Craft the Story: Attract and Retain Your Top Talent

black and red typewriter

You’ve seen the statements companies craft to express their principles and values. As a leader, you’ve probably helped write them. They often include phrases like these:

  • People First. 
  • The Best People.
  • Respect for People.
  • Build Community.
  • We Believe in People.

These statements are hung in creative ways in entryways of company buildings. (Remember those?) And yet, many employees cannot recite them from memory. That’s especially true if they are feeling disconnected or disenfranchised. Despite the company’s effort to craft the exact words and intentions, employees still may join the ‘Great Resignation’. And, the company still may be challenged to attract the new talent you so deeply need.

What’s the solution? Leave the message on the wall and website – and also share it out loud in your own words, framed in your own experiences and aspirations. To be successful, your story must be honest and authentic, of course. What you say must align with what employees and candidates see and experience. In my corporate life, I knew that I needed to leave an organization if I found myself to be hesitant about hiring others or encouraging colleagues to stay. If I couldn’t believe it – I couldn’t sell it. It’s tough to sell what you won’t buy for yourself.

Your greatest opportunity for attracting and retaining talent is sharing the story you are living – how it connects to the purpose of the organization and why and choose each day to stay. Then, to establish that clear link for colleagues and candidates, create the great conclusion – describe how they fit into that image. That is the magnetic pull that brings them and keeps them connected to the organization. Knowing and telling your story helps enhance your own positive experience and, therefore, attracts others you want and need in your organization. 

Organizational Mission and Purpose

Why does your company exist? If you just said, “to make money” and that’s the final word on it, you have more work to do on your story. When talking about purpose and mission, share more about impact and less about features. This isn’t about what you do – it’s about what you solve. This message addresses why the work matters and who it helps. It’s the level beneath your marketing campaigns – a more personal level. If you aren’t excited about the work, why would anyone else be? Money is great, but it’s a short-term motivator, especially when things get hard.

Your Story for Staying

Why do you work for the company? Why do you stay in the hard times? Every job has sharp rocks, boulders, and bumps – and there’s a reason we stay. Is it the passion for the mission, the work, the team, or the chance to mentor others? Perhaps you’re driven by a competitive spark and this organization gives you the resources to win. Maybe the leadership team strives to help employees grow in their roles and advance in the company. Maybe it’s something else or a combination of factors.

Spend time answering this question for yourself so you can share your story with others succinctly, persuasively, and personally – with examples, proof points, emotions, and honesty. But, be prepared. If you find you don’t have a good answer, a good reason for staying, it’s time to re-assess the mission and its alignment to your – to everyone’s – work. As I said, it’s tough to sell what you won’t buy yourself.

Employment Magnetism

Why should someone be on your team? Highlighting the company’s purpose and illustrating it through your experience is important. Next, you translate that feeling – that magnetism – to the employee level. Here, you make it real for them. In an interview, it’s common to ask the candidate why they want to work for your organization. Be prepared to tell them why they want to work for you. That person. As an individual. Why should they invest years in this company? And, why does the company value them

Everyone likes to hear what makes them a good and valuable fit for the organization.This isn’t just their resume and accomplishments or the fulfilling day-to-day work. It’s about the future and the potential. Take this moment to share how they can learn and grow within the organization. When there isn’t a hierarchy to advance in, there is still room for growth in skills, complexity, and relationship building. Share what you see as a path forward and ask them what they want to experience – and don’t lose sight of it later. Making it real creates energy and maintains their enthusiasm for the work and the place when things are hard or opportunities to leave arise. This is the magnetism that attracts and keeps them connected to the company. It starts with your story and it becomes theirs.

For the Introverted Skeptic Leader

Perhaps you are an introverted skeptic seeking to successfully lead through your story. Here’s a special note for you. (Psst, others can continue reading as this may still apply to you, too!) 

You think through situations and process alternatives and impacts. That means you have the ability to see beyond the first problem your company solves and see the ripple effect your products and solutions create. The question is whether you are talking about it. You may be reluctant to share your story and skeptical about how much impact it will have. Yes, your experience is unique and not directly transferable to someone else – but how you feel about the organization will come through in your narrative and absolutely affects others’ view of the company.

More tangibly, you are well-suited to do the critical work that follows – seeing the roadblocks that may stand in the way of an individual’s success and fulfillment and finding a successful solution. Others may overlook the roadblocks — and you already are positioned and well-suited to support the employee in solving for those very things.

Whether you identify as an introverted skeptic or not, crafting the story is essential. It’s what takes the words on the wall in the corporate lobby and brings them to life.

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