Employee Activism is the Next Wave

Photo by Oskar Yildiz on Unsplash

Nearly 1/3 of workers’ top New Year’s resolutions was to get a new job. A new job was more desired than a promotion, more pay and better work-life balance combined. Their primary reason for searching was lack of a fit between corporate culture and their values. Source: Korn Ferry

Surfers would call this a “forerunner wave,” or the first signs of a new swell. In fact, these early waves are already hitting brands of all sizes — 20,000 Google workers walked off the job to protest sexual misconduct and employees of Hachette Book Group stopped the printing of Woody Allen’s memoir.

1. Understand the fuel of modern movements; you’re holding it

Modern movements are fueled by unprecedented levels of access and engagement. Mobile phones outnumber people on the planet. It should surprise no one that everyone on the planet has something to say. This has flipped activist culture. Ten years ago activism was fringe behavior. Now it is an expected part of the mainstream. This is a paradigm shift in the relationship between employee and employer.

2. Know your brand’s Northstar; it gives employees a safe harbor

A Northstar idea must be genuine and able to withstand constant pressure. The actions and investments you make to prove your commitment to a Northstar offer employees protection in a storm and fend off activism before it takes root. In other words, design, prioritize, and invest to win the war before it starts.

3. Articulate a “no-BS” reason for existing

Don’t rely solely on marketing communications to explain why your brand exists. Brands lead by actions and must articulate a purpose that will withstand heavy scrutiny and be embraced beyond the marketing department.

4. Think of your employees as the base and the swing vote; earn their trust and respect

Consumers are no longer the most important target audience. Employees have seized that primary spot. When a brand legitimately treats internal advocates like external influencers, they create a formidable first line of offense. This force has far more influence than a 30-second commercial.

5. Embrace the shift in generational attitudes, expectations, and engagement

We’ve all seen enough Millenial and Gen Z stats to numb our eyes. Yet, a statistic that rises above most is that “61% of Americans between 18 and 24 have a positive reaction to the word ‘socialism,’ beating out ‘capitalism’ at 58%” Source: Axios

6. Prepare for impact; this wave will hit you

Now is the time to think like a surfer. Information and innovation have transformed the experience of riding waves. One could say the same thing about brands. This is an era defined by the possibility of engaging people everywhere. Employees will be the cornerstone of this new age.

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Jim Moriarty

Jim Moriarty

Aspiring citizen — Insatiable surfer