More Than Science: How Storytelling Transformed Thermo Fisher Scientific's Employer Brand

In 2015, Thermo Fisher Scientific was looking to launch the company’s first employer brand. The Fortune 500 Company employs 55,000 professionals in diverse fields including the research, healthcare, industrial and applied markets. Thermo Fisher Scientific offers services and products that enable its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.

The employer brand team was faced with a challenge: How do you  take an enormously successful company with a humility-focused leader and communicate a story that will make people want to work there for the right reasons?

 

Thermo Fisher at a Glance

  • $18B revenue

  • 55,000 employees

  • $700M/YR R&D Spend

  • 1,000,000 products sold

  • 600 global locations

  • Fill 12,000 reqs a year

 

WHY WE DID IT

 

Like many organizations, Thermo Fisher relied heavily on its mission, vision and values when communicating who they are. These are the core, strategic influences that employees use within an organization to guide their decisions and influence their behavior.

When Charlotte Marshall, Thermo Fisher’s Employer Brand Leader, joined Thermo Fisher Scientific, this approach concerned her. Specifically, thinking about their 2020 vision, she knew the Company had a mighty goal in front of them - to hire and engage 25,000 employees across 600 global locations within 5 years. Charlotte knew if Thermo Fisher continued to let their expectations of employees guide their conversations with candidates, they were not going to hit their hiring goal.  

Charlotte explains, “When you step back and analyze what the words behind our mission, vision and values represent, they are our company’s expectations for how we behave and the projects worthy of our time. From an employee’s perspective, there is not a single reference to what the company offers its people in exchange for meeting these expectations. When you lead with these attributes in candidate outreach, you are missing the WITFM (what’s in it for me).”

To compete effectively in today's talent-driven market you have to start talking about “why” candidates should come work with you. You can not let your company’s expectations for your employees lead the conversation. This is important because when we changed our language, and started to talk about the compelling things we can do for our employees and candidates – we more than doubled traffic to the careers page, halved cost per hire and drew in a higher quality of applications within 4 months of launching our employer brand.

 

Goals and Objectives

At the onset of the project, we had clear G&Os in mind.

 

WHAT WE DID

 

The first step was, in many ways, the springboard for all else to come. We learned about the company’s strategy, proof points and real personality—the individual’s stories, history and soul that drive the work and culture. We spent time listening to plans for the company and reflections about the organization. On top of that, we interviewed 13 leaders (members of the company’s ruling body, its rainmakers, its culture-bearers and those who will take the company into the future) to gather stories.

Stories are key because good marketing is really about memorable storytelling. We conducted focus groups and a company-wide survey. We established a branding committee to review and direct the strategy and resulting creative materials. Members of this committee were respected members of the company representing different service areas, offices and points of view.

The result of the research is the strategic positioning; also know as the employee value proposition (EVP). It is a way of clarifying and summarizing what we offer candidates and why they should come and work for Thermo Fisher. This is, without question, the most important deliverable in the entire employer branding process. It is the distillation of all that we learned about the company. It guided our work throughout the process and was used again and again as a touchstone for the evolving creative.

Putting flesh on the bones of the EVP occurred during the development of the recruitment marketing creative (careers site, social/digital assets, candidate collateral, advertisements, recruiting booth etc.). The look and feel developed for these materials gave the company a broader canvas on which to paint a more complete picture. Messages can be expanded, become more discursive or refined. Key points can be highlighted. Individual markets can be targeted with more precise selling points.

The final step before activation is to develop the content strategy, which can include employee profiles, images, videos, and articles. We spent time building a robust content library that demonstrates how our company delivers on our EVP.


Research-based approach to identifying and coding key employment drivers

Apply employment messaging to support business objectives

 

HOW WE DID IT

 

As with all large-scale initiatives, getting C-level buy-in at the onset of the project, was critical. We spent time building a support base and engaging key stakeholders. Once we had a wide base of supporters, we began a mix of qualitative and quantitative research to inform the development of our EVP. Once the research was complete, we held review sessions to test what we learned with our executives. It’s critical to keep this team engaged throughout the project and bake their feedback into the deliverables.  Finally, we drafted our content playbooks, developed the creative campaign and trained our TA team on the new employer brand.

  1. Draft Integrated Communication Plan (template below) to socialize the project with senior leadership to gain buy-in and support.

  2. Engaged a third party to conduct EVP Research

Thermo Fisher Scientific took a research-intensive approach so they could say with confidence this is the universal experience of working at Thermo Fisher. The organization is large, global and grows significantly via acquisitions. When Charlotte stepped into her role, there was a feeling a universal experience didn’t exist. Therefore, the team built a research methodology that would allow them to build their EVP with statistical confidence--this approach gave the senior leadership team a confidence that they could say the resulting EVP with authority at the end of the project.  

