Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jeremy Shreve. His opinions are his own.
Who doesn’t love talking about themselves?
With the notable exception of stumbling through a series of subtle humblebrags during an interview, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who can’t speak at length about themselves. After all, they are likely the foremost expert on the subject.
Lucky for you this can also be a powerful tool for your employer branding if it is leveraged properly. Your employees can be one of your strongest assets when trying to attract talent to your organization. Each and every one of them has a story that is interesting, Humans of New York taught us this if nothing else.
If you aren’t already collecting and promoting your employees’ stories, here’s a list of reasons why you should start immediately.
1. Employee stories are interesting
First and foremost, stories are just downright interesting. I would much rather read a story about an employee than a bulleted list of benefits I would receive working for said company. I would wager that you feel the same.
More importantly, stories are one of the most powerful tools available to elicit an emotional reaction. Despite how much we want to believe that we are logical, our decisions are primarily driven by emotion.
When a neuroscientist by the name of Antonio Damasio began studying a group of people who had damaged the portion of their brain that processed emotions, he discovered something unexpected. The brain-damaged subjects were normal for all intents and purposes except that every single one of them had an extremely difficult time making decisions.
Ultimately, potential candidates are making a decision. They are deciding that you are the company that they want to work for.
By sharing your employees’ stories, you create the opportunity for prospective employees to create emotional connections with your brand and your story that no list of bullet points can replicate.
2. Social proof
We are constantly surrounded by social proof. No longer do you have to make a decision by yourself. You can trust your friends’ recommendations or the 350 five star reviews on that pair of running shoes you want to buy on amazon.
This isn’t just common sense though, it has a name: social proof. Though it had been used for decades prior, the concept was first ‘discovered’ by Robert Cialdini and published in his renowned book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. In this book he researches techniques that salesmen use to influence his decisions creating the ultimate marketer’s handbook with an ironic twist.
In recruiting talent, you can utilize the same concept to prove that real people work at your company. With each featured story they read, prospective candidates (potential employees) will begin to feel more and more confident that they aren’t blazing a path by themselves but they will be joining a team. This can significantly reduce the perception of risk in taking on a new role with a new company.
Social proof is about more than reducing risk though, it centers on yet another word that sounds intimidating but is essentially simple: Implicit Egotism. Implicit egotism basically suggests that we gravitate towards people that resemble ourselves whether this means geographically, physically, or in this case, professionally.
With implicit egotism, potential employees can find peers at your company who they can relate to through their story and draw a stronger emotional connection with your brand.
“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am” – Donald Trump
Putting politics aside, do you believe him?
What if it came from the Secretary of Defense or a renowned general? You’d probably be more likely to believe it wouldn’t you?
This phenomenon is the same for Mr. Trump as it is for you when you talk about yourself. Ironically, while we are likely the foremost experts on ourselves, when we make claims about our abilities, we are simultaneously the least credible.
When claims about your company’s flexibility and work-life balance come from the mouths of employees, it’s more credible. In fact, content coming from a company’s employees is 52% more credible than content shared by the brand. When your employees talk about why they love working for you, potential employees are more likely to believe it.
This is doubly true for CEOs. Don’t think you’re off the hook from sharing your story! In fact, your story may be even more important. In the same article linked above, 76% of people see companies whose C-suite executives use social media to communicate their brand as more trustworthy.
4. Your employees will share them
Have you ever tried to get your employees to share your content on social media? Or maybe you’ve been asked to share something on social media?
Did you do it?
I’ll be frank, I never have and in nearly every case it’s because the content wasn’t interesting to my friends and family. How many of your followers really care about your most recent hotel renovation (and you may even get ridiculed for it online). Your employees aren’t going to want to share this with their friends and family and frankly, they don’t want to see it either.
What they want to see is their loved one being featured and your employees will be happy to oblige. By gathering their featured story you are recognizing their accomplishments and providing something that they can share on social media without worrying about being overly promotional in the wrong place.
After all, their connections are there to keep up to date with their loved ones lives, aren’t they?
So far, I’ve focused on how featuring your employees’ stories can help you attract more talent but the benefits of this project don’t end there. Featuring the stories can have benefits for the cohesion and happiness of your team. It can even resolve one of the most frequently cited complaints employees have about their company: Lack of recognition.
Okay, perhaps you’re convinced now. What’s next?
Gathering your employees’ stories can be a laborious process that will look different in every company. You are going to have to find out what works for your organization and modify the process as it evolves. That being said, here are a few tips.
- Make it easy: As much as your employees might be eager to talk about themselves and share their story, they do still have a job to do and only so much time to do it with. Make it as easy as possible. Create a Google Docs template with writing prompts already on it.
- Give them options: Not everyone’s story is the same so it stands to reason you can’t ask them the same questions. Provide 10 – 15 questions and have your employee choose 5 that they want to answer. Naturally, this will provide you with the most interesting answers.
- Ask interesting questions: I would hope this one didn’t need to be said but just in case, make sure you ask interesting questions. If you ask boring questions, you’re going to get boring answers and no one will be inspired by the feature stories.
Utilizing the stories of your employees can be one of the most powerful employer branding tactics you can start today. By enabling your employees to share their story and recognizing their contributions you can create a strong employer brand that will attract talent and ultimately make your current employees happier.