Focusing on employees‘ personal brands – a worthy investment or a risk to lose talents?

Writing about trends for the next year in specific industries seems natural at the end of the year. But when it comes to personal branding, the main principles remain the same – understand your audience, refine your goals, channels, and content, and consistently stick to the plan. We could speak about the trends in the context of channels and content forms, but that is very individual. Thus, I will only discuss one trend related to the personal brand. While it isn’t new, it will surely grab the attention of many organizations in the coming year. Building employer branding through employees’ personal brands – what’s new in this context?

Employees create the image, too

Today, more and more people make their purchasing decisions based on the impressions they make online. Often, a pretty packaging or exceptional ingredients are not enough – stories about the inspiration behind the product, people who are focusing their efforts on making the product unique can become the main reason to buy.However, people aren’t only interesting when they are deciding whether to buy a product or a service. They become even more interesting when we are choosing our employer. “Who will be my team manager?”, “What kind of persons will I need to work with?”, “What is the organization’s culture?” – these are only a few of the questions arising for a potential employer who is about to decide about a new job. Even though some of this information is available on the company’s website or social media accounts, it is the employees who convey it in a much more authentic way. It is they who create the organization’s image. And even though many organizations have realized that it is worth investing in employee communication courses, some still worry that it might encourage a bigger employee turnover.

What if they leave?

Organizations who are still doubting about encouraging their employee communication usually have one and the same reason for it – they are scared that they will lose talents as, once they start communicating more, other companies will headhunt them. Surely, there is the risk that employees, once they get better at communicating on social media, will be able to showcase their personal abilities as well as reveal the organization’s culture, thus making them more noticeable. However, this risk exists without active communication, too – given the current wars for professionals, headhunting extends well beyond the “LinkedIn” fields. Some companies would even use “Tinder” and similar social networks for that. Yet, it’s important to understand one thing – if the employee is already willing to leave her current job, she will do it irrespective of how active she is on social media.

Single-time training might not be enough

Even though the tendency for employee advocacy has been around for more than a year, it is likely that, in the next year, more and more organizations will be investing in long-term initiatives rather than just single-time training. Even though the latter are useful for providing the basic knowledge of representing your employee online and motivating employees, proper skills need consistent development.

In certain organizations, it is now common that agencies or internal communication experts create content for certain employees, especially managers. The approach only works if the employee and the copywriter are constantly cooperating. Commonly, such messages show little engagement initially – those who know the person clearly understand that the content is written by someone else because it doesn’t showcase the character, style, and values. Only after some time, when the employee and the content creator get to know each other, such content becomes effective.

However, nothing can truly replace the authentic communication by the employee when she is the one creating content. Of course, there are challenges – with a lack of time and, in some cases, skills, it becomes hard to communicate consistently. However, consistency is key here – the more one does it, the easier it gets, the less time it consumes, and the more satisfaction comes from expressing one’s thoughts and expertise.

That’s why it is likely that training and individual sessions for ambassador employees in the coming year will become especially appealing for strengthening employee advocacy in social media.

Is external communication indispensable?

Some organizations believe that to encourage employees’ active communication on social media, they need internal motivation and external means. A special mention in an internal newsletter or prizes are only a few ways to encourage employees to engage more. Such means can work, but only when employees have an inner wish to speak about the organizations. And to boost that, we need to come back to basics – organizational values, culture, and other internal aspects essential for ensuring employees’ wellbeing.

Creating employer’s image based on employees’ personal branding isn’t a new tendency, but it will surely become even more apparent next year. For those who doubt, here’s a popular dialogue that went viral online:

CFO asks CEO:

– What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?

CEO replies:

– What happens if we don’t, and they stay?

Employees are the driving force behind every organization, thus investing into their skills to communicate and represent the organization on social media can become a perfect trampoline to a stronger employer brand and increased visibility.

You may find this article in the Lithuanian language here.