. One-third of employers – 33 percent – encourage their employees to use social media to share news and information about the organization. And by the way, social encouragement has an out-sized impact on employer advocacy among employees. For example, employees with socially-encouraging employers are significantly more likely to help boost sales than employees whose employers aren’t socially encouraging (72 percent vs. 48 percent, respectively). 

The Weber Shandwick Workforce Activism Spectrum™

Using segmentation modeling, all survey respondents were sorted by their reported actions toward their employers – both supporting and detracting. The Weber Shandwick Workforce Activism Spectrum™ model identifies six distinct segments of employees and in the executive summary, we provide strategic and tactical ideas to harness activists to do good on behalf of their companies and spread the word.

Take a look at this new grassroots movement. I think it is a huge component of employee engagement for the future, meaning tomorrow. 

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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