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December 16, 2019
Brad Jamison

Beyond company swag: How to build a team of brand champions and encourage employee referrals

Today’s workers want to find a job that means more than just a paycheck.

They want to work for companies that support the things they’re passionate about. This is great news for employers—89% of employees who reported being passionate about their job also reported feeling focused, immersed and energized in their work.

But just because an employee is already passionate about their job doesn’t mean they’ll instantly start posting on social media and advocating for your brand. You have to create an environment that inspires your employees to become brand champions, and that takes creativity and grit. Good thing People Ops pros already have both of these things!

When it comes down to it, empowering employees to feel proud while working at your company requires far more than giving them company-branded swag. Although there's value in sweatshirts and coffee mugs, building a team of employer brand champions starts with the larger company culture. 

Here’s how to build a connected team of brand champions—and increase those ever-important employee referrals.

Building brand champions 

Genuine brand champions come from having a great company culture, and it’s not just us:

“We’ve found that the employees who experience high levels of satisfaction work smarter, harder, and take greater pride in a job well done. They’re the ultimate brand advocates.” –Kathleen Reidenbach, Chief Commercial Officer Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

Defining your company culture 

Company culture encompasses everything from company values, expectations, ethics, a mission statement, and work environment. In order to inspire your employees to be a brand champion, you should have a firm grasp on your company culture. 

There are a few ways to define your culture but they all start with taking an honest look at your company. Ask yourself honest questions like

  • Is the day-to-day of my company meeting the brand’s vision and values?
  •  Are my employees actively engaged?
  •  Is the structure of each department designed for growth? 

From how employees are performing to how you structure each department to your companies overall vision and values—every aspect of the company defines your culture.

If you want to take a deeper dive into how your employees feel about your culture, implement an employee survey that way you can get honest feedback about the culture and ways to improve to align with your vision and values. 

Once you’ve defined your company culture, you have the power to use it to your advantage and inspire employer brand advocacy in your employees.

Leverage company culture to build brand champions

  1. Give recognition and rewards 

79% of employees who quit their jobs claim that a lack of appreciation was a major reason for leaving.

As an employer taking time to recognize your employees, even with a simple ‘thank you’ will make a huge difference in the way your employees feel. When you recognize and reward your employees for their efforts, you boost morale and get employees excited about working for a company that openly appreciates their hard work. 

  1. Have open communication 

Everyone wants to feel like they belong. 85% of employees said they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news

It seems like a simple task, but companies often fail at making their employees feel included. And If employees feel alienated, it’s easy for them to stray from your company vision. Having open communication is the best way to keep employees in the loop and engaged with your employer brand and work culture. 

  1. Rethink your onboarding process

To succeed in building brand champions, your company culture and brand vision should be clear from day one. Onboarding is your first opportunity to show your employees what your company represents.

According to SHRM, there are four elements that go into a great onboarding experience: self-confidence, role clarity, social integration, and knowledge of the culture. “When executed effectively, these four elements result in onboarding that is 69% more likely to retain employees for three or more years.” 

And not to mention, employee retention is huge in creating a culture of employer brand advocates. 

When you utilize elements of your company culture to build a team of brand champions, your employees feel a greater sense of pride in their work and for your company. And when your culture is thriving, your employees will shout it from the rooftops.

Motivating employees to refer their friends

By supporting employee referrals as part of your culture, you’re inviting your employees to be part of your employer brand AND your company’s growth. 🙌

One way to encourage referrals is to let your team know when you open up a new position. Let them know how that position will work with other departments and add to the success of the company. Inspiring your employees to participate in recruiting strengthens the relationships within your company adds to the overall happiness in the office. 

Along with strong company culture, there are a few other things that motivate your employees to refer their friends:

  1. Being involved  

Everyone likes to feel involved. Allowing your employees to participate in the growth of the company truly enhances their level of involvement (and their engagement). If your employees feel like they have the power to contribute to the company’s success, their happiness at work increases.

If your employees are referring candidates, they’re more connected in the workplace, and having close friends at work makes you seven times more likely to be engaged in your job. When you think about it when you have a friend to experience the good and the bad, it makes work all the merrier. 

  1. Implementing an employee referral program

Creating a straightforward employee referral process will make your employees that much more likely to refer their friends. You don’t want the process to burden your employees and take time away from their workload. 

It can even be as simple as submitting a Google Form with their referral's information.

  1. Exciting incentives 

Everyone needs a little incentive every now and then, so when your employees put in the work, be sure to recognize and reward them for their contributions. Here are a few incentive ideas for a successful employee referral: 

  • A referral cash bonus 
  • Customizable gifts  
  • Travel rewards 
  • Free lunch credits 
  • Extra funds on their Zestful card

Although a reward shouldn’t be the driving factor in encouraging your employees to refer, rewards add fun and appreciation to the process.

At the end of the day, brand champions and employee referrals come from having a robust company culture. So, if you want your employees to refer their friends, you need to have a clear understanding of your culture. 

Then you can leverage your culture by including employees in the growth of your company by making employee referrals easily accessible and encouraging referrals with exciting incentives.   

When your culture keeps your employees happy, it encourages them to work hard, stay with your company, and champion your brand.

Zestful: recognize and reward your employees—minus the admin work.

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