The story of the humble Post-it note is a ringing endorsement of the idea of employee activation. 3M had a policy of allowing their scientists a certain amount of “sandbox” time each week where they could pursue projects that interested them. Out of this was born a substance that was sticky, but not too sticky, that allowed small pieces of paper to adhere to almost any surface.

Nonprofits are hip to the idea of employee activation as they tend to hire people who are passionate about their cause and who are eager to be evangelists for it. Tapping into that passion propels the nonprofit forward. They are also not as anchored by the fear of missteps as a for-profit company tends to be.

In both cases, the “activation” only occurs because the environment allows for it. Not many employees want to risk offense (and their job status) by busting out of the norm and making things happen on their own. It has to be encouraged from the top.

What is employee activation? Employee activation is a formal program that encourages employees of a business to organically and authentically create and share content about the topics that interest them. This is a more narrow concept than those mentioned above but the takeaway is that your people have things to say and by giving them a forum, you’ll not only gain excellent content, also you’ll have a happier, more fulfilled and more dynamic team.


When you trust your employees by empowering them with the right platforms, tools, and encouragement, they’re more likely to trust you. Trust equals work satisfaction. Satisfied employees equals company success.

The big payoff is that your buyers trust your employees, possibly more than upper management, the PR department, or general brand messaging.


In the constant search for content, you can “mine” the entire organization for subjects and perspectives. No one knows your customers’ issues and desires better than your frontline workers. They can be encouraged to compile both responses to issues and informational content on those issues they know your customers to be interested in.

Since the goal of content is to establish trust through providing relevant and valuable information, using those staff members who are most aware of the customers’ needs is important. No matter where you find them.


If you have ten or twenty channels as opposed to one or two, well, you can do the math. Not only can the value of the content increase by tapping into the interest and stories of your staff, but also the sheer numbers are going to make a huge difference to your outreach goals.


The computer company, Dell started an employee program called “Social Media University” to teach employees how to promote the brand online through social media posts.

Whether it’s an employee telling a friend who needs a new computer about all the features of a laptop she helped to design or responding to nasty snips at the company, Social Media University has taught thousands of Dell staff around the world to know exactly what to say to advance the brand on social media.

To ensure that all social media posts adhere to corporate guidelines, Dell implemented several steps to that end, including:

A governance team
Employees who commit to posting regularly get a social media handle that includes “At Dell” in it, or they can use another handle, as long as they receive approval from the governance team. If they want to start a social media page for a particular aspect of the company’s business—such as product design–they need to get input from the governance team before they set up the page.

Formal training
To post, Dell employees must go through a special training program that teaches them the standards the company expects them to adhere to, such as putting the customer first through world class service, obeying both the platform rules and the law, following the company’s code of conduct, avoiding put-downs, listening to all sides of an issue, and referring customer concerns to the proper department.

Dell estimates that its employee activation program has garnered over $14 million in revenue. It credits that gain to a new audience.

Instead of followers who are primarily tech lovers, the company has gained an audience of potential users interested in their products.

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