Employees themselves continue to be one of the top sources of information for job seekers; to the point where not having a constant supply of new, fresh employee perspectives about your company and roles now puts you at a serious hiring disadvantage.
But creating this pipeline of employee stories isn’t always so easy. Not having time, not knowing what’s okay to say, not wanting to have their name in the public eye and a lack of incentive are some of the most common roadblocks stopping employees from contributing.
For answers on how to lift these roadblocks, we turned to 3 experts in the field: Kaitlin Hurley, Employee Experience and Change Specialist at Evans Consulting; Katherine Potter, Director, Recruitment Marketing at TAG — The Aspen Group and Erik Ayers, CEO of GoodSeeker.
But first, let’s learn about our experts!
Meet the experts
Kaitlin Hurley, Employee Experience “EX” and Change Specialist, Evans Consulting
Kaitlin Hurley is an Employee Experience “EX” and Change Specialist at Evans Consulting. Driven by understanding what motivates people, Kaitlin helps people grow in alignment with their interests, skills and corporate strategy and by helping the company grow while always keeping the employee experience top of mind.
Katherine Potter, Director, Recruitment Marketing, TAG — The Aspen Group
Katherine Potter is the Director of Recruitment Marketing at TAG — The Aspen Group, previously Aspen Dental Management, Inc. She loves to find creative and efficient solutions to pain points in an organization, and is currently creating and executing the enterprise Recruitment Marketing strategy at TAG to achieve ambitious hiring goals for over 3,000 open jobs nationwide.
Erik Ayers, CEO, GoodSeeker
Erik Ayers is a leader in the B2B marketing and recruiting space with 20+ years of experience. He is also the founder of GoodSeeker, a platform to collect employee generated stories, candidate Q&As and proof of company values in action.
Now, let’s learn how they overcame 4 of the biggest roadblocks to getting employee stories from reluctant storytellers.
1. Requests for stories get ignored or missed
In most cases, employees are already being flooded with emails. As Kaitlin describes, a single email requesting a story is bound to get lost or be ignored. When their email-driven process was replaced with GoodSeeker, this was no longer the case — employee stories now had a home.
The platform made it easier for employees to submit their stories, and for Kaitlin and her team at Evans Consulting to request, collect and track them. And if you’re worried about employees complaining about another tool to use or password to remember, do what Kaitlin did: use a single sign-on feature to allow people to use pre-existing login information (i.e. Office 365 information) to log in.
Having a dedicated platform also helped Kaitlin solve the issue of employee stories not tying into company values. Before GoodSeeker, employees didn’t know what these values were or where to find them, and, consequently, didn’t know how to connect company values to their stories. But through GoodSeeker, they’re now able to see these values immediately in the form of tags, and when submitting their stories, they’re asked to choose which of these tags best apply to their stories (this also helps with organization!).
For wide adoption, it’s also important to consider what channels and technology your employees are already using and familiar with. For example, at TAG — The Aspen Group, most employees are on the go and not sitting behind computers for long stretches of time. So, Katherine and her team decided that mobile was the best way to reach them, making it possible for employees to submit stories through text.
Regardless of the channel, for the best response, it’s important to make your ask to employees clear and specific. Instead of asking employees to provide a “teamwork moment,” as an example, ask them to describe meeting their best friend at work, or what it’s like working with them.
2. Employees are worried they’ll say the wrong thing
Another roadblock to unlocking the full potential of employee stories is employees simply not knowing what they’re allowed to say, especially at companies with a high degree of confidentiality.
To overcome this issue, Katherine works with a storytelling coach on her Recruitment Marketing team. This coach, Gloria, goes through all of TAG’s resources to identify potential storytellers, reaches out to them through their preferred communication channels and then schedules time to walk them through the entire process. She runs them through how to use all of the necessary tools, answers any questions they have and works with them to tell their stories in a powerful way.
Through these open conversations, Gloria has teased hundreds of stories from employees, which has only been possible by having a permissive environment where employees feel free to share. It’s helped build an ever-growing library of content to pull from.
Leadership also has a major role to play in creating this permissive environment. Having leaders share stories about themselves or about other employees in the company, no matter how small, conveys to employees that they are free to do the same. “No matter how small” is the important part here, as you want to show employees that their achievements are worth sharing, no matter how small they perceive them to be.
Encouragement from leaders doesn’t have to start with sharing on their personal social channels, either; it can be as simple as commenting on a story inside a platform like GoodSeeker. But to get to the point where leaders are making more of a commitment — where they’re actually reading, learning and acting on stories — they need to see the connection between stories and growth, trust and reputation.
