Is there a need for employee engagement, brand advocacy and social media in Islamic finance?
The overwhelming consensus in business is that it is about people and about providing value to people. Over the last decade the business world has changed drastically; the deterioration of trust in the financial sector coupled with organizational practices that demonstrate detached leadership and an ever-increasing preference of people to trust referrals and word-of-mouth more than paid advertising – in many ways, thanks to social media – has resulted in employee engagement and savvy social media utilization.
For the Islamic finance industry the task is more than having a few social media accounts and putting up a corporate message now and then. The challenge is to engage the man-on-the street and have a conversation that leads to business.
For decades Islamic finance has been shrouded in its technical complexities. As trust becomes more and more critical in business relationships, the industry needs to demystify it’s technicalities in order to be able to present simple value propositions that ‘mainstreet’ understands. Similarities with financial sectors like responsible finance from the conventional world need to be explained in simple terms. Such alignment will open a greater opportunity area for the industry.
At an organizational level to achieve social demystification the premise begins with employee engagement.
Today employee engagement is a critical strategic organizational requirement for any company interested in achieving their goals successfully. There are many experts available online on how employee engagement can be done. Needless to say for each organization the needs would be different and a prescribed and formatted approach would not work. But that is a topic for another day.
For Islamic finance organizations a good starting point for getting employees on board is with its business objectives. Involving the employees in developing the business strategy and its initiatives creates ownership and trust as the employees themselves have recommended the actions and would be executing them.
With some strategic human resource planning, in the area of both functional and behavioural competencies, the departmental results can be tied back to employee performance and thus provide the employee a direct line-of-sight to results of performance and non-performance. While most do have this, the question to ask is: what is the impact and how is it measured, if at all?
For an employee, having contributed to the business strategy and understanding how self-performance would affect the achievement of the goal, the performance comes in the form of brand advocacy.
Research shows that when an employee pitches for the organization, as its brand advocate, it’s the strongest form of recommendation that works. Whether it’s the CEO presenting to the board or it’s a front-line executive answering customer queries, the interaction creates an experience for the recipient. An experience based on which critical decisions are made.
Effective brand advocacy is only possible when there is complete trust, ownership and understanding of the business objectives. It’s tough to build such brand advocacy but not impossible. Based on the emotional intelligence of the organization, adequate time has to be given to build this up.
The process of building up effective brand advocacy involves use of social media by employees and the organization.
The advent of smartphones and internet technological developments has created a distinct shift in communication habits among all. Key among these habits is the use of social media.
(Social media data courtesy: We Are Social)
With the world literally living on social media, it’s necessary to get authentic conversations going through this channel of communication in order to create relationships that lead to business growth.
Brand advocacy enables employees to reach this conversation through personal network of friends and family, while an organisational social media account engages directly with the key stakeholders. What this dual conversation does is provide a transparent and authentic platform for a brand to pitch it’s story. As people engage, feedback flows and a genuine rapport emerges through the message of the organization, the brand has a great opportunity to grow.
As we adapt to more technological advances and as the Islamic digital economy goes from strength to strength, it’s time for the global Islamic finance industry to connect the dots between employee engagement, brand advocacy and social media to give people the service they so badly need.