We trust the people we work with, so we trust what they say.
Once again, the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that we have twice as much trust in ‘experts’ and ‘someone like me’ as we do in our CEOs.
That’s not good news for internal communicators, where traditionally we’ve spent time and resource on developing core channels such as leadership communications and managers as communicators.
So why not invest in a network of employee champions who will communicate your organisational story in a credible way to the people they work with?
A champions network will be your extended voice, reinforcing key messages on the ground to engage the hearts and minds of the people that matter.
Champions know the area of the business they work in better than you. They will instantly localise and tailor your messaging to their audiences. It will be more impactful, more relevant and more authentic.
Take time to listen too. Your network will be your ears and eyes on the ground. Get your champions to feedback on how messages are landing to help you tweak or even switch up your strategy.
Are you in? Here’s how to start…
Here’s a ten steps to developing your network of employee champions:
- Be clear on purpose: What do you need your champions to be saying and doing in the role – how are you going to get them there?
- Build prestige around the role: Give the programme an official title, ask leaders to nominate champions, make it ‘exclusive’.
- Take your time: It’s crucial to get your champions engaged with the role. You’ll need a face-to-face event, supporting materials and maybe a little incentive.
- Trust and empower: Give champions information before other employees.
- Get champions to support each other: Put champions in touch with one another (perhaps via an online community) so they can collaborate, share ideas and overcome challenges.
- Coach and train: Partner with your Training Dept to create some skill sessions; create a template objective for personal development plans. Make sure your champions get something back for their CV.
- Get senior leader endorsement: Champions need to be comfortable taking time out of their day job on their champion role.
- Be clear on tasks and due dates: As you build a committed, engaged network you’ll find this matters less and less.
- Build relationships: Take the time to regularly check-in with your champions.
- Finally, have a plan for how to sustain your network: Plan regular engagement activities; a process for champions who need to leave the role; and most importantly some reward and recognition for all that hard work.
Developing your network will be hard work and resource intensive – particularly at the start. But the end result is a new type of internal channel that will be credible and can help make a real difference to your organisation.
Article written by Anna Lowman, Communications Manager – Employee Communications and Engagement, Transport for London