Recognising Employee Activism.

The world of HR is currently red hot, in fact poker hot with the cloud, the science, the art, and the human side of business. There is enough thought leadership and entrepreneurial spirit in the HR space, to ensure every rule or model will soon be abolished or re-written.

One fascinating example of change and the unstoppable influence of our social world, is the boom in employee branding, and the gloom hanging over employer branding.

I like what Jeff Schmitt ( one of the better Forbes contributors ), recently said about false advertising, Jeff highlights the problem with, and the difference between employer and employee branding.

False Advertising:
Your new employees are putting their lives in your hands…literally. Some have uprooted their families to work for you. Others have left cushy jobs because they believe in what you represent. Each took a risk. And they did this because they trusted you. They bought what you were selling. Question is, was it real or just an act?
“That’s not what they promised.” Those are the five words you never want to hear from a new hire. When your culture contradicts your brand, you only create uncertainty. Maybe management and human resources are out of touch, apply situational standards, or live in denial. Chances are, they simply lied. And hires can only wonder, “If they’re shady with us, I can only imagine how they are with customers and stakeholders.” And that’s not the vibe you want to give off to people you’ve spent thousands of dollars to recruit. Word travels fast – and dissatisfaction travels three times faster. Be sure your actions don’t symbolize a different message than the one you intend to convey. Your reputation is everything. And your employees – past and present – are as big of ambassadors as your customers. Be consistent.

It is clear employers are looking for better fitting, more engaged, and more emotionally attached employees, and hey, guess what, employees are looking for pretty much the same thing from you. The problem for new employees is that it is your process and they are doing all the trusting. In the new social age, your future employees are looking for another layer, beyond what the company says. This is where an authentic employee brand is won and lost.

Whether we like it or not, every company, along with its values, pay, benefits, leaders, and decisions are going to be analysed, compared, and discussed like your latest holiday destination, or university experience.

Employees are rising, they are empowering themselves, and the entrepreneurs have seen the value in both harnessing and exploiting the weight of an employee’s voice. The current level of social activity, or if you prefer employee activism, was highlighted by Weber Shandwick is a report across 2300 employees in 15 countries.

What stands out?

50% of employees already actively post about their employer, what drives them to do it?
Your leaders, your policies, your values, and your ability ( or inability ), to communicate what you do.

What excites?

That 33% of the employers are already affectively encouraging social sharing which leads to a 50% increase in product, service, and employer recommendations.

Great news for public facing applications such as Glassdoor and DymanicSygnal, ( Some of the entrepreneurs. )

So, what do leadership teams need to focus on inside their walls, to strengthen today’s employee brand, and as importantly, prepare for the socially active workforce of tomorrow?

Social Recognition is the answer. A new age of employee recognition strategy where an employee’s voice is encouraged and valued. Positive activism inside your business, with reward, if you wish.

Why is Social Recognition a natural link to your Employee Brand?


The relationship we have with our manager forges a key part of our emotional state and as we know, often determines our level of discretionary effort. However, relationships, including those with colleagues, are also where our reaction to work is at its greatest, good and bad. Respect, appreciation and friendships are integral to a consistently strong employee brand, ignore them at your peril.


Engagement is an emotional investment in a brand, a mission, a product, or even a leader. I like David Zinger when it comes to my engagement guru fix, he says engagement is “Good work done well with others every day”. Find your positive outcomes, recognise great work, tell real stories and trust your employees to do it for you. Let them make an emotional connection to your values, products, and their colleagues. You can’t do it for them.

Integrity, Behaviour and Values

What is the biggest employee brand negative? The “say / do” gap. The challenge is to move company values, and the behaviours that support them, from the last page, to the front page of your corporate website, where they belong. Advertising your company values, and then paying lip service to them, will ignite the negative activist in anyone and is going to hurt your employee brand. Start to live your values, by handing them over to your employees.


Forget massaged internal comms and company PR. Think transparency and story “doing”. Social has changed what we are listening to, we are looking for both the emotional and intellectual connection, that only real experiences and reviews can provide. That means creating opportunities for positive and negative expression internally. Embrace it, nurture it, your audience is waiting.


The leadership narrative and objectives need to be clear, honest, and aspirational. As importantly, it needs to be visible. This narrative and the culture that supports it, is part of the reason for joining the company, and a motivating factor in being a fan of the company. Honest and authentic leaders are motivational, because we trust them. Build trust by showing employees what your leaders see, say, and stand for.

If you can’t ignite and inspire genuine positive activism internally, then there is little hope externally.