Two of the biggest problems facing leaders today is attracting new talent and keeping the talent they have. The Great Resignation, as it’s been called, has thrown companies into turmoil as an unprecedented number of people opt out of their current jobs or out of the labor market entirely.
As with many leadership challenges, your best weapon is often a good story. Or in this case, eight of them. Having documented over 3,000 business stories in the last decade, I recently turned my attention to how stories can help with the current recruiting and retention crisis.
Below is a description of the eight most important stories I’ve found to attract great talent, and hang on to the talent you have. Examples will help. There’s a link at the bottom for how you can find some and learn more.
- Your Founding Story – People don’t want to just do work and get paid. They want to be a part of bigger, more interesting story. Your founding story give that to them. It explains why the company was founded in the first place. And it lets them see and feel the passion behind why the founder founded the company, so they can feel that passion themselves. Besides, nobody ever quit their job and risked everything to start a company for a boring reason. Your company has an exciting founding story. Find it.
- “Why I Came Here” Stories – The second type of story you need is an unapologetic recruiting story. It tells the story of why you, or someone else, came to work at the company you work for. What is it that drew you there instead of working somewhere else? Ask the people you work with about the pivotal moment they decided to take a job working with you. Not everyone will have an exciting reason. But someone will.
- “Why I Don’t Leave” Stories – Often the same things that attract people to join a company also make them want to stay. But not always. Have you (or has someone you work with) ever thought seriously about quitting your job, but then decided to stay? What made you change your mind? An insightful conversation with a friend? A heart-to-heart with your boss? Something much more random? Whatever it was, if it convinced you to stay, it can have the same affect on other people considering leaving if you tell it to them in the form of a story.
- Company Benefits Stories – Everyone knows what their salary is. They see it in their paycheck, or in the job offer you just made them. But benefits. . . they’re more elusive. Most employees can’t even name half the benefits they have access to, and probably use even fewer of them. What’s worse is, sometimes they don’t use them, not because they’re not aware of them or don’t need them, but because they’re afraid of what will happen to their career if they do. In which case, you might as well not even offer the benefit.
A company benefits story illustrates, and celebrates, someone using one of the more attractive, but perhaps less-well-understood, company benefits you have so that people will appreciate it and factor it into their employment decisions.
- Passion for the Work Stories – People rarely leave jobs they love — jobs they have a passion for — jobs they can’t wait to wake up and come to work to do. So, how do you get people to have that passion for their job? Research shows the best way is to tell them stories about the people whose lives are made better because of their work – the people (customers, clients, or coworkers) who directly benefit from their work. Perhaps surprisingly, humans are more motivated to learn how much good they’re doing than how good they are at doing it.
- Stories to Inspire and Motivate – It’s been widely reported that when Steve Jobs was trying to lure John Sculley from Pepsi to be the next CEO of Apple, he asked him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?
And it worked. Sculley became Apple’s CEO for the next decade. Why did that work? Because more than just making money, most people want to work on important things and make a lasting and positive difference in the world. Stories about the higher purpose you serve will attract talented people to join your organization, as well as keep them from leaving.
- Culture and Values Stories – Describing the culture and values of an organization is notoriously difficult. You can’t just tell people, “we’re an employee friendly company” or “we value customer service above all else”. What do those things really mean, anyway. And if your recruits don’t know, they’re less likely to join you.
The best way to illustrate your values and culture is with stories. Stories that illustrate someone at your company living out exactly the kind of culture or values you want the organization to stand for. Or, someone who’s behavior is exactly the opposite and the consequences for that person, and the company. Success or failure, either way your audience will understand your culture and values better through stories.
- “Why I Lead the Way I Do” Stories – It’s been said that people don’t leave their company. They leave their boss. Which is why part of attracting the best people to the organization, and keeping them, is helping them understand the kind of boss you are and the kind of leadership they can expect from you. But, you can’t just tell them, “We practice situational leadership here” or “I’m a decisive leader!” Again, what does that even mean? And why should anyone believe it?
Instead, you need a set of stories to illustrate why you’ve become the leader you are today. And preferably those aren’t self-aggrandizing stories about your successes and business acumen. These stories are humble, vulnerable, teachable moments about the mistakes you made that shaped the leader you are today.
LinkedIn Learning has just launched a 40-minute course on Storytelling for Recruiting and Retention (free to subscribers) that includes examples of all eight of these stories, along with some tips to help you find and craft your own. Here’s a link.
Good luck with your stories!
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling, a keynote speaker, and bestselling author.