One way to do this, as Erik explains, is to sell stories as an asset you already have. Stories are already happening; it’s not like you’re having to invest in more resources to make them happen. By capturing them and turning them into something (i.e. an article or video), they become assets useful for recruiting, onboarding and all sorts of other aspects of the business. By explaining stories like this, even a data-driven CFO can get behind them.
3. Employees don’t want to be seen publicly
Sometimes, employees have incredible stories to share but simply don’t want to be in the public eye. As Kaitlin explains, there isn’t much you can do if the reasons are personal and private other than to approach them with empathy, but there are reasons you can work around.
For example, maybe employees feel like they’re wasting people’s time with stories, which you can work with through the storytelling coaching and leadership buy-in methods described above. Or, it might simply be a matter of feeling like they don’t have control over their work.
In scenarios like this, privacy settings in your employee story tools can save the day. Explain to employees how through these settings, they have complete control over the spread of their stories. If they feel comfortable sharing their story internally but don’t want their names featured when sharing externally, for example, these settings can help them achieve that.
To make sure they’re aware of these privacy settings, how to use them and that their current settings reflect exactly what they want (I didn’t know my story would be shown there!), double-check in person, such as in a staff meeting. As Katherine urges, bump this up to a triple-check if your company deals in confidential information (i.e. patient care) and have procedures in place to make sure that stories are shared legally and without any confidential information.
4. Employees are busy, unmotivated or unsure of the process
You may have created an employee story process and launched it within your company, but you’re not seeing the engagement you want. All you can gather is that your employees are too busy to participate, unmotivated or simply unsure of how everything works.
For busy and unmotivated employees, it’s often a matter of establishing a clear “what’s in it for me” factor. If it’s not obvious to employees why they should care about submitting stories, then they’re probably not going to do it.
For this, Kaitlin recommends giving employees a sense of ownership and validation. For example, with the authors’ permission, you might regularly share standout stories during staff meetings. Or, as Evans Consulting does now, you might implement a like-driven voting system, wherein employees can vote for their favorite stories by “liking” them (think likes on Instagram) within your platform.
In having co-workers engage with their stories this way and having control over whether or not they’re shared, authors feel validated through feedback, in control of their work and more willing to keep contributing in the future. This public voting strategy also shows other employees the benefits of submitting their own stories, and can encourage them to get writing as a result.
Shoutouts are another way to promote employee stories and garner more submissions. For example, TAG uses a tool to allow employees to shout out co-workers who did something nice for them. Weekly emails are sent out summarizing these shout-outs, and Katherine and her team mine these summaries for story gold; whenever they come across an interesting recognition, they reach out to the person asking if they’d like to turn their submission into a story.
Leaders at TAG then take these stories and send company-wide emails highlighting them — and even reading them aloud in videos. This approach helps Katherine and her team reach as many people as possible through the use of different mediums, and lets employees know that the company is serious about using and promoting their stories.
These promotional efforts span outside the digital world, as well; employee stories are regularly dropped into TAG’s break rooms in the form of a physical 36-page book called “Follow the Smiles.” The book is perfect for on-the-go employees to easily read during their breaks to learn about their co-workers, get details about the company’s employee referral program and spark story ideas of their own.
To get employees on board from the start, Kaitlin recommends baking stories into your onboarding process.
On their first day at Evans Consulting, new employees are given a tour of GoodSeeker and the company’s employee story library. This not only helps them get to know their new co-workers and acquaint themselves with the tool, but also helps them learn how to thrive in their role, through seeing company values in practice through employee stories.
You can also follow in Katherine’s footsteps and accompany the launch of your employee story system with inspirational examples. Katherine and her team sourced their examples from TAG’s talent acquisition team, as they were the most educated on the company’s values and most eager to provide their stories.
When in doubt, rewards are always a reliable incentive, whether in the form of sharing standout stories during staff meetings or financial means. But to incentivize a culture that participates in employee stories, you need to reward more than just submitting a story; signing up for your employee story tool, setting up a profile, incorporating company values and everything in between should be rewarded as well.
If you’re having difficulty getting stories from reluctant storytellers, it likely comes down to the blockers above. By following in the footsteps of the experts, you can hopefully overcome these blockers to tap into your company’s full employee story potential.
To hear our full conversations with Erik, Katherine and Kaitlin about employee stories, be sure to check out the full webinar here!