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10 Jul 2019

How to Use Employee Stories to Strengthen Your Employer Brand

Storytelling isn’t a new idea. It’s how information has been passed down from generation to generation since cave drawings and ancient hieroglyphics. In our modern age, when done strategically and thoughtfully, storytelling is a way for organizations to attract, engage and retain talent who will thrive in their respective workplaces. It offers companies the opportunity to say, “here’s how we’re different and why you should consider working here [over that other shop down the street].” It is a way to influence top talent to consider your workplace and accept your offer over a competitor’s. And a way to say more than simply “we’re hiring” or “we’re a great place to work.” Job seekers need and want more.

Storytelling becomes the proof in the employer brand pudding.

It’s one of the best ways to tell your organization’s story is through showcasing your employees’ experiences, says author and HR industry leader Lars Schmidt. Ahead of his interactive session on building employer brand at HR Innovation & Tech Fest 2019, he outlines the power of storytelling to connect us to knowledge, opportunity and one another.

Where to Start in Your Employee Story Journey

Today’s candidates and employees expect easy access to corporate information, more personalized communication, authenticity, and transparency. A Harris Interactive Survey for Glassdoor states that “67% of employers believe retention rates would be higher if candidates had a clearer picture of what to expect about working at a company before taking the job.” Finding and telling stories from inside your organization is a fundamental way to be more transparent, build your employer brand, and impact talent acquisition and retention metrics. It’s simple — stories help candidates truly understand your employment experience and decide: “is this a place I’d be happy working or do I want a story like that?”

If you are wondering where to even begin on your employee story journey, here are three vital steps to take before you get started.

1. Think Outcomes Before Tactics

Before putting out a call for stories, first, define what it is you are trying to achieve. What do you want people to know, do and feel as a result of reading these stories? Is your organization going through an internal change that requires shining a light on employees’ work? Are you losing top talent due to misperceptions about career growth? Are you trying to hire more women into technology careers or struggling to attract university graduates? Define your goals first in order to measure progress later.

2. Put Yourself in a Candidate’s Shoes

When was the last time you looked for a new job? If recently, consider the information you wanted to know about your prospective employers and where you searched to find that information. Additionally, consider talking to specific employee populations, new graduate hires or top performers about which sources influenced their job search decisions and what type of information they were specifically looking for in new employment opportunities. Knowing what your target audience wants — and where they consume career-related content — will help your organization make more strategic and effective storytelling decisions.

3. Align Stories to a Bigger Purpose

Employee stories are essential to amplify who your organization is, why it exists and what you stand for. And content needs a strategy to be effective. Who you are may be defined by firm values, your purpose or mission, a vision statement, operating principles, defined employer brand pillars or a combination of these. To gain a competitive advantage through your employee stories they need to be grounded in purpose and connected to the why. By telling stories that also align with your company’s mission, values, and employer brand, you can begin to attract individuals who share similar values and who may thrive inside your unique culture.

Once you know what you’re striving to achieve, have greater audience insight, and understand that content needs a strategy, it’s time to start the story journey.

Storytelling Builds Trust and Engagement

Exaqueo, a full-service employer brand experience firm, works regularly with clients to identify powerful and effective employee stories. What the firm found is that some of the most impactful stories were those focused on giving back.

“As an employer brand firm, we know that an integral part of an employer brand is the stories you tell,” shared Susan LaMotte, founder and CEO of exaqueo who has been named a Top 20 Future-of-Work Thought Leader. “Based on these stories we uncovered, our idea was to create a digital storybook featuring employees, recognized by their employers for their commitment to giving back. This is a collection of real stories from everyday heroes that connect back to each organizations’ unique employment experience. It demonstrates the opportunity that exists for all employers to showcase their employee stories.”

When employees share their experience of giving back, we see the people and the organization through a different lens. The individual is no longer just a sales executive. They are a mother who volunteers at a local hospital; the father who spends his Thursday nights leading a local Boy Scout troop; the sister who helps her niece train for the Girls on the Run 5K. Stories are impactful. When told from an employee’s perspective, the impact of a story goes beyond simply attracting people to influencing like-minded individuals to consider becoming a vital member of your organization.

According to the 2017 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER, “a person like yourself (60 percent) is now far more credible than a CEO (37 percent).” By sharing employee stories, you can begin to build trust in your organization through your people and your content. By specifically showcasing stories of volunteerism, corporate social responsibility, and everyday heroes, your organization can continue to foster and build trust with your workforce, local communities, and society as a whole.

Not only do stories help us build trust with our brands, they connect us to employees and allows us to view multiple facets of the organization. Employees bring all aspects of their lives to their professions. To tell their stories allows candidates to learn about the type of people who thrive in your organization, as well as its culture and values. From interns to near-retirees, we start to understand the people who work there and we can assess whether or not the organization is a place where we might want to spend 40+ hours a week. These lessons will help guide how you uncover and share the stories of your employees.

Real Stories Create Greater Authenticity

Don’t overlook the positive impact of your employees sharing their stories. Potential new hires want a glimpse into your corporate culture. and how employees are empowered to make an impact — at work and in life. Discovering and sharing these stories creates greater transparency into what it’s really like to work at your organization. This authenticity will help you find and keep talent.

Insight Into What Your Employees Value

Storytelling is a great way to differentiate your organization from your competitors. If your organization is passionate about the environment (and you want to attract like-minded professionals), telling stories about how your people are making a difference will help you stand out from companies focused solely on the bottom line. By publishing content aligned to what your company and people value, you enhance the visibility of your giving back efforts, and can enhance your firm’s employer brand and overall reputation.

Stories Connect Communities

Do not lose sight of the community initiatives your organization supports and how important these are to employees. Many organizations host giving back events and/or offer paid time off for volunteering because it’s important to their leadership teams and employees.  Embrace the good that your organization does and tell the story.

In a world filled with negative and fake news, organizations should step up and speak up about the positive difference their people are making. Storytelling connects us to knowledge, opportunity and one another. Employee stories are no different. Take the time to not only share a glimpse into your unique world of work, and shine a light on your employee for who they really are — inside and outside of work.

Hear more from Lars Schmidt and other HR thought leaders at HR Innovation & Tech Fest, 18-19 November 2019, ICC Sydney.

About the Author

Lars Schmidt is the founder of Amplify, an HR executive search and consulting firm that helps companies like SpaceX and Hootsuite navigate the future of work. In 2015, he cofounded a not-for-profit aimed at democratizing access to modern HR practices – HR Open Source ( HROS is a (free) global community of practitioners who collaborate and share learnings to prepare themselves, and their organisations, for the future of work.

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