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Starting a Grassroots Employee Network

Memo to corporate and business leaders who want to wield a bigger stick in the political arena: Start a grassroots employee network. Most politically active companies hire lobbyists and make political contributions. But the most effective companies use politically engaged employee networks to supplement that work and bring their corporate activism to the next level.

The first step is educating your workforce about your company’s top legislative priorities. Teach your employees how to lobby their elected officials and create opportunities for them to connect with each other. Invite your congressional member or state legislator to the plant or bring a busload of employees to the statehouse. Don’t be like so many other businesses and wait until the summer before the election to organize a voter registration drive. That might make you feel good, but it won’t move the needle.

Building an employee network is time consuming and hard work, but for corporate leaders, the hardest part is trusting employees with the information they need to be effective advocates.

I always find the number of employees who don’t understand their company’s top legislative priorities to be compelling. When I conduct workshops, I notice a marked difference between senior company leaders and middle managers when it comes to understanding how legislation impacts revenue and jobs.

That’s because too many corporate executives don’t take the time to teach employees about the policy issues that determine the company’s future. I know this because when I ask executives if their rank – and – file could name the company’s top legislative priorities, I usually get a stunned silence.

The good news is that done properly, a legislative action program will teach employees more about the business and help them better understand the validity of management’s decisions. The best possible outcome is that he workforce will develop an allegiance to the company’s interests.

Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that employees will agree with the company’s positions just because they get a paycheck. Employers have to persuade as well as educate their employees. But there’s a bonus: If you take the time to do it the right way, your workforce will understand your decisions better and be more committed to their company’s future.