For centuries, storytelling has been a sacred way to connect with others, teach a lesson, pass down history, and act as a beacon of hope when the present felt bleak. Stories resonate with us–the ones that dazzle and inspire…or twist your heart with fear, pain, and sympathy…or make you feel seen, convincing you that maybe you aren’t so alone in the world. Stories matter, staying with us as the years rage on.
Storytelling is also one of the best ways to bring your employer brand to life and make it tangible. After all, any good writer or editor will urge you to “show, not tell” to create a story worth remembering. So rather than simply writing EVP messaging with pretty words and aspirational language, why not back it up with a good story to really make it stick?
Best way to do that: through your employees.
Every person working at your company has an interesting story to tell (yes, even the ones you’d least expect). In the employer branding world, our job isn’t only limited to connecting people with a company, but to connect people with people too. The candidates may care about things like culture, benefits, and career progression, but they also want to know who they’ll work with day in and day out. Making a job change is a massive life decision, and it’s usually the people you work with who make it worthwhile. So why not enhance your employer brand by sharing your people’s stories?
…And no, I don’t mean exploiting them for your own agenda. I mean letting their unique voices and perspectives shine through openly and honestly, helping your company illustrate the employee experience better than we ever could just building the messaging on our own. When it’s time to activate your employer brand, storytelling allows you to share something more meaningful than the same buzzwords and phrases every other company is saying. It’s time to stand out in a real way, and we can’t do that without our employees.
The Benefits of Storytelling for Employer Branding
It Builds Credibility with Candidates
If a person came across a message from a company brand and a message from an employee, they’ll likely trust the employee review more. Any company can say they’re the best place ever, and candidates are now seeing through these fluffy, often unsupported messages. Instead, they know the truth lies in what the employees have to say. That’s why sites like Glassdoor, Comparably, and Blind exist and are probably one of the sources candidates use before deciding to work for a company.
After all, if you were comparing three different products on Amazon, you’re likely going with the one with the highest star rating and best written reviews. The same concept applies here, and is even more important. You can always return a product, but jobs are different. Candidates (and current employees too) are weighing this much more seriously.
Candidate expectations and needs have changed dramatically these last two years. Now, they’re prioritizing things like empathic leadership, flexibility in work, a safe and inclusive environment, and so on. Unfortunately, you can’t just say “we’re empathetic!” on your career site as easily as you can rattle off your benefit package and have it actually land. The only way to show this credibly is through solid, honest employee examples.
It Helps Candidates Understand if the Environment is Right for Their Unique Needs
Although I’m sick of hearing the overused terms of “bringing your whole self to work” and “inclusive environment,” it’s important to note that employee stories are a great way to connect people in a way that matters. Your workplace is made up of different people at different stages in their lives and with different needs. By showing a variety of perspectives, candidates can potentially see themselves in your people and understand if the environment is right for them or not.
The more you can deeply show this, the easier it is for candidates to get a clearer picture of whether this truly is an inclusive place for their specific needs and situations. It also helps them understand if your values line up with theirs and how you stand by those values in both small and big ways.
It Connects Employees with the Company and Each Other
Employer branding doesn’t just engage candidates, it also engages employees too. Chances are, your workplace has changed since the pandemic. Even if it isn’t fully remote, maybe it’s hybrid. Or maybe you’ve expanded where you’re hiring, making your company a little less centralized. Because of this, people are connecting and communicating differently.
For some companies, this has caused a problem with employee engagement. Employees either feel in the dark because they’re not getting that informal info like they did in the office, or internal comms aren’t as consistent and clear (or employees don’t see those comms at all because they’re lost in the overwhelming sea of emails, Slack messages, and Zoom meetings), or they’re missing that opportunity to spontaneously meet new people in the office, so those organic bonds might take a little more work to build.
By giving employees a platform to share their stories, you’re also creating an avenue for connection and building bonds by offering a glimpse deeper into who they work with. These little opportunities go a long way if your workplace has gone remote-first and/or has become more distributed.
How to Use Storytelling in Your Employer Brand
The easiest way to get started is by creating opportunities for employee spotlights. Need ideas? Check out our blog on how to amplify employee voices here and how to gather employee perspectives here.
For a more comprehensive guide, click the image below to download our free resource.
Taking Storytelling One Step Further
I won’t bury the lead here: start harnessing the power of employee advocacy.
It’s almost funny to think how a few years ago, companies were policing their employees’ social media. God forbid if an employee posted something on their social channels. (*clutches pearls* The absolute scandal.) Some companies even added social media policies to their new hire paperwork to prevent any potential brand damage proactively.
Fast forward to 2022, and companies are clamoring for their employees to act as brand ambassadors, so much so that they’re even creating formal brand ambassador programs to encourage it both for consumer marketing and employer branding purposes.
Employee brand ambassador programs can be as simple or as robust as you want them. There are a lot of ways you can build an effective one, from investing in platforms like Bambu and putting on social media challenges with incentives to actually supporting a handful of solid employees to launch their personal brands as thought leaders.
No matter what you choose, the easiest and some of the most important things you can do to encourage organic advocacy are:
Keep employees informed of new content. Even simply sharing a link to your company’s LinkedIn page’s post in your Slack channels can make it easy for engagement. By giving them an option to quickly like, comment, or reshare, you’re creating an opportunity to amplify content without making it complicated.
Centralize stories. Whether it’s on your career site, a career-focused social media channel, a “Life At” hashtag, or on your Intranet, making it easy to find information and creating an avenue for employees to connect with others helps build momentum and awareness.
Celebrate and recognize those who are sharing their stories. This not only shows employees it’s safe to share and that their voices matter, it also helps other employees see solid examples, giving them inspiration to share their own.
Give employees the opportunity to expand on their stories. Again, this shows them their voices matter. If you see or hear an employee sharing their experience, look for ways to expand upon it. Maybe you can incorporate it in a culture blog, or you can tap them for an upcoming webinar with an employer partner (e.g., Built In, PowerToFly, etc.), or maybe they’d be open to doing a live virtual Q&A with candidates. A lot of employees appreciate this because they feel seen and valued.
If you embrace employee advocacy, make sure you’re supporting them every step of the way. The goal is to encourage (not police!) employees so they feel comfortable sharing their authentic stories. The last thing you want is to make them feel like the brand is influencing their way of expressing it. Of course, you need some guardrails so employees don’t accidentally damage the brand, but genuine organic stories are key, so do your best not to get too in their way.
Need help activating your employer brand? Harlow offers employer branding services. Contact us here to learn more.