‘Employee activism’ on the rise: Study

Social media allows employees to draw visibility to, defend their employer

In response to the growing prevalence of social media, ‘employee activism’ has become an emerging trend, according to a global study of 2,300 employees by Weber Shandwick.

Globally, an estimated one in five employees (21 per cent) is an ‘employee activist,’ meaning they draw visibility to their organization and defend their employer from negative criticism. An additional 33 per cent of employees have high potential to become employee activists.

In Canada, the number of employee activists is in line with the 21 per cent global figure — but 43 per cent of employees are considered high-potentials when it comes to employee activism.

This represents an important opportunity for employers to leverage this support, said the study.

“Canadian employers should embrace the engagement opportunity employee activism presents,” said Greg Power, president of Weber Shandwick Canada.

“Identifying and activating employees willing to rise to levels of extraordinary support for their organizations should be on the C-Suite agenda at every Canadian company.”

Social media is critical to employee engagement and helps fuel employee activism, found the study.

Employees in Canada reported that:

• 40 per cent of them post messages, pictures or videos about their employer on social media

• 27 per cent have shared praise or positive comments about their employer online

• 26 per cent share messages, pictures or video about their employer online without any encouragement from the employer

• eight per cent have shared criticism or negative comments

• three per cent have posted something about their employer on social media that they regret

Globally, 33 per cent of employers encourage their employees to use social media to share information about the organization — in Canada, 23 per cent of employers do so.

The trend of employee activism has its roots in the challenges facing the workforce today. Major factors in Canada include:

• Organizational changes: More than eight in 10 (86 per cent) of employees recently experienced an employer change such as lay-offs, mergers/acquisitions, leadership turnover or financial slowdown.

• Ineffective employee communications: Only 47 per cent of employees understand their employer’s goals

• Weak engagement: Only 34 per cent of employees are deeply engaged with their employer

Nearly six in 10 employees (57 per cent) have either defended their employer to family and friends, or publicly such as on a website, blog or in a newspaper.

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