Sarah Hill - Manulife

Sarah Hill on creating an employee advocacy program for Manulife

Sarah Hill collaborates with divisions across Manulife to implement a successful global employee advocacy program.

We work in a highly regulated industry, so social media can make people a bit nervous — particularly activating employees.

“Manulife’s social media teams have worked hard the past few years to enable employees, thought leaders, and salespeople throughout the company to leverage social media for business purposes,” member Sarah says.

As the Social Media/Social Selling Manager, she helps activate Manulife's executive thought leaders on social media through profile optimization, content strategy development, and best practices training. She also works with the company's advisors and wholesalers in regulated areas of the business to help them drive lead generation and brand awareness.

But recently, her focus has been on Manulife's voluntary employee advocacy program.

“Employees are in the driver's seat,” she says.

As a part of the employee advocacy program, they have access to a stream of content related to Manulife and their work life to share through their own social media channels (mainly LinkedIn and Twitter).

“They decide what they share, when they want to share it, how often, and on what channels,” Sarah explains.

The program's objectives:

  • Increase employee engagement with their brand story and culture by offering easy-to-access content
  • Increase brand reach by leveraging employee networks to distribute branded content
  • Build a workforce of digitally savvy professionals who represent themselves and the company well online

But in a highly regulated industry, they had to earn buy-in first.

“We work in a highly regulated industry, so social media can make people a bit nervous — particularly activating employees. It was necessary to do a few things at the onset to get buy in for the program,” she says.

Here's how she and the team at Manulife did it:

  • Executive support: “You need a champion at the top who believes in the program and will help pave the way.”
  • Global social media policy: Sarah recommends creating a policy that allows employees to be active on social but clearly outlines the boundaries.
  • Start with a pilot: “We launched with a small group of 18 employees. Test and learn from that group and use their feedback to develop a bigger program. Use them to find out what works and what doesn't.”
  • Training: Develop a thorough-yet-short training program. She focused the training on their role, what's in it for them, best practices for personal branding in social media, and reviewing the global social media policy. Sarah also involved legal and compliance in developing the training deck. “We ensure the training has a strong legal and compliance section that reviews our policies, things to keep in mind when creating and sharing content, etc.”

To roll it out, the team took multiple angles to socialize it across the company.

Sarah started with the people the team knew, leveraging her peers in Digital Branding to invite people and build a small groundswell of advocates. They also leveraged the pilot group to help with recruiting and referring people who would be interested.

As they activated executives and thought leaders into to the program, they added a layer of recruiting where they could invite their team to connect. From there, she also led in-person drop in sessions to encourage employees to sign up, and introduced new hires to the program when they joined the company.

Sarah's advice: have a plan, start small with a pilot group, get legal and compliance involved early, and set goals from the beginning. She also says it's important to have a constant stream of content covering a wide variety of topics and to give your participants an open feedback loop.

In six months, they increased engagement by 300 percent.

They also saw a 500 percent increase in Linkedin profile views from participants, blew away their platform's benchmark with employee participation rates, and drove significant earned media dollars and new talent into the organization.

“We are still in the early stages of building momentum and adding employees to our program. I see that continuing,” says Sarah. “Launching pilots and rolling out programs in the US and Asia would be our next step. The future of growing and building out these global programs and learning the unique ways we will need to adapt them is exciting.”

Sarah's been a member of since 2016. Follow her on Twitter here.