Opinion: How can companies build a more authentic employer brand with employee stories?
PathMotion and Immersion Neuroscience show in their new research that employee stories are 20% more immersive than a corporate careers site alone
PathMotion and Immersion Neuroscience conducted a scientific study which examined candidates’ immersion levels during a standard recruitment process. The research, based on participants’ physiological data, demonstrated that employee stories are 20% more immersive than recruiting through careers sites alone, and that careers sites alone are not immersive.
PathMotion and Immersion Neuroscience tested three recruitment approaches for immersion. Conducted in March and April 2018, the research took place in a controlled lab environment at Immersion Neuroscience, testing the real-time immersion levels during the recruitment process among 68 undergraduate students. The study tested these immersion levels under three different recruitment conditions: those who browsed Citi’s careers site only, those who browsed Citi’s PathMotion careers discussion platform and featured stories from that platform, and those who participated in a PathMotion Live Chat with Citi employees about what it’s like to work at the company.
To understand immersion levels, the study examined participants’ physiological data, such as heart rate and oxytocin levels, using neurosensors and software. Each scenario was given an immersion score. A person's immersion level is a strong indicator of whether the content presented is persuasive and will lead them to take action – in this context, to apply for a job and accept an offer.
We found that employee stories are 20% more immersive than corporate careers sites. The experiment revealed some important results. Employee stories are 20% more immersive than careers sites, bringing more potential employees into the recruitment process. Employee stories drove constant immersion during the 30-minute session, compared to the careers site where interest dropped by over 30% after an initial peak. Employee stories are 50% less frustrating than careers sites and significantly below industry benchmarks for frustration. Real-time engagement with employees is the most immersive approach, with 95% of participants saying the content was highly relevant or relevant, 77% of participants saying their impression of the company improved, and 98% of participants saying they would apply for the job. Corporate careers sites are not immersive. Those browsing the corporate careers site only experienced a negative average immersion level, which indicates that these candidates were not immersed.
How can employers use employee stories to build a more authentic employer brand? Effective storytelling isn’t necessarily what employer branding teams believe it is. Many careers sites use the same testimonial video format of employees talking about how great it is to work at X company, listing some benefits or perks, and then saying things like, “Our team is like a family,” “We work hard and play hard” or “The best thing about working here is the people.” None of these statements stand out – these testimonials aren’t persuasive.
Instead, brands should produce good stories. According to our own analysis of over 100,000 stories across the PathMotion platform and research conducted by the Wharton Business School, a persuasive story should have five characteristics. First, it should have a narrative, there should be a clear arc to the story. Second is authenticity, it should be a real, lived experience. Third, a good amount of detail – avoid being vague or wishy-washy. Fourth, there should be meaningful challenges to demonstrate how obstacles have been overcome in the role, show candidates how they can grow. Finally, include practical tips – include some achievable steps or advice for candidates to take.
Coming back to the example of an employee testimonial video, it’s possible to make these videos more persuasive by changing the content of them. Instead of, “We get flexi-time to help us manage our work/life balance,” candidates want to hear a story from Karen in client success about how flexi-time allows her to make the school run without stressing about traffic on her way in. Instead of Rizwan in PR talking about the work hard/play hard culture, candidates want to know that after a particularly busy quarter with a lot of long hours, the team was rewarded with a big drinks celebration for hitting their targets and given two bonus days of holiday. Specific examples of the perks and culture of the organisation in action are more persuasive than simply listing them out.
Alon Laniado and David Rivel are co-founders of PathMotion