Fraser Kirk is the Marketing and Communications Director for United Capital, a UK construction sector investment organisation. Fraser is responsible for all communication activity for United Capital and their wholly owned group businesses, McGill and Alliance Electrical, as well as a number of affiliate companies.

The UK construction sector has never been particularly quick to adopt certain new technology or challenge the status quo, especially when it comes to communications and marketing. Despite the sector investing heavily in operational efficiencies, workforce training and plant & equipment, the “fluffy stuff” has been neglected. This presents a huge opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

What is employee advocacy?

Employee advocacy may be a relatively new phrase and initiatives to facilitate are becoming more common in workplaces, but the concept isn’t new. Employee advocacy is simply the promotion of the organisation by its workforce. Where employees share information about the company and its culture both on and offline. Whilst most companies, including in the construction sector, have invested in branding, PR and social media, most have yet to consider employee advocacy despite its proven value.

Here’s the interesting bit…your employees are more effective at spreading the company news than your business channels! Take a minute to consider that. Think about how much you have invested into developing you company communications channels; Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, that expensive re-development of your website, that time that marketing team convinced you Tiktok was a good idea! Your employees are a valuable and under-utilised marketing resource.

Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%

It’s pretty standard stuff that you want to engage your people and that when they are, company productivity would improve. There is a difference between engaged employees and those whom advocate for the company, though it is impossible to have the latter without the former.

Employee advocacy is especially interesting in the UK construction sector when we consider the fact that the sector is (obviously!) labour intensive and that company communications channels like social media, typically, don’t have many followers.

Employees are connected to at least 10x more people than the company

Company messages reach 561% further when shared by employees vs. company accounts

Company messages are shared 24x more frequently when distributed by employees vs. the company.

So what?

It’s a valid question, and like all other marketing you need to know what you are trying to achieve before you start. For smaller contractors maximising exposure of the company across your local region might be important, and your marketing budget might be small, or zero! Employee advocacy isn’t costly and it is significantly more effective than many traditional forms of marketing. It is also a great way to recruit, something the industry struggles with.

How do I start an employee advocacy programme?

Firstly, don’t call it that…you will lose the attention of most of your team immediately. A few facts you should know;

About 50% of employees voluntarily share company content

So it isn’t really about starting a programme rather you should think about the type of content that you make available for your employees to share. What do you want them to share, and remember their networks might have a different audience to the company so simply copying content isn’t always the best idea. Consider where your employees will get the content you want them to share, it is reported that

only 2-8% of employee social networks overlap with your company

Many employees in the construction sector will not be on LinkedIn so you may need to look at what channels you use.

Why aren’t they sharing our content already?

The most honest answer is probably the one you don’t want to hear…because they can’t be bothered, or that it isn’t their job. However stats show that there are other reasons:

21.6% don’t know if the company wants them to share the content

16.4% feel they don’t have time to share

15.7% don’t know what to share

15.6% are worried about sharing the wrong thing

Having a chat to your teams can address these quickly and will encourage more employees to advocate for the business. Do you have a company e-newsletter that goes out to your teams? Let them know what to do…most people want to help!

Does this only work online?

Absolutely not!

Many companies are forgetting the basics. Even calling this employee advocacy puts people off, it is simply encouraging your people to tell others about the company. Have a think about your business, and your employees. Where are they having conversations? In the tea room? On the bus? In the gym? At the shops? By keeping your teams informed of what is happening in your business you are curating these conversations and helping your employees contribute to the marketing of the company.

Keep it simple!

  • Think about what you want shared
  • Keep your people informed by telling them about company news and developments
  • Let employees know they can help by sharing company news
  • Show appreciation to the team for helping

Employee advocacy can help spread your company news further and more efficiently than traditional company channels. Communications is not a strong point of the UK construction sector with investment often directed elsewhere, so this is an effective and cheap way to get ahead.