When it comes to educating and mobilizing employees, few companies do it better than Chevron. And why not? They have been at it for 15 years.
Roughly one in five of Chevron’s 20,000 U.S. employees are part of the Chevron Advocacy Network (CAN), a group that has volunteered to learn more about issues and help the company carry its message. It also includes retired Chevron employees, Chevron gas station owners, and friends of the company.
For years, Chevron published it’s now-famous Aunt Edna newsletter, which was created as an educational tool after an employee found himself at the Thanksgiving dinner table explaining energy issues to his aunt and a lightbulb went off.
“The feedback has been really good,” said Alex Schisel, the Chevron Advocacy Network Lead. “We have had the Aunt Edna program and an open-door concept that allowed employees to reach out to CAN with their questions.”
Recently, Chevron rebranded the program as Together We CAN (a play on the acronym for the Chevron Advocacy Network) and modernized their network to use Phone2Action’s digital tools, such as text messaging and a Civic Action Center that helps employees register to vote and cast a ballot.
“The 2020 election is something we can all rally around,” Schisel said. “It doesn’t matter where you stand on the issues or which side you choose to vote. This is low-hanging fruit. This is something that advocacy networks can all rally around. Everyone should exercise their right to vote.”
‘We Empower Employees’
We had a chance to catch up with Schisel in October as he was preparing to appear on a Phone2Action webinar and ask him why a company the size of Chevron, which has been in business for more than 100 years and operates in 180 countries, takes the time to educate its employees.
The answer we got was both passionate and nuanced. As a major player in the industry, Chevron is active on many issues, from climate change to hydraulic fracturing. Employees, Schisel says, are one of the company’s greatest assets because they represent an authentic voice.
“If I’m talking with my neighbor from across the street or simply at a kid’s soccer game, community members want to hear from me about our industry, much more than seeing it on the news because they know me personally,” he said.
“Most of our employees are not lobbyists,” he added. “They are telling their personal stories.”
Chevron employees live in the communities where they work, and they can add perspective to the conversation over issues. For example, gas station owners, known inside Chevron as marketers and retailers, are often very active in local government and business circles.
“These marketers and retailers are on the frontlines of their communities and they are very influential,” Schisel said.
The mission at Chevron is to equip employees with training and information to facilitate those local conversations.
As he put it, “We empower employees and industry advocates to tell their story.”
‘An Awareness Program’
How does Chevron do that? One way is to simply provide information. The Chevron Action Network is judicious about the amount of email it sends and much of what they do is informational.
“We operate as an awareness program,” Schisel said. “We’re out there to educate employees on key issues they could be hearing about in their communities. That’s really a good spot to be. We don’t get into politics so much. We’re really more about awareness of the issues.”
Chevron provides information on key issues and encourages employees to simply tell their stories. Their new CAN Champions program provides training to those who want it, a half-day session with an outside expert on how to hold conversations and bring in credible information.
“We encourage folks to use the facts and use the science-based studies when they talk about key issues, whether it be about climate change, hydraulic fracturing or about companies paying their fair share in taxes,” Schisel said. “These are things where the facts are on our side and we just need to stay educated.”
Meanwhile, the company is experimenting with new technology to grow the network and keep it more active. For example, it used text messaging to register employees for an event. It has also done communications timed to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and Earth Day, collecting employees’ stories and encouraging them to contact lawmakers as appropriate.
“We looked at integrating new digital technology when we first partnered with Phone2Action,” Schisel said. “We had no idea we would be seeing these great impacts so quickly. We were super impressed.”
Subscribe for Updates
Get the latest civic engagement trends, best practices, and news, right in your inbox.