What story are you telling?

Last Christmas I was sat at home watching TV, my mulled wine in one hand and the television remote in the other doing the usual evening channel surf.

I love Christmas time. It’s one of the best things about what I find to be an otherwise very dull and depressing time of year. And even if you’re not quite feeling festive enough in the run up, you can pretty much guarantee that there’s something on TV that will get you in the mood – whether your preference is Elf, or The Muppets Christmas Carol.

As I was flicking through, I came across something that caught my attention and I paused to watch for a moment. It was a very well made cartoon about a bear and a hare who were preparing to celebrate Christmas together.

But from what I could gather, the bear had to leave early – he never got to see Christmas as he had to go and hibernate. The hare looked rather devastated as he watched his friend wonder off to his cave to sleep and miss out on the Christmas fun with all the other animals, yet again.

I felt genuinely upset for the little mite, and being an animal lover it moved me a little. I carried on watching.

The hare managed to find the bear’s cave, saw him snoozing, and left him a little present. A small red box at the entrance of the cave. He then left to go and re-join the other animals and the advert cut to a scene where all the animals, hare included, were enjoying themselves around this big Christmas tree covered in lights and decorations.

Then, from over the horizon the hare spots his friend the grizzly bear walking towards them.

The bear sees the tree and all the other animals having fun. The look of awe and happiness in the bears eyes reminded me of that feeling I would get as a kid when I came down the stairs on Christmas morning to see the tree bursting with presents, decorations and the sledge tracks leading back all the way to the fireplace that my dad had drawn into the carpet with his fingers. I felt excited for him!

It turns out the hare had bought the bear an alarm clock, so he could wake up and enjoy Christmas with all the other animals.

I have to say it genuinely moved me, and at 29 years old, made a connection to my past that was so personal and so specific to my life that there was no escaping the emotions it evoked. Lily Allen finished the job off.

Of course, if you haven’t guessed already, I’m referring to the John Lewis Christmas ad from 2013, aptly titled, The Bear & The Hare.

So why am I telling you this story?

Storytelling comes naturally to us – it’s been used to pass information between generations since we existed. Tests have shown that when you hear a story, the same parts of the brain light up that would if you were experiencing the event first hand.

This allows that person to frame the content within their own personal context, thus evoking memories and emotion that are specific to that individual. Everyone who listens to a story will hear the same content, but generate their own personal response. This is incredibly important because we live in a world where we’re subjected to as many as 5,000 ads per day. The key to standing out today is to leave a personalised, emotional impression.

Working in recruitment marketing I’ve seen the industry change quite drastically in a very short space of time. I understand the factors that have influenced this change – but I still see many employers reluctant to embrace it. I’m puzzled as to why there’s a fear of that change and why employers continue to do things in a certain way, simply because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it.’

HR and Recruitment should actively encourage employees to get out there and tell their story. But first, they need to tell that story internally, and it needs to land because your employees will be the vehicles for your messages. If a brand and EVP is built in the right way, is founded on honesty and truth and it’s an accurate reflection of internal culture and values, then employees are more likely to tell that story on behalf of the employer. And in today’s world, that’s incredibly powerful.

There’s a multitude of tools employers can use to share their stories with people – blogs, videos, pictures and social being great examples. But employers need to trust their own people to be their advocates and start telling their own stories about how they’ve made an impact in the business. And that’s something that you don’t see often enough.

In a few months, I’ll be eagerly waiting to see how John Lewis follows up their huge success, and equally vigilant for how the competition keeps up. Because when you mention Christmas TV to me now, The Bear and Hear is one of the first things I think of…. along of course with the Coca-Cola ad that has burrowed its way into my brain more from repetition than anything else.

So, for any employers reading this, ask yourself, “What story are we telling?”

For other great examples of storytelling have a look at the links below.

Dodge Ram – “God Made a Farmer” and Johnnie Walker’s – The Man Who Walked Around The World

If you’d like to talk to us about how to start telling your own story more effectively, then head over to, get in touch, and pop over for a coffee so we can share a few of our own success stories with you.

Onboarding. Onshoring. Outsourcing. Offshoring.


Can you remember your last first day at a new job? The nervous gulp as you pushed open the front door of your new building? The ‘ting’ of the elevator as it arrived at your floor? The being introduced to people whose names you instantly forget? The excitement of a new challenge? The wondering where the coffee machine is?


We’ve all experienced those feelings – and perhaps many more besides. We all know that joining a new business is one of the most stressful points in any career, and we all try to make each new joiners experience a good one – don’t we?

Of course, and when it’s done right, onboarding can be an inspiring process.

Why is it then that the fundamentally human behaviour of making someone new feel welcome in a group, often becomes no more than a tick box exercise, a business process to be nodded at? No different to offshoring customer service centres or outsourcing payroll.

Isn’t that a missed opportunity?shutterstock_188248448

That first few days for a new employee sets the agenda for the rest of their time with you. It affects the relationship you’ll have with that person for a disproportionately long period of time. You only get one shot at this unique opportunity for your new employee to make the best possible start. It can make a huge impact on engagement, performance and attrition levels. And it can mean positive things for everyone involved.

So how do you make an onboarding process really matter? The answer is to look at your own personal experience. Remember the questions that mattered to you.

Questions like: “Who’s going to be in my team? Where and when do I eat my lunch? What does the MD look like? Would Irings know the boss if I passed them in the kitchen? Where are all the other newbies? Does everyone go for drinks on a Friday?” And not forgetting “Who can I talk to about all of this without looking silly?”

These are far from frivolous questions. Imagine you’ve been sold an employer brand that’s promised a ‘socially savvy environment with a laid back, open culture’; but reality is that this turns out to be completely untrue because no-one has engaged with you personally…

Make it human and engaging

An average onboarding initiative offers the basic support and information people need to get on with their job. Like floor plans, email policy, personal development and review plans.

That’s all well and good. But we’re missing something incredibly important here. The human element. The person to person interaction we all value more highly above all else. The social touch.

With this in mind, here are some tips to help you create a more engaging onboarding experience:

  • First, make the practical stuff easy. Store all your information in one accessible place. GenY (and beyond), will not put up with substandard IT infrastructure or difficult to reach content. An app or a dedicated portal such as a microsite are easy to implement quick fixes.
  • Make sure you include team members who don’t have continual access to a desktop PC. Make the solution mobile.
  • Make the process as social as possible.

o   Allow people to connect with senior leaders and team members

o   Allow people to start connecting and talking before they join

o   Organise events for all new starters

o   Gamify. Create leaderboards or competitions to encourage people to achieve key objectives each.

  • Give people a reason to keep coming back. Keep content dynamic, and allow people to develop their profile and connections over 6 to 12 months.

Balance the functional with the emotional.emotional

Practical issues are part and parcel of joining a new business. But if your onboarding process addresses basic human needs too, you’ll make the shiny new person you’ve just hired a critical part of the team before they even start.

Getting to grips with the emotional elements can mean the difference between an employee leaving within six-months – or an incredibly skilled person coming out of their shell and achieving their full potential. That’s why a good onboarding process really matters.

If you’d like to hear more about our views on onboarding, or to learn about insights we gained from working with employers and how that might help you, get in touch. We’d love to tell you more.

Tonic 2014