August 19, 2020 • 4 min read
Bringing the authentic voices of employees to the forefront
A good employer brand can remind people why they do what they do. A world-class employer brand gives you the power to recruit willing advocates, ambassadors, and brand activists who knowingly protect, nurture, and proliferate the employee experience and the culture that fuels it.
Crafting world-class employer brand without a world-class budget can be challenging – and this is where authentic voices come in. By giving voice to your employees’ stories, you can foster a resonant employer brand that creates value and meaning for both internal and external audiences.
Authenticity is about showcasing adversity
In my newly released internationally best-selling book, Give & Get, I share a new approach to crafting an employee value proposition (EVP) that is built on your unique brand of adversity.
Most companies look at their EVP as their chance to ‘sell’ their company to candidates – to showcase their strengths, benefits, and opportunities. But this is only half of the equation. In the Give & Get framework, the EVP is never a slogan or snapshot of an area of strength within the organization. Instead, we offer a mutual value exchange that is taken from a common theme that can be found within the employee experience.
Great EVPs are open about organizational vulnerabilities, harsh realities, and cultural norms, even if that means discouraging some candidates from applying.
A conventional EVP says “We want your skills, experience, and capabilities in return for a prescribed list of strengths, benefits, and opportunities we can offer you”. It is transactional, but it is not a value exchange that fulfills your talent audience.
The trouble is it doesn’t reveal anything about the employee experience. It does not answer the burning questions on the minds of candidates, and it does not acknowledge the sacrifice, commitment and achievement of existing employees.
Great EVPs are open about organizational vulnerabilities, harsh realities, and cultural norms, even if that means discouraging some candidates from applying. In truth, that is exactly what you want to do: you repel the many to compel the few, better matched individuals to apply.
If you tell the truth about the positive aspects if a culture but leave out the harsh realities, can you call that truly authentic?
What if we committed to providing all the answers necessary to satisfy the fundamental questions on a candidate’s mind?
- What is it really like at your organization?
- Do I have what it takes to thrive?
Seeking out authentic adversity in the organization
If you want to define an authentic employee experience, start by seeking out the adversity within your organization. Specifically, when deciding whether to stay or join an organization, there are three main buckets of adversity employees look to satisfy: purpose, impact, and belonging.
- How will I be able to fulfill my purpose at this organization?
- How will I be able to create an impact at this organization?
- How will I be able to feel like I belong at this organization?
If you want to define an authentic employee experience, start by seeking out the adversity within your organization.
To assess and evaluate the answers to each of these questions, we first must gauge how hard it will be to achieve each one. Without understanding the adversity before them and the size of the challenges they will face, candidates are unable to determine whether they have what it takes. The solution is to craft a meaningful EVP that offers a mutual value exchange, told through the voices of your workforce.
Bringing out the best of employee stories
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think but to give questions to think upon.” – Brandon Sanderson
Story is the most essential gift we can give to an employer brand—to communicate it, to breathe personality into it, and to make an emotional connection with an audience. Finding powerful stories and telling them is a skill. However, there are three core principles to powerful stories:
When crafting a story, eliciting emotion is the only game in town. Meaning produces emotion, so we must know why we are telling the story in the first place to elicit an emotional response. If we can align the meaning of the story with a primary motivator or driver of our audience, we earn their attention and create empathy and possible affinity.
To keep people’s attention, your audience needs to see change. We want to witness our hero experiencing something new, learning and growing so that they have a different outlook on life afterward. The change can literally unfold in front of the audience’s eyes, or it can be
recounted to them in an engaging way and achieve the same result.
The level of engagement to your story is directly proportional to the conflict attached to the answers to these questions:
- How tough was it to learn the lesson at the time?
- What was at risk?
- What was the adversity faced?
Story is the most essential gift we can give to an employer brand—to communicate it, to breathe personality into it, and to make an emotional connection with an audience.
If the change is easy and obvious, it’s not very engaging. In fact, it’s not interesting and it’s not a true story; it’s a linear narrative with limited impact.
Without conflict, there is no story. It is impossible to engage an audience on a primal, basic, human level without adopting the Give and Get principles of leaning into the harsh realities, vulnerabilities, and gaps in your employee experience. Once this is embraced, these perceived weaknesses start to emerge as your key differentiators—your unique opportunities and quite possibly your superpower to find people who are perfect for your organization from a cultural perspective.
If you can deliberately answer the questions about meaning, change, and conflict, you have the necessary building blocks for a compelling purpose told story that is invaluable to an audience trying to decide their future based on behavior and culture match.
If your audience empathizes with the employee in our story to the point where they find an affinity because of an understanding of what they want to achieve, the rest is simple. Does the audience want our hero to get what they want? If the answer is yes, then we have successfully created an affinity with the audience, and our purpose-told story has just become a very valuable asset to our employer brand and EVP.
About the author: Charlotte Marshall is an international bestselling author. She was named the 2019-2020 Employer Brand Leader of the Year, and has successfully built and launched five Fortune 500 employer brands. She is an in-demand international speaker and the global employer brand lead at Danaher Corporation.