In this politically charged environment, many employees are on a mission to make a change and impact on society. These individuals are known as Employee Activists.
Employee activism can occur in a variety of ways. It can simply be colleagues initiating a conversation with on another, sharing an opinion or comment about ones company on social media, re-posting an opinion or comment on social media, or expressing an opinion at a company-wide meetings or intranet. Taken a little further, it can also be signing a petition, encouraging others not to work for a particular employer, participating in a protest/march or quitting a job to let an employer know you don’t agree with their culture or beliefs.
In a study conducted by Weber Shandwick, in partnership with United Minds and KRC Research, it was found that almost four in 10 employees (38%) report that they have spoken up to support or criticize their employees’ actions over a controversial issue that affects society, with hopes of gaining the attention. This attention is focused on other employees, organizational leaders and the general public with the goal that their activism would influence their employers policies or actions. The demographics of this study were broken down as follows: Millennials are most likely to be Employee Activists (48%), followed by Gen-Xers (33%) and Baby Boomers (27%).
Some causes seem like a no-brainer to support, such as workers and women rights, anti-bullying and protecting the climate. However, employers tread a fine line in supporting some of the extreme views of employees while balancing potentially differing opinions of shareholders, customers and other partnerships and alliances.
Below are some tips to support the rights of your employees while remaining diplomatic:
- Broadcast a clear corporate purpose and culture. If you make your company’s belief system public, by default you help craft the message. This transparency will enable employees to align with your goals instead of against them.
- Provide recommended social media guidelines. You don’t want to censor your employees so embrace their cause(s) with recommendations for best practices when engaging on social media with socially charged topics.
- Give employees time to participate. Whether it’s the creation of Employee Resource Groups to provide a platform for employees to have the voice(s) heard or designated PTO to support the causes that matter to them, let your employees know you believe in what matters to them.
- Connect with employees passions and fears. Providing a culture of empathy lets your employees know that although your position may not be exactly where they stand you are aware that the issues matter and that their opinion does too. Consider creating surveys to get a pulse check on issues that employees are thinking about.
- Be part of the solution. Support the causes that align with your company’s values and be transparent about the ones that don’t. Showing employees that you are willing to take a stand when appropriate will let them know your company has a voice when it matters.