How comms contributes to employee advocacy and drives employer brand

Forming the right partnerships and pathways can be a big help.

Every career has to start somewhere. When young professionals enter the workplace, they often come bursting with ideas and a fresh outlook on company culture. But routine and complacency among more tenured employees can mean that these ideas fall upon deaf ears.

Everyone should have the chance to speak up about their organization. Thankfully, the connective threads communicators draw with their strategic work can help people of all ages, regardless of age of position, express themselves constructively. We spoke with some internal comms pros who shared how this process looks in action, alongside how employee advocacy can help.

Advocating for your employees

Comms should serve as a facilitator for messages both from leadership to employees and vice versa. Maintaining an open dialogue is key to ensuring that both parties are properly heard. But sometimes forming and speaking with employee resource groups (ERGs) can help communicators and leaders get a better handle on what exactly employees need and how to best serve those needs. These groups can be especially helpful for younger employees who seek to make their voices heard.

Erin Mantz, vice president of employee engagement at Zeno Group, said her organization Zeno Group created and runs Freshman Homeroom, an ERG that helps provide career counsel and more for some younger employees. “Through training sessions, discussions and monthly meetups, members are learning PR ‘tips & tricks’ and making meaningful connections,” Mantz said. “These younger employees are learning from the best in the industry, propelling their careers forward with senior staff member Q&A sessions, meet-and-greets and panels.”

Mantz also noted that just because employees are younger in years, doesn’t mean they can’t make material differences with the right strategies and advocates.

“Throughout my career, I’ve seen younger employees successfully communicate about and pitch job shares, advocate for activities for ‘Take Your Child to Work’ Day, get Chat integrated into a company intranet, speak out against a new policy limiting items on desks, and much more,” she said.

Leadership’s role in helping younger employees along

One of the best ways that leaders can show younger employees that they’re valued and there’s a viable path upward is through transparency, mentorship and recognition.

Debra Helwig, internal communications director at Pinion, said that comms should work with leaders to ensure they’re hearing about and seeing all the great things younger employees are doing and recognizing them.

“Someone in internal communications needs to sit alongside leadership and be that voice in the ear of leadership,” Helwig said.

She also emphasized the importance of having a good relationship with leaders to relay information and initiatives that come back from employees.

“When it comes to communications, we are the guardians at the gate of our employees’ mind space. It’s important to work alongside leaders to make sure that their messages are going to resonate and align,” she said.

Telling the brand story and the intergenerational angle

One of the best ways to advocate for younger employees is to connect their accomplishments to broader brand storytelling and communication about the organization’s strategy and business objectives. 

“Who are the people who really let people know what you do and how you do it?”  said Jayli Barkley, district attorney information specialist at the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office at Ragan’s Employee Communications and Culture Conference in Chicago last month. Identifying how even the most junior employee drives results and impact unlocks opportunities to recognize that work.

Another great way of advocating for younger employees is simply giving them opportunities to be heard. Mantz spoke about Zeno Group’s Fearless Voices program, which enables employees to speak to a full gathering of their colleagues, regardless of age or experience. This enables for experience sharing that creates a sense of unity around the company’s mission and values.

“Employees often like hearing from other employees — and younger employees are no exception,” Mantz said. “Intentionally seek out some employees from every generation to contribute thoughts and perspectives to (fitting) company-wide videos, events and celebrations.”

To hear more perspectives on employee advocacy, register for our Employee Experience in Nashville.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.

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