The Most Powerful Recruiting Tool… That No One Uses (An internal story inventory has many business and talent benefits)

Stories are 12X more memorable, and they produce double the revenue versus presenting statistics alone (source). WOW, it’s clear that stories have a major impact. Yet it is rare to find a corporation that maintains and uses a formal story inventory for recruiting, retention, and employer brand-building purposes. So, if you want your messages to be remembered and compelling enough to drive action, you must spread compelling stories more widely. So be smart and learn from the business side of your corporation (sales, branding, and marketing). They have relied on stories for decades as an essential element of their data-driven convincing/selling strategy. 

A quick example of a compelling story (on building company loyalty) – While visiting one of his nearly 100 stores. The CEO of a major food chain saw a breathtaking display of deli meats that was the most compelling and effective he had ever seen. When he asked the responsible employee what inspired her to do this amazing work? She said, “It was your company’s outside-the-job efforts to help my baby and me when we were in dire straits last year.” She further said, “continuing to do excellent and innovative work is the only way that I could ever repay you for all you’ve done for my child and me!”

Why Are Stories So Powerful? 

If the above example of a compelling story directly increased your emotional connection with this company. Then you are beginning to understand the impact that stories can have. Of course, lots of evidence shows that compelling stories impact a person’s brain. So stories have a positive impact on a person’s emotions. And because they are short, they are also likely to be remembered and repeated. Unlike the standard material on your website, most applicants won’t assume that they are written by a PR person. And when they are verbally delivered by one of your employees, they will be viewed as even more authentic, credible, and believable. 

The Many Benefits Of Using A Story Inventory 

If you’re one of the many corporations and businesses currently struggling with painful recruiting and retention issues. You must build a business case for creating a story inventory. And then utilize it to make your emotion-raising stories more visible to everyone. Incidentally, you won’t find many executives that are resistant to the use of storytelling. Almost all executives have learned the power of storytelling from Steve Jobs, who clearly demonstrated their tremendous power. And if you or others are skeptical about the many impacts received as a result of these compelling stories. The next section highlights the multiple benefits of utilizing a story inventory.

  • Recruiting has the highest impact – it’s important to realize that selling may have now eclipsed sourcing and assessment in overall strategic importance in this highly competitive talent market. So it’s now critical that you integrate stories throughout your recruiting effort. Also, when it comes to the content of your career website. Realize that most potential applicants and recruits will barely notice and not remember most of the information and statistics you provided. However, employee stories will be viewed as much more authentic and believable. So stories that raise your target’s emotions and coincide with their values will not only be remembered. But they will also drive an applicant/recruit to act.

    Unfortunately, most companies don’t have story inventories, and they don’t actively spread their stories. They lose an opportunity to gain a recruiting advantage over their talent competitors. The use of compelling stories has been proven to attract more applicants, convince more of them to apply, and later on, will significantly contribute to the acceptance of an offer. As an added benefit, recruits are also likely to share the compelling stories they are exposed to with their friends and colleagues.
    • Stories will also increase employee referrals. Because not only are compelling stories easy for your employees to remember and pass on. But when employees spread stories, it will also be viewed as more authentic. So, they will be a major contributor to convincing potential recruits to accept becoming a referral.
    • Your external employer brand image will also improve when your employees and your recruits repeat these compelling stories on social media sites. 
    • Finally, don’t forget to use performance metrics. So in a segment of onboarding, ask each new hire, “What degree of impact did stories have on your decision to say yes?” And then use that information to refine your recruitment storytelling.
  • Employee retention will also improve – on average, more than half of current employees are considering leaving. You can remind your current employees why your company remains a great place to work by proactively spreading emotion-raising compelling employee stories throughout your workforce, in newsletters, executive speeches, and during periodic team meetings. The goal here is to remind each individual employee that they are part of a team working together in unison.
  • Your culture will be reinforced because of your stories – obviously, the dramatic number of employee departures and replacements will weaken your corporate culture. So it’s important to realize that compelling stories will go a long way in reinforcing both your culture and values. And with easy access to your inventory of compelling stories. Both new hires and current employees will be continually reminded of your robust culture and how they should act under it.
  • Stories will likely have customer impacts – if you proactively encourage everyone and especially your employees that are “influencers” to spread your stories externally. And if your customers find these stories to be emotional and powerful, they will also likely positively impact your company’s future sales. Together, these stories may also go further and help to reinforce your product brand.
  • Employee productivity will be supported – simply knowing that there are multiple areas where your organization has compelling stories. It will help to foster employee productivity. Through the stories, every employee will better understand the impacts of their work on teammates, customers, and their community, giving them multiple reasons to maintain their productivity. Additionally, providing new hires with a series of compelling stories during onboarding will likely motivate them to reach their expected initial productivity levels more quickly. 
  • An inventory will ensure wider access to your stories – rather than relying on the chance that your recruiters and employees will actually know and spread your compelling stories. A much more effective approach is to create a formal story inventory website which will make it easy for recruiters and employees to access all of your stories. Then, design the site, so that your stories are cataloged and easy to search. Also, realize that because your talent team will maintain and build up your story inventory. You can be sure that it will continue to be comprehensive and up-to-date. You can also spread your stories at trade show booths and online talent communities. It also makes sense to supplement your story inventory with podcasts, employee testimonials, and videos that include your most compelling employee stories.  
  • Sculpting your stories will make them more powerful – you can, of course, leave the stories provided by employees and customers intact. However, in many cases, it’s best to shorten and sculpt them to be even more powerful. Start by soliciting and focusing on stories that cover the attraction factors of your recruits (I call them brand pillars). Next, provide each of the programs highlighted in your stories with a memorable name. Also, try to show that they have an impact on the little guy. Where possible, estimate their quantified results. Don’t forget to include diversity stories and ensure that there is at least one “WOW” element in each story that everyone will surely remember. When providing written stories, include a link to a picture, a short video clip, or a description of the program being highlighted for those wanting to know more. Finally, pretest your stories on neutral parties to ensure they have the desired impact.
  • The key is to make an emotional connection – sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So below, I am providing an example of how a simple recruiting picture from Tonic International, by itself, can send a compelling and emotional recruiting message.
Hungry Designers - Tonic (33 insanely awesome job ads)
If you can only do one thing verbally ask each recruiter working on filling a mission-critical job to verbally provide you with at least one compelling story on each of these topics (making a difference, diversity, and employee freedom). If each recruiter can’t instantly provide you with a compelling story on at least two topics. It’s time to realize that you are hurting your recruiting effort by not having a story inventory site. 

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, many benchmark companies have excelled in capturing and spreading powerful stories. Perhaps the most sophisticated is Google, which uses a “provide a brand-new story each day” approach. But also look at Wegmans Markets and Microsoft, who have a history of providing compelling stories. Finally, if you need more detailed information. You can find much more on how to develop your own data-driven story inventory and the most powerful story categories to cover by clicking here

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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