In the new arena of Employee Engagement, every willing employee, within the parameters of the program you give them becomes a brand ambassador for your company. Imagine the power this can mean. From our company's own research, a group of 1,125 employee advocates on social media can mean as much as a 19% revenue increase. That's an entirely new profit margin from the employees you already have.
Yet there are other good reasons to care about employee thought leadership that matter perhaps even more. Says John Hall, Forbes Contributor and the CEO of Influence & Co., of Colombia, Mo., "Your team is made up of individuals who, collectively, create an ecosystem of interconnected ideas, perspective, and insight. Leverage that ecosystem, and you'll be running a company full of thought leaders."
Imagine the impact this could have on your company brand.
In a recent article for LinkedIn Today, executive Kelsey Meyer notes that thought leadership actually improves your company culture. When leaders and executives share their knowledge in the outside world, it inspires trust, fosters excitement, and builds their pride and loyalty to the organization they represent.
Your employees are already adding their own perspective and knowledge to the stories they relay to customers-why not make them more skilled at the process? (And more recognized and highly regarded for the expertise this exercise can help them develop.)
However, employees may fear the amount of time and work thought leadership effort may take. As a leader, you may fear the loss of control. Both are surmountable. By providing guidelines and parameters for the thought leadership content you protect the company from blurred brand messaging and from the risk that a misinformed or rogue employee misspeaks. Within your program you can also provide writing education or collaboration resources, meaning that all the employee needs to do is speak or write down his or her thoughts as the genesis of thought leadership material the organization can use.
Employees can use and can add upon each other's ideas to create dimensions of understanding they'd have never reached on their own. The thought leadership acts as a catalyst for growth. It builds and reinforces employee engagement. Likewise, thought leadership is a valuable component of full-on leadership development, which provides you with employees that are more promotable as they grow.
Heather Dopson, the Manager of Social Strategy at Infusionsoft, in Phoenix, Ariz. (and an EveryoneSocial customer) points out that thought leadership does require a change in thinking, if not a full-on paradigm shift. But the effort is highly worthwhile-in the case of her own company, employees are not only invited to participate in employee advocacy and thought leadership they informed on their second day of employment that it is expected as well (and they quickly learn that it is very much to their professional benefit to learn and practice these skills). At the end of Q2, Dopson's team was using the EveryoneSocial platform to manage approximately 60 employee advocates at Infusionsoft. She hopes to grow that number to 150 by the end of this year.
One of the great opportunities Dopson suggests to her participating employees is to encourage them to participate in the LinkedIn Publishing platform, where they can develop a following as they exercise their thought leadership goals. In all, it's important to remember that every one of your employees has the potential to be an effective thought leaders. As an organization, it is your opportunity and responsibility to help ensure they succeed.