What Is Employee Activation?

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately speaking about employee activation. I’m not talking about employee advocacy (getting your employees to blindly share your press releases.) Employee activation even goes beyond employee engagement. Although you need engaged employees to activate.

What is employee activation? Employee activation is a formal program that encourages employees of a business to organically and authentically create and share content about the topics that interest them.

Want to run a more effective organization? Employee activation is the key to driving your business into the future with the resilience required to move further into the post-digital era.

When your employees are activated, they are engaged, more productive, and will help to establish your business as a trustworthy, authentic brand with whom your target buyers can get excited about doing business.

Let’s face it. Things are moving fast in workplace culture. Businesses who have put in the foundational work for a successful digital transformation are able to offer a better customer experience and live up to the high bar set by the customer-centric marketing model.

But, we’re not done evolving. Right now, visionary companies are seeing that the next stage is not forging a more intensive relationship with customers with all our sophisticated digital tools. It’s time to look internally.

Where the focus has been on empowering customers, now we’re seeing the benefit of empowering employees too. It’s a more dynamic level of the engineered serendipity I talked about a few years ago where you win, I win, the customer, employee, manager, marketer, brand – everyone wins because we’re elevating the connections with more technology and more information.

The next stage after digital transformation and customer centricity is employee activation. Managers and leaders, at both the executive and department level, need to create a more meaningful work experience for employees.

For those of you who just can’t wait to get down to activating employees in your organization (without going through a treasure trove of data and insights), here’s a video and slide deck:

How to Activate Your Employees for Marketing, HR and Sales Success


The Benefits of Employee Activation

Better communication. Inspired advocacy. Alignment and shared vision. The results of engaged, activated employees are mindblowing.

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  • A boost in customer retention rates by as much as 18 percent.
  • A 20 to 25 percent jump in productivity.
  • The Workplace Research Foundation found that increasing employee engagement investments by 10 percent can increase profits by $2,400 per employee, every year.

But, just like accepting the hard work and multifaceted change that is necessary for digital transformation, this next business evolution doesn’t happen overnight.

Especially when we are currently working with some dismal statistics. The number of enthusiastic employees has been edging up slightly over the past few years but it’s still low.

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Imagine how potent your marketing would be with 99 percent committed and connected employees, not 33 percent?

But, to get anywhere close to the ultimate engagement goal, you need to understand what employee activation is.

Where a lot of marketing leaders and managers get off track is they mistake employee advocacy with employee activation.

Employee Activation vs. Employee Advocacy

True activation goes far beyond the basic, two-dimensional concept of holding out a carrot to get your employees to become brand advocates. You want to activate your employees so they become advocates. But, the end goal is much broader than asking your employees to share press releases and brand content on their social media pages.

The intent is to not just incentivize but to empower. Change the intention, and you alter the direction in which your business is moving.

I believe employee activation is the process of encouraging your employees to create and share their passions and expertise. This shows your employees they are valued, giving them more confidence to express their own personal ingenuity at work, which in turn, reflects on the level of customer service, sales and marketing, and even the quality of the products or services offered by your company. Ultimately, the intention to empower your employees to greater success puts your organization on the course to greater, and more sustainable, success.

Employee Activation Fosters Trust

Activation is a trust builder all around.

Guess what? When you trust your employees by empowering them with the right platforms, tools, and encouragement, they’re more likely to trust you. This is more important than simply improving work relationships.

According to a recent study, for 93 percent of employees, trust in a direct boss is critical for work satisfaction. And, listen to the research or just common sense and life experience – employees who aren’t satisfied at work can’t do their best at work.

But, here’s where employee activation becomes really monumental if you get it right. Your buyers trust your employees, possibly more than upper management, the PR department, or general brand messaging.

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Activated Employees Drive a Business’s Marketing

Inspire your employees to become a part of your brand messaging, and your marketing takes on a whole new level of importance and reach. How you activate your employees will depend on what works for your organization and what specific goals you want to achieve, but here are a few strategies you can use:

  • Invest in your employees’ growth with skills training
  • Develop an internal mentorship program
  • Hold regular one-on-one’s to give employees a chance to directly tell you what they need in order to do a better job (hint: this is 1000 times more effective than employee surveys)
  • Set up and encourage individual social media accounts supported by your brand or web pages for your employees to share content and ideas and to showcase their own work and expertise
  • Offer more opportunities for employees to take on temporary or rotating leadership roles
  • Feature their stories, projects, and accomplishments on brand channels

Trust that the efforts you put into your employees – from the intention of empowering their passions –  will pay off, and you’ll get back way more than you put in. They’ll have everything they need to advocate for your brand, as well as a reason to do so because they know they are working for an employer who believes in them.

Employee Activation Starts with Improving Communication Channels

So, you can get up on the soapbox and tell your employees you want them to shine. You can send out an internal newsletter or a weekly email.

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Or, you can upgrade your internal communication channels and empower your internal communicators in order to more effectively activate your employees.

Communication is likely going to be a roadblock in getting your employee activation initiative off the ground unless you tackle this problem early on.

  • How do your employees like to communicate?
  • What channels do they respond to?
  • What works and where are the failures in collaborative platforms that you are using right now?
  • What communication tools are available today thanks to technology that your organization hasn’t yet adopted, but should?

Look at this statistic – a study by Siegal+Gale found that a third of employees find their workplace complex and difficult to navigate because of a lack of transparent communication.

Tackle communication first and then develop a strategy to activate your employees. Just like all the work you’ve been doing to engage your buyers – exploring new communication channels and then refining your delivery as you learn more about your customers, finding more effective ways to motivate your target audience, and developing more sophisticated content marketing strategies to empower your customers – it’s time to do it with the people who are the driving force behind your brand.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.