Customer satisfaction and customer centricity have moved up on the agenda for most companies. It has become clear that a company should not produce to sell, but to satisfy the needs of customers and potential customers. In order to measure, track and improve customer satisfaction, companies need to turn to their customer journey map and identify where the “pains” for the customers lie and what the highlights are. At the same time, however, businesses should not lose sight of one of their most important assets – employees. While researching customers and their satisfaction, companies should also consider how satisfied employees are.
There is already a solid foundation of studies showing a link between employee job satisfaction and the performance of a company. Harter et al. (2002) explored employee engagement and the probability of a business being successful and were able to show a positive link between the two. Wangenheim et al. (2007) also show a link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. This link was not only existent for customer facing roles, but for employees across functions, regardless of interaction with customers. Chi and Gursoy (2008) conducted a study to examine the relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction and the impact on a hospitality company’s financial performance. The researchers were able to show an indirect link between employee satisfaction and financial performance that is mediated by customer satisfaction.
While mentioning these studies can only show a snapshot of the literature available on this topic, they show the importance of employee job satisfaction, especially for a company’s bottom line. Satisfied employees not only lead to satisfied customers, they can also support a company through employee advocacy. Employee advocacy, similarly to customer advocacy, takes place when employees promote the company they work for. This can happen on various occasions; when speaking with business partners or friends, when liking and sharing the company’s post on social media or writing a good review on one of the common job portals. While the benefits of this might not always become apparent straight away, such actions can support a company and its brand on several levels.
Social Media Reach – Because sharing is caring
Social media nowadays has shifted from being a time-consuming leisure activity to a valuable tool for brands to engage with their audience and increase awareness. While consumer brands were the first movers, social media usage has also made its way onto the agenda of B2B marketing departments. In a study with 115 B2B marketing specialists, Omobono found that 79% rated social media as the most effective marketing channel. While a study by Hubspot found that almost 60% of surveyed business professionals planned to increase their marketing spend in 2018, most of this budget still goes towards traditional channels, such as website development and tradeshows and events. Only 29% of those surveyed named social media amongst their top marketing spend. This suggests that while social media has become relevant for B2B companies, the budget to exploit various channels is still limited. This is where employee advocacy comes into play. At no additional direct cost, your employees can support your brand in reaching a wider audience.
For example, if your brand is followed by 5,000 people on LinkedIn, your potential reach for a LinkedIn post is 5,000. If your company has 100 employees and each of them has 300 contacts on LinkedIn, your potential reach increases to 35,000 – at no cost other than writing the article and initially sharing it to the network. The reach is further accelerated by other people liking, commenting and sharing the post – and if you’re lucky, it might go viral.
Employee advocacy cannot only support your marketing activities, but it can also be of help for your human resources department. The employer brand has increased in importance over the last few years, driven through demographic change and a shortage in experts in certain job functions. While job postings and the company website can claim a lot of benefits and a great working culture, this is often perceived as being biased. Of course, no company would share any negative aspects. Therefore, published content by the company tends not to be impartial, in comparison to when an acquaintance speaks authentically about his or her experiences. Employees will share their honest opinions with friends and family on whether the hierarchy really is as flat as promoted on the websites, whether benefits are useful and whether there is good communication between the teams. Employees not only share their opinion with friends and family, but also increasingly on employment websites such as Glassdoor and Kununu. From there on, reviews can reach a similarly large audience as they can on social media.
Another important factor linked to employee advocacy is employee referral. The recruitment process can become a lot more efficient when a referral program is in place and is actually used by employees. Depending on the country, the average hiring process takes up to 31 days (Glassdoor, 2015). This can be shortened significantly when a candidate is referred to the company, as the pre-screening processes is significantly shorter. With less time required for the hiring process, the process also becomes less expensive. On top of that, expenses for job advertisements are eliminated. However, employees will only recommend the company they work for when they are truly satisfied in their job. Implementing a monetary bonus scheme for successful referrals can be an option, but is not necessarily the way to go. Firstly, most employees still would not recommend to their friends a company that they do not think well of. Secondly, when employees only refer people to receive the bonus, the outcome is unlikely to be positive for both sides. Nevertheless, referral systems are another important factor related to employee satisfaction and advocacy.
What to do now?
If employee advocacy is still lacking in the company, the next step needs to be an improvement in employee satisfaction through which advocacy will follow. Questions to ask are: How satisfied are employees at the moment? What are their pain points? How can the situation be improved? How can we over-deliver to our employees, so that they want to spread the word?
Similar to customer satisfaction studies, an employee satisfaction study can give valuable information about the current staff situation. Just like in a customer satisfaction study, a Net Promotor Score (NPS) can be retrieved, which will give instant insights about how likely employees actually are to recommend the employer. Another option to gain insights is to turnaround the customer journey map and look at the journey employees have in your company. Some of our studies regarding employee needs and satisfaction indicate that the on-boarding process is often problematic for employees. Will an employee recommend the employer to someone when they know that the other person will have a hard time becoming integrated in the company? Most likely not.
Benefits and general working guidelines are also worth considering. Is there a possibility to be more flexible regarding working hours and home office arrangements? Can the company offer a “cycle to work scheme”, contribute to the employees commute costs or gym fee? Is it possible to offer free or subsidised meals? If you have offices across multiple cities or countries – can you offer employees the chance to gain experience in one of the other offices?
At the end of the day, such an offering will not convince a candidate to work for your company. Hygiene factors such as the job description, the salary or the location of the workplace are the main decision criteria. Such “add-ons” will also not create job satisfaction in employees that are deeply dissatisfied with their job for other reasons – be it the management or the lack of development opportunities. To create advocacy, it is important to start from a basis of satisfaction, which can be turned into delight. Going out of your way to have a unique offering for your employees can improve their satisfaction to delight and will have them spread the word about the benefits they receive at work, supporting your brand, your company and your bottom line. If you want to read more about employee research, head over to our whitepaper on how to gain unique and valuable market insights through employee research.
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