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Making Employees Into "Ambassadors" (Part 3 of 3)

 

Last week... you read how strong brands do not emerge from organizations where employees feel undervalued, underpaid or unappreciated. This week... read how an employee ambassador program can be a win-win-win: for employees and the customer.

Formalizing the Informal
Allstate adds an additional level of formality to its brand ambassador program. It was launched in 2009 with 34 reputation leadership ambassadors representing individual departments. "We did a little training and then those folks recruited a few ambassadors and then those recruited a few. By 2010, very organically, we had almost 4000 ambassadors," says Laura Glaza, associate manager for the Allstate Ambassador program.

Today there are 60 ambassador leaders at offices around the country, and about 7000 ambassadors overall-about 20 percent of the employee population.

Being an Allstate ambassador is open to any employee to self-identify and self-register; the organization offers training and tools to help ambassadors be effective in their roles.

"We do a bi-weekly education curriculum on our products and services that is very action-oriented," says Glaza, who sees herself as a facilitator for the process. "My role is to make it easy for them by giving them the tools that they need, make sure that they enjoy what we're doing, and feel like they're making a difference so much that they all re-register."

Allstate has worked with the Reputation Institute as it has developed and implemented its program. Rob Jekielek is director, corporate reputation/brand strategy, with the Institute, based in the New York City area.

Laying the Foundation
"When we think of ambassadors for companies it's not just people who are focused on convincing everyone about the two or three top ideas that the company wants to be known for," says Jekielek. "It's very much about engaging people in a personal context and being good risk managers as well as proactive opportunity makers."

The importance of having employees supporting the organization is generally well understood, says Jekielek. But, getting to that point can be exceedingly complex. And it takes time and effort-a relentless drumbeat augmented with ongoing training, education and feedback.

Alignment with business needs is extremely important, stresses Jekielek. "All of these people can't just be carrying around your verbatim message-they have to be able to turn it into their own personal context. They know where the business is going. They know why their role is important. And they actually feel energized by that role and by what the company stands for."

And, ultimately, stresses Glaza, organizations need to be able to measure and demonstrate that their efforts are paying off. "Being able to measure our success is very important. That lets us know we're going in the right direction and it also helps us sell our program to leaders in the company."

Done well, an employee ambassador program can be a win-win-win: for employees, for the company, and-most importantly-for the customer.

Lin Grensing-Pophal has written on topics ranging from health and wellness, to careers and HR-related topics, to marketing and social media. Her most recent book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Strategic Planning" (Penguin), was released in spring 2011. Lin is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists.