This is a guest post by Robyn South from CakeHR.
Disengaged employees can cause major disruption to your business. So how can you turn the situation around and make brand ambassadors out of your disengaged staff?
Branding shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of your marketing team.
Every employee across every department in your business has a role to play and if you’re not managing to inspire your talent to be brand ambassadors for you, then something is wrong.
Regardless of good social media campaigns and strong PR building, it’s no secret that the ultimate way to promote your company brand is to have your engaged employees on board and actively campaigning for you as brand ambassadors.
They have a deeper understanding of how your business operates and the culture and values your company stands for, enabling them to create a deeper emotional with your customer.
The impact of disengaged employees
Disengaged employees negatively affect a lot more than you may think. Even actively engaged employees can be directly impacted by decreased morale within a team if other member’s levels of engagement drop – it’s like a black cloud hovering over the team and I’m sure most of us know what it feels like to work alongside someone who is feeling disgruntled or unsatisfied in their job. Disengagement causes a domino effect; Low satisfaction levels amongst employees leads to low customer service levels which in turn means lowered revenue. None of which is benefiting anyone. Unmotivated employees offer poor customer service which goes further than direct sales. Even those disengaged employees working behind the scenes are not representing their employers in the best light to the people they know. I think it’s fair to say we have all come across a Facebook status rant relating to places of work which can impact future potential business and is detrimental to the brand image. So how can employers turn this situation around? By introducing efforts to turn these disengaged employees into not only just engaged, but passionate brand ambassadors.
Benefits of brand ambassadors
Brand ambassadors are committed to positively representing the company, turning disengaged employees into loyal ones who genuinely enjoy their job. They can boost brand awareness in a more cost effective way, than other marketing methods, by effortlessly engaging in conversation with potential customers about your business or talking about your brand on their social media.
As brand ambassadors have a long-term emotional connection with the brand, they end up providing promotion that comes across as authentic, credible and trustworthy.
Employees as brand ambassadors can best represent your brand as they fully understand the deeper elements of your business values, goals and ethics.
To begin, you can start to implement the following steps to turn your disengaged employees into engaged and passionate brand ambassadors…
Step 1: Engaging the disengaged
Moving forward, disengaged employees can be replaced with smarter recruitment strategies with more focus being placed on finding better culture fits.
Or, disengaged members can be converted to engaged employees through better understanding of the needs of the individuals and improved workforce policies and procedures. Terms can be evaluated and renegotiated. Skills can be better placed across the organisation and innovative flexible working arrangements can be enforced to raise levels of engagement. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202% and are connected to 10x more people than your brand alone. Once you understand the reasoning behind the disengagement, you can begin to develop and implement engagement strategies in the specific areas that need focus.
Step 2: Communication
Effective communication is a two way street. It requires feedback and suggestions from both parties, as well as praise and critique.
Brand ambassadors need to feel that they are being kept in the loop and are a welcomed part of the brand journey. Communicate your ideas, objectives and long or short term goals. Employees as ambassadors won’t do a good job of representing your brand if they don’t know the finer details about it.
Step 3: Trust and transparency
This step is critical to long-term success. Employers should be giving regular updates to their employees on current and future issues and discussing the steps being taken to tackle them.
Employees will see first-hand the issues happening within the organisation, so rather than try to ignore it, you should address the issues with your staff to get any input on ways they believe procedures or processes could better work to serve the customer.
Not only will this help you and the business, it will make your employees feel valued for their contributions and know that they have a voice, not just considered a number.
Step 4: Create and maintain a positive work environment
Employees working in a negative environment will constantly clock watch and do the bare minimum to get the job done and get home.
A positive work environment encourages happier employees. Employees should feel happy and comfortable in their work surroundings to be able to work to their best ability and go above and beyond the requirements of their role. And happy employees are more likely to help spreading good word about the brand.
Step 5: Be more personable
Of course there needs to be a strong personal connection between the brand ambassador and the brand itself.
Get to really know your employees individually and invest time in understanding your employee’s background story. This will create a better connection and allow you to place them in roles and opportunities you know suit them and their aspirations – creating employee satisfaction and loyalty.
Step 6: Offer incentives
Creating healthy competition amongst staff and rewarding top performing employees with perks or social recognition will engage and motivate employees to do better You could also offer incentives to brand ambassadors for candidates they refer to work for the company, such as a cash bonus if their referral passes their probationary period which is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Incentives encourage individuals to stay focused on a goal and push them to develop outside of their comfort zones, where they will grow, creating happy employees who love their job.
Step 7: Give over some control
Don’t micromanage. Put more trust into employees to present their ideas or manage their own projects.
If there is the option for remote working or flexible working schedules, set the boundaries and let your employees control how they work – you might be surprised how much motivation this will instil into your staff. By letting go of some control, it gives individuals more opportunities to flourish and your business will see a return on investment in no time.
Step 8: Provide employees with the right tools
If you want staff to be brand ambassadors across social media (for example), you need to ensure they are well equipped to do the best job possible.
You could go as far as offering company perks such as phone or tablet to work from remotely with strong internet access. Provide them with design templates, high quality photos, hashtags, brand logos etc. to enable them to promote your business with nothing holding them back.
Step 9: Training
…Which is why it’s so important to get your staff trained up properly on the dos and don’ts of social media promotion.
A study by MSLGROUP uncovered that social media posts shared by a company’s employees can reach 561% further than if the post was just shared on the company profile page!
Sign employees up for social media training with emphasis on popular social platforms, and give them the skills to develop marketing strategies that can be implemented in line with organisational goals.
Technology and marketing skills like these are so valuable to anyone these days as they are completely transferable, getting people ahead of the competition and your employees will be grateful for the extra skill set in something so relevant. Then, by showing staff how their marketing has impacted or will impact growth and sales, employees will better understand the effect they are having on the business, boosting engagement and satisfaction further.
Step 10 – Hand out the merchandise
Giving away freebies with your company logo on or recognisable brand details will help to create brand awareness within employees own networks of friends and family, even across their social media reaching a larger audience – plus, who doesn’t love a freebie?
Step 11 – Recognition
Give recognition to employees that go the extra mile, creating pride, ownership and responsibility in your workforce. There is a strong correlation between employee recognition and a boost in employee satisfaction, so acknowledge hard work with personal, relevant and timely praise.
By nurturing, developing and implementing these engagement strategies, you will transform your disengaged staff into the perfect brand ambassadors for your organisation. Hopefully these steps will get you and your business on its way to having happier more engaged employees, positively boosting your company’s brand image.
Robyn South is an HR professional with over 7 years' experience in generalist and complex employee relations matters. Skilled in employee relations, advisory services, HR consulting, HR policies, management and employee training. Part of CakeHR’s content management team.