How can we encourage employees to be the storytellers on behalf of the employer brand? We’ve asked this and much more to Bryan Chaney who heads up employer branding at Indeed and is the founder of TalentBrand.org.

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Why is employee storytelling important?

Employee storytelling is huge. I feel like employees have way more credibility than they used to even just 10 years ago. For instance the Edelman Trust Barometer, they show consistently that people trust others who are like themselves, more than they trust brands or executives from those brands. I share that information internally because in addition to broadcasting what it’s like to work in Indeed, we’re also an empowering and recruiting team. Part of that is saying, “Hey, you should be doing this thing, and that thing, and sharing the stories.” And we frame it up in a way that tells them that people trust individuals more than they trust big brands. It’s something that lets them know that they are a lot more powerful than they think they are. Being able to capture those stories well really helps showcase those perspectives in a way that feels more trustworthy, like there’s less of a gloss or sheen or marketing spin to it. That’s one of the things that’s really important for us to preserve as we’re helping them capture those stories.

Can you give us some examples of you capturing and spreading these stories from employees.

We have the channels that we monitor and manage, and across those there’s blog content, internal and external. When I say internal, employer branding is not just the external branding message, but also engagement and branding the employee experience internally as well. We’re in the process of launching an external blog on indeed.jobs which is actually where people go to find out about working at Indeed. They go to indeed.com to find out about the world’s jobs, and they go to indeed.jobs to find out about working with us. Having that channel as well as other social channels where we’re sharing content is really important.

There was a post that happened where we highlighted someone who is one of the core leads in one of our inclusion resource groups. We call them inclusion resource groups because it’s our way of saying that no matter what your journey looks like, there is most likely going to be a group of like-minded individuals who share some kind of history or interest with you inside of Indeed. We highlighted one of the people from within the client services division that really shared his story about what he likes, and his passion.

Now we’re piloting some podcast content, it’s just going through logistics of whether we can interview via Skype or Google Hangout, and can we make sure that we have good audio. We want everything to be truthful, we want to be accurate on their story. We also want it to be good content. So a great picture on Instagram will perform infinitely more well than a picture that’s just okay even though the message may be exactly the same. It’s understanding that yes, we want to be truthful, but we also want to be our best selves, whether it’s a great picture, or a great story. It’s helping people capture it all.

What’s your formula to success with employee storytelling?

It’s a little bit different with each group. So what works in sales, for example, is a very different story than when you’re talking to someone in product or engineering. They care about different things, and one of the things that I’ve done early on in my career is look at categories and motivators, and really try to map that back to the content of the story that we’re sharing. We’re going through a content indexing process right now so that we can understand what’s great content, what people get excited about, and how does that tie back to a motivator, so that we can better understand the types of content that are working.

We’re consistently trying be faithful in capturing an employee’s story, helping them crystallize their message. Everything that we broadcast, everything that we share is reviewed and approved by the employees themselves, which I think is really important so that they feel like their voice is heard, not just figuratively, but literally as well.

Could you give us an example of the motivators?

The motivators that I’ve come up with is actually an acronym, I ask people “What gets you AMPT?” A-M-P-T stands for advancement, money, people, and technology. It’s an easy way to remember the categories, but there’s a little bit of wiggle room in there. So for example money is any kind of compensation, benefits, or iteration you would get. It could be advancement in a career, it could be advancement at a company, it could be a lot of different things.

People, is the team that you work with every day and learn from, and that ties back into the culture, not just the company’s culture, but also the micro-culture that exists where you would work.

Technology, is really more about innovation. Are you working for a company that’s doing things that nobody else is doing? That’s a huge motivator for people in engineering. So the two highest motivators for those in engineering roles are firstly – Will you give me tough problems to solve? Am I my going to be challenged? And that speaks to the innovation or technology piece. Secondly, who will I learn from? Who will I work with? Who will teach me? Whether it’s a formal mentorship or a pure team environment, how am I going to pull myself up with the community that you’ve built inside of Indeed?

How can we avoid making mistakes?

The biggest mistake that I’ve ever made in my career for employer branding was not taking the time to understand the voice of the employee, and that’s a big part of it. So time is a function, but also being able to spend time with them, not just thinking about it, but spend time in engaging conversation, and watch the employees in their natural habitat. It’s a bit of a documentarian, but listening to that, paying attention, and directly asking them what they care about, and asking specific questions that speak to their personal journey.

One of the things that we will be doing here at Indeed is what I call culture jam sessions. That’s getting groups of people in a room and asking them what’s unique about the Indeed experience from a perk’s perspective. What is your favourite unique perk that you have here at Indeed? And so that’s everything from, “I love the fact that we have a barista in the engineering office to make me coffee whenever I need a pick-me-up in the afternoon.” Or, “I enjoy the fact that we have pet insurance because I have a dog” or whatever that may be, everyone has a different take on their benefits and what that means to them. So that’s one example of a question. My favourite question to ask is, “If working inside Indeed was a movie, what music would be on that soundtrack?”

You learn what kind of music your employees like to listen to, but you also learn how they feel when they come to work. Is it quick paced music? Is it happy? What kind of personality does it have? Not only can you tell a lot of stories by that, but you’re also collecting thought for your employer branding content. You’re gathering words that they use to describe all the stuff. You’re also able to then pull together playlists around the different departments and say, “This is the playlist for the product team, this is what it feels like to work inside Indeed if you’re in product. Here’s the music that they like to listen to.” You have a whole new piece of content that you can share externally.

Could you name any other companies who are doing employee storytelling right?

More companies are prioritizing it. I think companies like Amtrak are doing a really good job. Companies like, Tenable are doing a great job. Then the big one that’s doing a great job with employer branding is GE or General Electric. They’re doing a great job of telling your story on a larger scale. One of the funny things about GE is that I know some of the team members who are working on that content, but their initial push into that was not driven by employer brand or talent attraction, it was actually driven by the corporate brand team. And it had huge benefits for talent attraction, and branding GE as a company that was probably a little different from what people assumed it was.

The value of knowing people at these different companies is also part of why I’ve started an organization called talentbrand.org. This is a community of people who are focused on recruit or marketing, who are focused on employer branding, and they can learn from each other. They can share information, they can ask questions, they can share opportunity. Because it’s a small group, when there’s a company trying to fill a role, everybody knows about that role. Because not only are the recruiters hitting the same people, but we’re all talking, we’re all sharing information through back channels, through Facebook groups, and chat messages. And so I find it’s really important just to be up front about sharing that information and building a community.

Follow Bryan on Twitter @BryanChaney.

About Jörgen Sundberg

Employer Brand Consultant, Speaker & Author. Host of The Employer Branding Podcast.

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