Building An Army of Advocates

Here’s the deal: Unless you are the type of company that is down right miserable and your leadership team doesn’t give a crap because they’re making money even though your employees want to jump off a bridge, you should care about how your employees view you. Creating Employee Advocacy programs will help you understand what their view is.

I talk a lot about Employee Advocacy for several reasons. First, someday I’d like my name and this darling face to show up in Wikipedia as the person who ‘first coined’ a phrase…since I love this stuff, this phrase seems like it might be my golden child. Second, someone has to bridge the gap between front line employees and Senior Leadership, has to understand both sides, and has to be fearless about closing a door and bringing leadership back from la-la land. I like being that person.

But like I said in my most recent post on Fistful of Talent, one person can’t be the Employee Advocate for an entire company. We need to coach employees throughout our organization to ask the right questions of others so they too can gather the type of information we need to be good advocates.

Ideas for teaching Advocates to gather information:

  • There is an art to making others feel comfortable. Most Advocates already have this (since you want to pick people who are already confided in by others) but there are theories about mirroring body placement, tone, etc to make others feel comfortable. Coach them on these skills.
  • Coach them on how to ask broad questions and then dig deeper and deeper based on answers employees are giving. Most people aren’t used to asking follow-up questions or picking out small details about what someone said or how they said it. Those small details, when asked about, often lead to telling information.
  • If they’re going to coffee with an employee to talk about concerns about the company go with them and either lead the meeting so they can see how the conversation goes or let them lead it and coach with them after.
  • Teach them how to coach employees into solving their own problems. When Advocates can help people solve their own problems they build rapport as someone who is a natural person to rely on again in the future.
  • Remind them how important trust is in all of this. The goal of gathering this information isn’t to gossip or tattle on people. It’s to get a pulse of areas within the company that need a little more attention and help.

I’m sure I’m missing some ideas. What other things can we do to teach Advocates how to better gather information?

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About Marisa

Marisa Keegan is a leadership coach, trainer, and HR consultant for quickly growing organizations who are passionate about strengthening their employees, their brand, and their culture. She has helped lead the HR, culture, and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. She is an author at Fistful of Talent and Culture Fanatics. Marisa has her Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and currently lives with her husband and twin boys in Richmond, Virginia.
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