What John Lewis can teach businesses about using emotional storytelling to engage and attract talent

John Lewis is the master of emotional storytelling, defying digital trends, tugging at your heartstrings and telling an elegant, touching story that is guaranteed to be shared and discussed.

The John Lewis Christmas advert is the product of millions of pounds spent on consumer analysis, production and design. Whilst most businesses do not have budgets to create multi-million-pound productions as part of their talent attraction strategy, there are lessons we can take from their emotional storytelling to engage and connect with our future workforce.

Firstly, it is imperative to understand the audience you are trying to reach. Identifying the emotions that work best with the vision, values and culture of your organisation is a powerful strategy.

Emotions you can link to your brand could include:

• Gratitude (for trust/opportunities)
• Confidence (cultivating a workplace that inspires pro activeness)
• Optimism (for the future; personal development and company growth)
• Interest (exciting opportunities, events, collaboration, projects, etc.)
• Motivated (the desire to do a good job)
• Inspired (believing in the work you’re doing)
• Satisfaction (acknowledgement of your efforts)
• Pride (feeling proud of the work you’re doing; meeting and exceeding expectations)
• Sense of purpose (being part of something important)

John Lewis is a partnership. Its mission statement states: “The Partnership’s ultimate purpose is the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business.” It aims to “conduct all its business relationships with integrity and courtesy” and it wants to “contribute to the well being of the communities in which it serves.”

Themes of happiness, courtesy and taking responsibility for the well being of others flow through John Lewis’s Christmas ads. As a result, with each new ad, the company reinforces its identity.

Before launching their Christmas ads John Lewis builds anticipation with teasers, ensuring people flock to YouTube to view it upon release. Across its social media platforms John Lewis uses hashtags (#ExcitableEdgar) to make their ads searchable, encouraging conversations and generating momentum.

Teasers are also a great way to generate excitement before launching a new recruitment campaign. Ideas such as new employee benefits, CSR activities or even leaking details about the Christmas party can be utilised to keep potential candidates engaged with your brand.

People love a good story. It has the power shape what they think about your business. So take storytelling a step further and weave it into your talent attraction strategy.

In times of low unemployment rates (the lowest in the UK since 1974), candidates have more choice than ever when choosing which employer to work for, just as consumers have greater choice over where and how they shop.

Selling career opportunities to potential candidates is no different to a retailer selling products or services, and the channels used must be reflective of changes in consumer and candidate trends and behaviours.

Research tells us that people do not make decisions logically, but emotionally.

Identify the stories that represent the vision, values and culture of your organisation. The candidates you are hoping to attract are more likely to emotionally connect with the people within your organisation, rather than the brand alone. Use current employees to help bring your brand to life and show what it is like to work in your organisation.

With emotional storytelling, you aim to connect your brand to positive emotions, strengthening your relationship with your audience so they feel confident engaging with your products or services.

What could be more powerful than the ability to emote, persuade and inspire future talent with your talent acquisition strategy, just as John Lewis does with its Christmas ads?

Organisations need to focus on every aspect in their talent acquisition strategy – the words they use, the way they’re used, how they create rapport and the channels they use to get their message to their audience.

It’s only by making our messages simple, effective and engaging that businesses will create a compelling employer brand. Emotional storytelling will reveal the human side to your brand and give you a competitive advantage when engaging and attracting future talent.

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