At the recent Techcrunch Disrupt NY conference one of the main topics under discussion was Employee Advocacy. The need for businesses to engage with their staff is not new, but it has come to the fore recently with news that Juno a new rideshare & taxi app is taking on the more established Uber. For Juno their USP is not price or ease of use, or any of the other factors usually associated with these battles. Juno are staking their hope of success on treating their drivers better.
Juno claim that by taking care of their drivers, the drivers will, in turn, treat customers better and offer a richer experience to users. It is this improved experience that Talmon Marco, the Juno founder, believes will help them take a big share of Uber’s lucrative market. In contrast to Uber where the drivers are seen as self-employed service providers, Juno plan to give away half of the equity in their business to their drivers and make them 50:50 partners in the company.
As they are classified as self-employed Uber drivers are responsible buying and maintaining their own vehicles, they are allowed to choose their own hours of work, but their engagement with Uber is minimal, and often only really occurs when they have difficulties that need resolving. There is no incentive for them to make Uber more successful.
As partners in the business, with a genuine stake in Juno’s success, Marco hopes that Juno drivers will be more loyal to the company, and will want to offer a higher standard of service, and will achieve better customer retention rates than Uber and their other competitors.
The importance of employee advocacy is not confined to the battle between Uber and Juno. It has implications for businesses in every sector. How engaged employees are affects not just their performance while they are working for a business, and how long they will remain with the company, but also the image others form of that company, based on the information the employees share.
Sharing equity of a business with employees can be highly effective in improving staff loyalty, I am a big fan of the U.K’s EMI scheme that offers a great tax efficient way to give staff access to company shares, but there are also other ways to show staff they are valued, and to offer them value in return.
Employee engagement becomes even more important when the staff are working in a complex tech or startup environment. In this situation losing this member of staff means not only the expense and inconvenience of the hiring process, but also the hassle of training a replacement member of the team. When you add into this equation the fact that many developers have a three-month notice period it becomes clear that there could be a six month gap between one member of staff leaving, and their replacement being fully trained and ready work.
Being understaffed for this length of time could have serious implications for a business. To avoid this it is vital that the business does everything possible to retain qualified staff and to keep them motivated and engaged with the company. How can this be done? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is useful at this point, as Virgin Media have discovered, and can be directly applied to the idea of Employee Engagement.
One of the most effective tools for employee engagement is an employer displaying a genuine concern for their employees professional development and career progression. The majority of your employees will have some desire to advance their careers and to move forward from their present position in the company. If an organisation is keen to retain employees loyalty it is in their interest to do everything possible to harness their employees ambition and desire for progression. The business should provide them with the opportunities they need to meet their self-actualisation needs. If employees are engaged they will give their best efforts to advance the company, and they will be keen to share their positive experience of the company with their friends and those with whom they come into contact. These employees will be highly successful in their tasks, and become a long-term asset to the organisation. They will in effect become ambassadors for the company, as well as being more loyal employees.
Creating Employee Advocates
With employee advocacy is firmly established in the business world, the days of treating staff like workhorses are over. To build a business that will grow in the long-term, happy, engaged staff need to act as advocates for their business and to share positive information about the business through their personal networks.
Allowing employees the perception that they are trusted to make choices which can affect their working life can have a positive impact on their engagement. They will engage more because they see that what they do really does make a difference to their career. Employers must come to understand that the employer/employee relationship is not a one way street. Employment is a value proposition on both sides, where employers must offer employees reasons to remain engaged while working with you.
In order to facilitate employees professional growth, businesses will need to work out where they are on the Needs spectrum. An effective way to achieve this is to conduct an employee survey. Doing this will show the way each employee perceives their job, and the way they understand their interaction with the company as a whole. Once each employee has been ranked on the Needs Hierarchy it becomes possible to plot their career path, and to increase their engagement on each step of the journey, from barely surviving, all the way to fully motivated, highly productive employee generating substantial revenue for the company.
Lastly, businesses leaders can help employees to grow by offering them a range of paths for career progression – let them choose between a technical route or a managerial route. They could even tailor a unique career path based on each employees specific skill-set, creating new job roles based on the skills of a particular employee. If an employee feels that they being allowed to use all their skills then they are much less likely to start looking elsewhere for fulfilment, they will remain a positive and vocal advocate for your company. Uber drivers are frequently not engaged with their company, and rarely act as advocates for the business, as they have no stake in the success of Uber.
Ownership in a business does help to foster loyalty, and should help to create the highly motivated, dedicated employees that Juno wants to take on Uber. Marco’s determination to engage with Juno employees is proof that employee engagement is now essential in all areas of the business world.