Employee Advocacy Programs

Marisa Keegan Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Marisa Keegan, Organizational Development

I swear, I wasn’t brought to Fistful of Talent to be the
Reality Show Ranter but sometimes I just can’t help myself, because these shows are a
breeding ground for HR and Culture lessons. Today, however, unlike my rants on
Kate Gosselin, Jersey
Shore, or Cake Boss, I
actually have a reality show to highlight that I think all of you should watch.

Undercover Boss CBS is airing a new season of Undercover Boss, which is a
show where the CEO of a different organization each week goes undercover to
meet with employees on the front line. While the CEOs are undercover, they talk
candidly to employees asking them questions about corporate policies, employee
engagement, and their personal circumstances. Every episode I’ve seen so far
has completely opened the CEOs eyes to the good, the bad, and the ugly about
their company. It has highlighted the disconnect between Senior Leadership and
the front line employee and has inspired the CEOs to make some significant
changes within their organizations.

Do I think this concept is feasible in every
organization? Yes, with a few tweaks.

As the boss, you might not be able to go ‘undercover’ but
when we break down what these CEOs are doing to the most basic concept, they’re
getting employees to trust them enough to share their biggest roadblocks. Once
they have this information, they’re coming up with ways to knock them down.
That’s it.

In several organizations that I’ve worked in, we’ve set up
Employee Advocacy programs that follow the same concept. Here are the basic
components to these programs:

  • Find
    employees within the company whom other employees trust and confide in and
    focus on helping them become Employee Advocates.
  • Teach
    them how to be listeners, mentors, and coaches.  Then encourage them to help employees
    solve their own problems by approaching their managers, having difficult
    conversations with peers, setting strong goals, etc.
  • Touch
    base with the Advocates frequently and ask them to share with you the
    trends that they’re seeing. This is very
    different than trying to get them to tell you details about their
    conversations with specific employees. All you want to know are general
    trends about engagement, happiness, etc.
  • Pull
    together the trends you’re seeing and do what you can to fix any problems.

Of course, this is an extremely simplified version of how to
set up an Employee Advocacy program, but once they’re in place they become a
great way to keep tabs on the engagement of your front line employees.

Have any of you ever set up a similar program in your