If you’re hearing a lot about employee advocacy, chances are you’re sitting in a Marketing team. However, the impact is leveraged across several different departments spanning through Sales, Customer Success, Communications and People.
An effective employee advocacy program can be the go-to source for your most engaged employees who want to access relevant content and share it with their personal social networks. A determining factor of a successful employee advocacy program is getting buy-in from leadership, employees and different departments. We wanted to hear from one marketing leader about his strategies that helped lead their program to where it is today.
In our last webinar, we featured Turbonomic’s Senior Director of Digital Marketing and Demand Generation, Andrew Racine. He shared his insights on how to launch and scale their employee advocacy program.
Turbonomic delivers Workload Automation for Hybrid Cloud environments by simultaneously optimizing performance, cost, and compliance in real-time. They recently made a third appearance on the Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. Turbonomic’s employee advocacy, known as The Pulse, is lead by Andrew and his marketing team.
In the past year, content shared through their program generated 5x the engagement per post compared to their branded channels. They’ve on-boarded over 500 employees onto the program and their content has reached over two million people across their employees’ social networks.
Discover why Turbonomic has made employee advocacy a priority for its business, and learn about the strategies and tips Andrew leveraged to build a compelling case for employee advocacy.
Q: Why did Turbonomic’s fast-growth create challenges and how did they lead to employee advocacy?
I have this at a few different places, it’s a gift and a curse: fast growth. You want to grow fast, you want to increase your revenue, want to increase your customer base, want to increase your product’s capabilities but with that comes with a lot more complication and a lot more variables that are difficult to control. Sometimes you don’t want to control them, sometimes the chaos is good if you happen to like a fast-paced work environment and that’s why I’m here at Turbo. But, there is a need at times to corral that chaos and accept that fast-paced growth is going to happen and we still can have a lens of uniformity and standardization for the things we put out there.
As we were growing, doubling in size in the last couple of years, there were a lot of employees here who were very excited to be a part of Turbo Nation and very excited to be on this journey with us. They had come from all different backgrounds, some were technical, some were sales, a lot of different roles. For some, this was their first company or their twentieth so a really wide range of experiences coming into the company all at once.
Pretty quickly, it dawned on me that during my onboarding I had around 30 people in my onboarding class. Some first-time new hires to grizzled veterans and the topic came up, “hey how do we know what to tweet about? What should I share on LinkedIn?” Me being the new guy in digital marketing, they all looked at me.
I was only about a week into the job at the time so I said, “that’s a really good question, let me go find that out.” Right from the start, with not a lot of data but just qualitative input from the most hungry, most eager, most happy to be here people, the new hire class. It was pretty apparent that we needed to think more strategically, not only that group of folks that just joined the Turbo Nation but everyone else who has been here already.
Q: How did you deal with getting buy-in from different departments, employees, executive leadership?
My onboarding class was the perfect petri dish because we had engineers, salespeople, marketers and people operations. We had everybody. Almost every department was represented at the time so we did a study on what people’s views were on employee advocacy and what they’ve done in the past. We actually found that there wasn’t a lot of knowledge around it and they were really eager to hear more about it.
We did a lot of research that week of just finding out what our options were and talking to other groups who have been for a few years. The great thing about our onboarding approach at Turbonomic was that every department was represented and we had our executives pop-in to come and present during this time.
We knew employee advocacy was a hot button issue at the time and to present it to leadership to get their thoughts on the matter proved to be very nice for prioritizing it amongst everything else going on.
I didn’t want this to be simply a digital marketing initiative. It was employee advocacy and everyone needed to be bought in, all of the departments and all the executive leaders. Not only did we try to solicit support from leadership during my onboarding process but a lot of my early work was just grabbing champions in the different departments.
It was a lot of asking questions and posing some potential solutions that no one had really considered before. But considering that everyone wanted to promote industry and Turbonomic related material, we just needed to find a simple way to help them do that.
Q: What examples do you have for getting buy-in from executive leadership?
One of the early things that helped us with executive buy-in was working with my boss, Tom Murphy, who is one of the main reasons I’m here at Turbonomic. He loved the idea from the start and was savvy enough to understand how to best market to the rest of the company.
What we actually did was present the program at the sales kickoff as well as the engineering kickoff which happened to coincide. The timing couldn’t have been better because, at those kickoffs, you have the leaders from the different departments giving presentations to align their respective teams. Having a tool in place, having a clear goal in mind and having those executives who are looking to interesting content to present in front of their team, it’s the one time of the year where they get to do that. To have this part of the mix was really valuable and I think it helped us gain a lot of credibility right from the start.
Q: How did you get employee buy-in for employee advocacy?
The very first thing we did was identify who was already active on social media. Knowing that they’re already invested in it. Then the nuance we added to it was maybe okay who isn’t heavily involved in social media but is really a true influencer within each department. Who are the people that are looked up to, whether it’s for their experience or personality? Who are the people who really move the needle or capture people’s attention? These persuasive people all felt anything that benefits the company is definitely worth investing in so that helped us position employee advocacy.
We had an internal champions list. We’d meet, we’d do some training on it as we were getting on-board. So giving them the tools and enablement on what they can do within their own sphere of influence and that really had a network effect on everyone else within the company.
We also did a lot of storytelling at our company meetings. We have our company meetings twice a month which is pretty aggressive but it’s a great opportunity to get in front of the company and share the state-of-the-state and what’s cool or new going on. Quickly they got sick of hearing about me and my experience with PostBeyond – what was more influential and impactful for the rest of the company was having those different leaders and influencers in the company share their stories.
Q: What advice would you give marketers on how to get buy-in from different departments?
Maybe your digital marketing owns the execution of employee advocacy so you don’t have to position this initiative to different departments as this is going to be more work for you. Instead, it’s actually going to be really easy, we’re going to manage it but you can suggest content, you can track who’s doing what, we can provide any suggested material that you want in our platform. So really it’s about, aligning with the department goals, having it sound like it’s going to be easier to achieve them with our help. That’s definitely the technique we used when approaching departments we don’t usually work with.
We were willing to accept the responsibility of managing it and then giving them enough access to become a part of it and be significant in driving it across their team.
Q: Why were metrics such as percentage of users sharing, adoption rate, earned media value and website traffic important? And how did they let you know you were on the path to success?
For us, we ordered them in particular importance and a little bit of departure of how I stack rank my goals. My team’s goals are pretty straight forward in terms of traffic, leads, marketing qualified leads, pipeline.
This one, we had to invert it a little bit and I think that was really smart to do by our whole team. It wasn’t about driving more, more and more. It was really about developing a culture of being proud about what we’re doing here as a company, enabling new and old employees alike to be able to share it, to interact with former colleagues, prospects, and customers on social media channels.
Right from the start, we didn’t want to make this another demand generation effort where we’re going to have X number of visits turn into Y number of leads and Z number of opportunities. We really wanted to make this about our employees because our bet was that by doing that, we’ll have a better chance at adoption and overall reach in terms of people using it day-in and day-out.