Impact of Influencers on Organisational Performance

It’s a well-established practice in Marketing, but increasingly HR leaders are utilising the impact of influential individuals to champion messages and approaches, and to gain valuable feedback. And it’s how we live our lives. Social media platforms have given rise to a new generation of digital “Influencer”. Instagram alone has over 40,000 identified “influencers” who are used to increase engagement with programs from new product launches to social and environmental causes.
Marketers channel the power of Influencers to drive brand recognition and engagement, as well as enhancing the loyalty of their most valuable customer groups. Rather than communicating directly to everybody they need to get their message to, marketers pinpoint key individuals and inspire / reward them to get the word out. It is an immensely efficient, cost-effective and targeted way of promoting a product or program. Why waste time and effort on communicating out to the masses, when there is the potential to make your messages resonate more forcibly with your target audience by targeting just a few? Using key individuals quickly expands reach to new and existing consumers. This isn’t to say that you stop communicating with everybody, but an Influencer strategy running alongside your usual activity, can increase engagement and loyalty exponentially.
The power of Influencer Marketing is based on certain identifiable individuals having a larger and more highly developed network than average, which can be leveraged to drive a brand’s message to the larger market. These networks are built on trust, due to the Influencer’s authentic personal experience and expertise, and this trust lends an enormous amount of credibility to the message being conveyed.
Consumer-focussed organisations are using Influencer Marketing to great effect. Johnnie Walker’s influencers travelled to Milan for the F1 GP; to Scotland to experience the company’s heritage; and to Shanghai to capture the launch of a new luxury product [1].  Iceland Foods has more recently concentrated on influential, “real” families as opposed to celebrities, reflecting the fact that customers are now much more comfortable with taking views from Influencers from within their own peer group [2]. The Internet and social media has driven this change in the way we do things.

How does this apply to my HR strategy?

Substitute engagement with, and loyalty to, a consumer brand, with a workplace or employer brand and much the same principles are at work. Influencers in the workplace sway opinion, enable others to better understand and engage with the purpose of their work, and make people experience a clearer voice within the organisation.
The power of networks within organisations has been written about in the Harvard Business Review and other leading media, and has been extensively researched by academics [3]. In terms of being a core part of any given organisation’s HR strategy, it is growing rapidly. This is being driven by Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) Tools which offer practitioners a simple and objective way of identifying Influencers across their organisation.
Senior leaders, ably assisted by the HR team, can pick who they think the Influencers are, and it has previously been common for them to do so. But this has suffered from their subjective assessments. ONA makes it possible to remove bias and find out who actually wields the influence by asking your workforce as a whole, and forward-thinking HR and business leaders now favour this method. Finding the truly influential individuals can have a huge impact on the success of your initiatives. Ambitious and innovative organisations are using their Internal Influencers to drive through change programs successfully, improve communication flow, and increase engagement. For 3 example case studies, click here.

Increasing Engagement

Using the marketing influencer technique, organisations can use key internal influencers to provide a platform for improving engagement.  One enabler of engagement is a resonant “Employee Voice” where employees are central to the organisation’s on-going conversation and this, in turn, enables more collaboration in their work. Internal Influencers are the natural “listening ear” within your organisation, but unless you know who they are, you cannot harness the power of what they know. As well as improving communication outwards, they can also improve message flow in the opposite direction; back to managers or senior leaders.
Another enabler of engagement is “Organisational Integrity”, where the values on the wall are truly reflected in day-to-day behaviours.  Influencers are highly visible individuals who can be equipped to demonstrate the values and behaviours of the organisation to their trusted network, in the same way senior leaders are encouraged to.

Improving Communication

In order to engage, leaders need to be able to provide a strong, strategic narrative to communicate the purpose and direction of the organisation. Influential employees can massively increase the penetration of these key messages, reaching on average around 70% of your total workforce through their informal networks. (In comparison, the reach of senior leaders averages around 5%).
Influential employees are credible sources and are therefore ideally placed to enhance communication, particularly in areas where communication flow can be a challenge. Influencers also enable positive communication and interaction in the workplace, which results in improved emotional, physical, and mental well-being amongst staff. These energising interactions increase organisational commitment, innovation and engagement.

Mapping Your Influencers

Social networks can be clearly mapped using ONA. People Navigator (powered by OrgMapper), a powerful ONA system, uses an original methodology to crowd-source data from employees across your business to pinpoint your Influencers.  Influencer profiles are determined by both professional capabilities and social connectivity, including the number of times they have been nominated for each of these by their peers. Understanding how employees influence each other’s experience of the workplace gives leaders a novel perspective for developing and deploying programs that can have a significant impact on organisational performance. With adequate training and support, these local leaders can ensure quality communications and act as a platform for involvement and engagement of employees throughout the entire organisation.
To hear more about how we can identify your Influencers and how they can be deployed to support you through change and innovation, talk to us now.
[1] 5 Brands on Instagram That Succeed With Influencer Marketing 
[2] Marketing Week: What’s next for influencer marketing? 
[3] Building engagement from the ground up: How top organizations leverage networks to drive employee engagement, Rob Cross et al 
© Tim Pointer, Starboard, 2016. Photo courtesy of Jurgen Appelo.