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Unlocking Success: Securing Great Sustainability Talent Through the Lost Art of Storytelling

Timothy Smith, Business Director, Hays Hong Kong SAR

Office professionals looking at a laptop

"It's time to stop overthinking your strategic talent attraction plans and start thinking about your narrative."
In this article, we will explore the strategies and skills that business leaders can employ to attract and hire the most gifted sustainability professionals, gaining a competitive edge in a candidate-short market.

In today's rapidly changing world, the demand for sustainability professionals has reached unprecedented heights. As industries respond to environmental and social imperatives, organisations face fierce competition in attracting and retaining top talent in the sustainability space. While supporting organisations through this battle for talent, I've come across complex plans and expensive, overthought attraction ideas, but many have forgotten about the transformative power of storytelling.

Leaders (and recruiters) who master the art of storytelling naturally find it easier to attract the right talent. Here are 8 tips to enable your talent acquisition strategy in the world of sustainability.


1. Crafting Compelling Narratives

With the changing values and motivations of candidates in the new age, storytelling is imperative for building authentic connections and engaging candidates on a deeper level, particularly in the sustainability field.

Hiring managers and HR professionals need to go beyond traditional job descriptions and weave narratives that highlight the meaningful work and positive impact candidates can make within their organisations. By crafting compelling stories that communicate the organisation's sustainability vision, values, and impact, organisations can capture the imaginations of candidates who resonate with those principles.

Storytelling allows organisations to stand out, giving them a competitive edge while creating a lasting impression on potential candidates, whether they are ultimately hired or not.


2. Understanding the Target Audience

Firstly, to attract the right sustainability professionals, HR and hiring managers must have a clear understanding of the ideal candidate profile. This includes defining the desired skill set, experience, and values that align with the organisation's sustainability goals.

Asking questions and understanding candidate motivations is crucial in tailoring the storytelling approach effectively. By understanding what drives sustainability professionals, organisations can align their narratives with the aspirations and values of the target audience, attracting candidates who are genuinely passionate about making a difference.


3. Leveraging Authenticity and Values

Authenticity is key to attracting sustainability talent. Candidates today can quickly identify when someone is "selling" and when someone is "telling". They want to work for organisations that genuinely live up to their sustainability commitments. Business leaders can build an authentic employer brand by showcasing the organisation's values and initiatives through captivating storytelling. By highlighting the positive impact, the organisation has created an opportunity for growth, inspiring candidates and demonstrating that they can contribute meaningfully to a larger purpose. Emphasising the organisation's commitment to sustainability, sharing a vision, and showcasing real-world examples will resonate with purpose-driven candidates.


4. Harnessing the Power of Employee Stories

Employee input can be a powerful tool to showcase the organisation's culture and values. Managers should encourage employees to share their personal journeys with potential candidates, especially experiences related to values, culture, and career potential within the organisation.

These stories humanise the company, creates relatability, and provides concrete examples of the positive impact employees have made. Sharing stories of development opportunities, collaboration, progress, and projects can provide candidates with a visceral connection to the human purpose they serve, which can motivate them to give their best effort during the interview process and feel more fulfilled in their future position. This, in turn, helps validate the candidates' reasons for choosing this as their preferred job opportunity.


5. Transparent Communication between Line Managers and HR

To ensure consistency in messaging and storytelling, it is crucial to foster transparent communication between investors, executives, line managers, HR, and recruitment partners. Line managers (in particular) play a vital role in conveying the institution's sustainability vision during the recruitment process.

By aligning your storytelling approach, stakeholders can ensure that the messaging is consistent and accurately reflects your sustainability vision. Regular communication and feedback loops between executives, line managers, HR, and recruiters helps maintain a unified narrative and enhances the candidate's impression.


6. Embracing the Recruitment Partner as an Extension of the Organisation

To establish a strong partnership, organisations must view their external recruitment partner as a "third arm" of their company. By treating them as an extension of the organisation, hiring managers can foster a sense of shared purpose and collaboration. This mindset shift allows the recruiter to effectively represent the organisation's values and narrative to potential candidates, ensuring a consistent and compelling story throughout the recruitment process.

Open communication and access to business leaders are vital for external recruiters to understand the organisation's culture, values, and sustainability initiatives. HR professionals should facilitate introductions and provide opportunities for the recruitment partner to interact with managers directly. This access enables everyone to gain firsthand knowledge of the organisation's goals and align their efforts accordingly.

Building strong relationships between recruiters, HR professionals, and line managers fosters a cohesive recruitment strategy, promotes a consistent storytelling approach, and creates a "safe place" for candidates to land.