An Explorative Study of Employee Advocacy

Louise Elisabeth Hansen & Cecilie Thode Ostenfeld

Student thesis: Master thesis


We are currently experiencing an increased attention to the employees as crucial stakeholders for the organization. This group is viewed as some of the most credible, and as actual human faces to an otherwise often faceless organization. As a response, a new communication strategy has made its way to the forefront of organizational trends: Employee Advocacy. This master thesis seeked to explore this phenomenon in answering What are the considerations of the organization when introducing an EA strategy and how does the executed strategy resonate with the core premises of EA? The theoretical framework for this master thesis was based on three overall concepts: Control in the modern workplace, credibility of communication and branding as a common exercise. The theoretical foundation for the investigation on control in the modern workplace was set on a number of different concepts, but primarily took its point of departure in the thoughts on patterns of control brought forward by Edward (1979), and later modified by Tompkins and Cheney in 1985. To explore the important communicative implications in employee advocacy, we invoked the model of Two Flows (Lazarsfeld et al., 1948) and the concept of Electronic Word of Mouth (Kulmala et al., 2013). These concepts were further supported by a theoretical foundation exploring the concept of credibility by Metzger and Flanagin (2010). Lastly, two themes explain the relationship between the organization and its employees; branding and voice. The broad concept of branding was narrowed down to focus primarily on personal branding as a key premise in employee advocacy (Shepherd, 2005). Further, voice was explored as an active extra-role behavior, important to perform employee advocacy. To support these thoughts, the model on organizational culture and identity from Hatch and Schultz (2002) explain the dynamics in creating a sharing culture. For the present master thesis, ten interviews were conducted in organizations actively working with employee advocacy.These insights, combined with the theoretical framework laid the foundation for the primary data collection. The findings suggested that even though employee advocacy as a named strategy is novel, the underlying premises for the strategy are fundamental; creating engagement, credibility and control. The journey to create engagement was explored through the stages of implementation in the different organi- 3 zations. The organizations had slightly different approaches to the strategy, but all focused greatly on scoping out the potential for their employee advocacy strategy, engaging the employees and making sure that the initiative was made accessible to the organization. The analysis of credibility found that this abstract concept has a great impact on multiple layers of the employee advocacy strategy and that retaining the credibility in the organization, employees and content is crucial in a successful EA strategy. Lastly, the concept of control was analyzed. The findings showed that the control inherent in the peer-to-peer supervision, social recognition and even direct control by the way of the EA platform was apparent in all of the organizations. On the basis of these findings, the present master thesis discussed the novelty of employee advocacy by asking the question if EA is merely a management fashion (Abrahamson, 1996) and further, the different dynamics in the sender-receiver relationship, found to be the most important relationship in the analysis. This relationship was discussed in the light of both the concept of autocommunication and a further development of the “common-purpose” model presented by EA consultant Rikke Damgaard. Based on the abovementioned, this thesis found that the organizations had common considerations about their EA endeavours, building on an already engaged workforce. In this it was concluded that EA in itself cannot create engagement, but can amplify it to an extent that resonates internally. Additionally, the thesis concluded that strategy leads cannot blindly rely on EA to instil credibility in their corporate content, but that these should be aware of the dynamic scope of this credibility, which is also the case of the control element present in all of the surveyed organizations. Lastly, the present master thesis points to areas where future research projects can develop insights to establish knowledge on the long term effects of an EA strategy.

EducationsCand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Multikulturel Kommunikation i Organisationer), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages271
SupervisorsLars Thøger Christensen