BUILDING TRUST WITH EMPLOYEE AMBASSADORS
Stakeholder engagement is crucial at a time when the public’s trust of business leaders is shrinking faster than an ice cube in hot coffee. This is bad news for companies since corporate profits are tied to public trust. A recent Pew Research Center study says the American public trusts business leaders even less than they trust news reporters or government agencies. Company leaders rank number two (right behind politicians) as the least trusted group in the USA!
This news comes at a time when more organizations are waking up to the importance of earning stakeholder trust. One answer is investing in a robust stakeholder engagement program headed by employee ambassadors. This is a smart move, because another study shows the public finds your employees to be very believable. This means your employees are a goldmine of goodwill waiting to happen. They are uniquely positioned to help you earn the coveted stakeholder trust your organization needs to thrive in today’s skeptical public arena.
“This means your employees are a goldmine of goodwill waiting to happen.”
Public stakeholder groups often hold the key to your organization getting “green lights” or “red lights” on important matters that affect your business. Stakeholder engagement is a method for attracting and involving individuals, groups, and organizations who could be impacted by your organization’s operations. Years ago, one of our clients was thrust into the costly chaos of unfounded claims in lawsuits related to perceptions of environmental issues. They asked us to help them develop stakeholder outreach initiatives, as well as an employee ambassador program to address the negative perceptions. The results were immediate! Their leaders said not only did the number of lawsuits start dropping, but they witnessed a true shift in the company’s culture. Employees valued being trusted with earning community trust and they cherished taking the lead on stakeholder relationships. They were also thrilled to be given the skills they needed to set their organization up for success.
“Employees valued being trusted with earning community trust and they cherished taking the lead on stakeholder relationships!“
There are numerous benefits to putting your employees in the driver’s seat for building stakeholder trust and here are some of the top ones:
1. Fewer surprises. When your public stakeholders are engaged with employee ambassadors, you experience fewer surprises. As stakeholders realize they have access to your organization, they are less apt to post something negative on social media, complain to local officials or call the news media. By giving them access to your employee ambassadors, the odds are they will vent to them first before going elsewhere.
2. Quality information. Information is power and when stakeholders trust your employees, they are typically more open about sharing their thoughts. Once a regional power utility company shocked the residents in three counties with a very cold, formal and legalistic sounding letter delivered by the postal service. The counties formed coalitions and used the power of social media (and elected officials) to quickly shut down the company’s plans. Had the company allowed their employee ambassadors to gather quality information first, it is very possible they could have reaped a different reaction and outcome.
3. Improved communication. Effective communication involves exchanging ideas, beliefs, criteria and data. Communication is a process that often involves wading through the weeds to discover common ground and understanding. When your employees are constantly communicating with stakeholders, they build a level of trust that allows stakeholders to hear company messages and facts – even if they do not agree with everything.
“Just because you speak, does not mean you are heard. You must earn permission to be heard.” – Benchmark Communications
4. More consistent messages. Some companies are fearful of informing their frontline employees about business or customer news. But studies that show highly engaged employees, (the ones who make you most profitable) have a high desire for senior leaders to communicate business news with them. When you allow your employees to be on the same page as your leaders, then your stakeholder messages will be much more consistent.
5. Improved reputation. A good reputation is earned through honesty and consistency. When public stakeholders feel they know your organization and can count on your organization to look out for their needs as well as your organization’s goals, then trust happens. When trust occurs, it has great potential to blossom into a good reputation.
As your organization moves toward the 2020 New Year, encourage your organization to consider better ways of building and maintaining stakeholder trust. Share information with your leaders that shows how increased stakeholder engagement can result in good things for your company, including stronger profits. Investing in a solid stakeholder engagement program makes good sense for everyone affected by the success of your business. And you might be pleasantly surprised how it can also boost employee engagement levels and morale!
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ABOUT GAIL & BENCHMARK COMMUNICATIONS
Gail lives on a Texas ranch with her family, five talented horses, one very cute donkey and an entertaining pack of dogs, cats and chickens! We support a horse therapy program for people with disabilities, as well as local animal shelters that rescue abandoned dogs and cats.
Benchmark has consulted with and coached leaders and associates from all 50 USA states and more than 25 countries. The Benchmark team provides award-winning leadership and communication strategies to Fortune 500 groups so they can achieve their business goals. We provide consulting, training and coaching services in: leadership development, storytelling / presentations, reputation management, crisis response, media skills, stakeholder engagement, effective communications, public speaking and soft skills training.