August 8, 2019 • Rick Beller
Authentic content is frequently underused in an organization’s talent supply chain—the strategy and process that guides how employers build and sustain a competitive workforce. But if it’s used well, authentic content—the content derived from an organization’s history that reflects its values, character and experiences—has the power to differentiate an employer in the eyes of current and prospective talent.
Looking through the lens of famed management consultant Peter Drucker, who asserts that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it is imperative that organizations recruit people who are a strong cultural fit. Data gathered by Gallup Workplace shows a direct link between employees’ understanding of a company mission and the company’s profitability. As such the economic value of using authentic content while recruiting, onboarding and engaging employees is clear.
Authentic content and storytelling play an important role across the entire talent supply chain, but effective prioritizing is key. For instance, poor employee morale during a downturn or after a merger can increase turnover. Authentic content communications that target key people can be used to build pride in the past and confidence in the future, and re-engage these people.
Conversely, an organization may be facing new competition or disruptive conditions that require it to look for people with different skill sets. College or competitor recruitment campaigns that use authentic content can differentiate an organization based on who it is rather than just its products and services. Using authentic content could be the difference between securing or losing important hires.
Keep in mind that specific circumstances may call for a targeted program, but consistently applying authentic content across the talent chain is a best practice that companies rarely follow.
In this blog post, we’ll examine the value of applying authentic content in the early stages of the talent chain: identifying, attracting and onboarding talent. We’ll dive a little deeper into how authentic content can help address shortcomings and provide examples of authentic content at work. In a subsequent post, we’ll address employee retention and the role authentic content can play in building loyalists and advocates.
Salary has become a secondary factor for job hunters. In fact, it’s not even a top five consideration for millennials. A study by Deloitte found that culture is now the most important factor in attracting new recruits, and a study by Cone Communications found that 75% of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a values-driven company.
People want to feel as if they’re part of something bigger. They want to work for firms whose values align with theirs. If they don’t, they feel discordant and become unhappy and less productive. The rise of purpose programs, CSR initiatives and 401K plans that include socially responsible investments reflect this reality.
Employees also want to know that an organization’s culture will support how they want to work and provide them with opportunities to learn and grow. Here, authentic content and storytelling play a pivotal role. By communicating relevant, authentic stories to prospective employees, organizations can demonstrate who they are and what they stand for.
These stories paint a portrait that prospective employees can internalize. Saying that you provide opportunities is quite different than demonstrating this through stories of actual employees who were given opportunities and made a measurable difference in the trajectory of the firm. This is how the latent power of authentic content becomes a kinetic force that drives results.
An example of this was our work with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. As part of Lockheed’s centennial, History Factory researched the rich history of the company and developed a bank of stories, images, quotes and artifacts that aligned with the new brand platform and addressed other business needs.
One objective was to recruit high-performing engineers graduating from top universities. The challenge was to make Lockheed relevant and attractive to new recruits who had numerous appealing options, including Apple and Amazon in addition to Lockheed’s direct competitors.
To support this goal, we uncovered the story of Kelly Johnson, a young engineer who ran Lockheed’s top-secret World War II Skunk Works division, which designed America’s first successful jet fighter. Early in his career, Johnson was given the opportunity to explore emerging technologies that led to key engineering advancements and provided him with a path for personal growth.
Sharing this story and others as part of the recruitment program hit the mark. While it is not possible to say that this story was the reason that a candidate selected Lockheed Martin, it was explicitly cited by several would-be Lockheed engineers as contributing to their interest in Lockheed Martin.
With Lockheed and with other clients, authentic content has delivered by building awareness and making tangible connections between a company and its desired talent pool.
You have attracted and hired the right people. They come to the firm excited and eager to make a difference. It’s time to onboard them by sharing information about the firm’s structure, addressing administrative requirements and building functional skills. In many cases, it also includes a video or literature with a chronology of the company’s history. Unfortunately, orientation like this often ensures new hires get all of the facts and none of the meaning that is central to their decision to join the firm. They’re missing the motivation that will lead them to give 110% every day.
Orientation is the start of the employee experience. It should address important logistics and expectations. But effectively weaving authentic content into the experience will give new hires a deeper appreciation for the company’s culture, mission and values, and a reinforced commitment to a legacy of success that is needed for the future.
Onboarding and orientation also includes employees who have joined a company as a result of a merger or acquisition. According to Forbes, M&A failure rates fluctuate between 70% and 90%. One of the prime reasons for failure? A difference in cultures. Authentic content can play a key role in mitigating perceived cultural differences.
For example, one of our financial services clients acquired a competitor. For decades, both sides had fought tooth and nail, each saying that the other was less innovative and less experienced, with lesser solutions. This history surely had repercussions in terms of workforce integration.
History Factory’s approach to building cultural integration started by researching the history of each organization. Moving aside the surface issues, we discovered that these rivals were more similar than they were different. Our research revealed shared founding principles and commitments to clients and employees, as well as innovative responses to market and regulatory shifts, and contributions to their communities. These insights guided the development of cultural themes that would serve as a foundation for future communications.
Each organization contributed authentic content to a shared narrative that provided the common ground needed to overcome differences and unite employees for a common cause.
Authentic content is the inventory of experience of an organization—its actions, decisions, challenges, responses and commitments. It is the relevant evidence that enables an organization to confidently convey who and what it is today, and why. It is also the foundation to build trust, pride and belief in where it will go tomorrow.
When used in the early stages of the talent chain, authentic content and storytelling enables an organization to win talent and set the stage for a workforce that is aligned, engaged and committed to a company’s future.