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Posted on: 24 Jul 2010
Link: http://empoweringabc.com/2010/07/24/a-is-for-advocates/

EmpoweringABC.com
The Building Blocks of Business and Personal Success

Posted on: 24 Jul 2010

A is for Advocates (internal)

Advocates are your supporters.  Your defenders.  Your champions.

For organizations, they can be found both internally and externally.

Today I want to share some thoughts on internal Advocates.

Another name for internal Advocates are your Engaged employees.  These are the people who are fully involved in, and enthusiastic about their work.  They probably have a strong emotional attachment to their company and have a good number of friends in the workplace.  They are committed, and they try to do their best every day.

Internal advocates don’t necessarily work longer hours.  They don’t necessarily innovate or take risks, and they may not even stand out in traditional performance reviews.  But they are very important to upholding the morale of the workplace (especially in challenging times!) and influence the people around them in positive ways.

Surprisingly, not many companies seem to empower their internal Advocates.  Especially large global companies will try hard to operate as “meritocracies” where rewards, promotions, and financial compensation is based on measurable achievements.

That sounds great, and more importantly — it sounds fair.

But internal Advocates often provide benefits that are hard to measure or don’t contribute to the bottom line in clearly defined ways.

How do you measure team or company morale quantitatively?  You can try to assign a value to it and measure this from time to time, but it’s trying to attach a number to a feeling and therefore subjective and unreliable.  It can also be hard to pinpoint the cause of swings in morale (unless, of course, it’s something obvious like significant layoffs).

Will it always be clear to management when an internal Advocate’s efforts are contagious and lead to better performance of several other employees?  How about lower turnover and therefore lower HR costs, or less bleeding of key talent?

One of the worst things that can happen is when a once engaged employee becomes disengaged, or even swings towards being actively disengaged.  There are probably a myriad of reasons why this might happen, but one resounding cause is likely to be perceived apathy from superiors.

What can you do?

Even if you’re not a manager, as long as you care about your organization you can do something to help.

It starts with being aware that you probably have a number of internal Advocates already.  Who are they?

Smiling and generally being in a good mood is a big clue.

People who try to get a group together for lunch or after work gatherings may or may not be internal Advocates.  But someone who plans a social gathering on weekends and invites co-workers is more likely to be one.

If someone seems concerned about the company’s public image, that is another hint.  Internal Advocates are often emotionally attached to their workplace and feel some personal hurt if their company is getting negative attention.

Community involvement with or on behalf of the organization.  Bringing up a genuine topic of inefficiency or waste.  Bringing in snacks for the coffee area.  Doing little extras that are sometimes hard to notice.

The key is to observe the office dynamics and see what social roles each person plays.  Which people are the glue that keeps the team together?

Empowering Advocates

Encourage and support them.

If you are a manager, don’t be afraid to join a social gathering.  Maybe even suggest one yourself and allocate some budget if that is allowable.

Talk with your Advocates and listen carefully to anything they might say about the company.  Internal Advocates often have their fingers on the pulse of the organization and can pick up on things that need to be fixed.  Advocates care about the company and appreciate open doors and listening ears.

Acknowledge their contributions and thank them.  Sometimes all it takes is a pat on the back to keep your internal Advocates going.  This can be from managers or co-workers and is probably one of the cheapest, yet most effective forms of positive reinforcement.

Internal Advocates are some of the most valuable people an organization can possess, yet they are often overlooked and under-appreciated.  I hope that we can start to turn this around, empower them, and work to improve engagement throughout our organizations.

If you have anything you’d like to share, comment on or criticize, please use the Reply area below.  This is a topic I care about and I’d love to hear what you think.
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One Response to “A is for Advocates (internal)”

  1. Jon

    G’day Kevin,

    Agree with much you say. Long ago companies had jobs titled “Manager” whose primary role was short and long term engagement and development. Now we have CXOs who primary role is technical in finance, IT, logistics… As human resources become scare (17M will leave the Japanese workforce of 65M in the next 20 years) keeping employees engaged (and thus being able to keep them among other things) will return to centre stage

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