They surveyed a representative sample of employees across all band levels, job categories and geographies, conducted six focus groups around the world, held qualitative interviews with senior leadership in addition to a culture-building workshop. Throughout the research, they were really looking for two things:

  • What did people care most about in their career

  • And what areas did Thermo Fisher really deliver on?

And that’s where the art meets the science ­– they looked at overlap to the responses to those two questions. They compared those possibilities alongside the market drivers, their competitor positioning,  and voila their EVP was born.

  1. Research Findings - analyze research findings and develop findings report. Present findings to stakeholder team.

  2. Build Employer Brand Platform - develop EB platform, present to stakeholder team. Incorporate feedback and finalize.

  3. Draft Content Playbook

  4. Creative Campaign and Collateral Development

  5. Conduct Employer Brand Training

 

THERMO FISHER’S POSITIONING STRATEGY

EVP: Core Positioning

At Thermo Fisher, being part of our team means a candidate will have the opportunity to: Realize your best – professionally and personally. We’re communicating to our audience that Thermo Fisher Scientific provides continuous challenge and expansive opportunities that empower professionals to reach their professional and personal best.

This EVP statement is supported by four research-backed pillars that dive a bit deeper into who we are, how we work and what we offer our professionals.

Supporting Pillars

While the pillars expand upon our EVP, the true magic of the pillars come to life during content generation. To prove these four pillars are alive and well within our organization, each piece of content we produce must demonstrate these in some way, shape or form.  You won’t find any of the words from our EVP or pillar show up in our campaign. Rather we focus on developing stories, articles and testimonials that support the ideas each pillar represents.

Pillar 1

A transformative leader powered by an important mission

Thermo Fisher Scientific is changing the scientific industry, achieving success on a global scale while wholeheartedly embracing its mission: enabling customers to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer.

On the bottom of the graphic above you’ll see the reasons to believe. They speak to the realities of the experience, the aspirations and what the market is looking for. But we also want to further understand on a real individual gut level what this means to our two most important audiences – candidates and employees. And from a candidate perspective when they encounter this pillar we want them to feel confident about joining the organization and once onboard they will maintain that confidence but it will move onto inspiration.

Pillar 2

Meaningful impact inside the company and out

We are empowered to affect change, taking on challenges that lead to personal achievement, company success, and genuine contributions to society.


From the candidate standpoint we want them come to an understanding of the challenge that lies before them. And once they are employees still understanding the way challenge helps them develop and make their job interesting but also overlaying that with a sense of purpose. So here you see a more emotional aspect than in the first pillar.

Pillar 3

Working the right way for the right reasons

By putting our mission first and striving for optimal performance, together we focus on doing the right thing and improving the quality of work.


We want candidates to see Thermo Fisher an organization with integrity and carry that over to when they are an employee and further overlaying that with a sense of achievement as how work gets done and how successful the organization is.

Pillar 4

Where careers are made

Size, scope, and success makes Thermo Fisher Scientific a great platform for careers, offering a variety of paths for learning and development, cross-functional exploration, and opportunities for advancement.

From a candidate perspective we want them to look at our organization and see a landscape of possibility before them and then becoming a employee (still realizing that possibility is there) but because it’s all laid out for them to connect with (and achieve) they move forward with a sense of fulfillment. It’s both rational and emotional.
 

AUDIENCES

Next, we looked to see if any differences arose by audience. Sure enough, some audiences stood out, not just from the standpoint of being important to recruit, but even from a messaging segmentation approach. There are certain things we say (and dial up) when talking to a sales audience, than when talking to a technical audience or a campus audience. Other candidate drivers came into play for Asia and others. For example, EMEA placed more importance on the notion of challenging work where as Finance cared more company stability and leadership. These key messages are all documented in a messaging guideline doc (template below). Naturally, these differences can be leveraged in our to resonate more deeply with certain constituencies.

CREATIVE CAMPAIGNS


Throughout this process, our aim was to find colleagues across our global operations who would share stories with us about something they experienced personally or through work. It all came together to create this integrated personal and professional component to being here.

Because of this, when we think of “the Thermo Fisher employer brand” it’s not just this creative messaging, it’s as much as the integration of real stories as anything. As you separate one from the other it falls flat. So really what we're after here is integration. Both programmatic and messaging itself.

 
Screenshot 2017-01-05 13.02.48.png

What I do helps us anticipate the future—by going back as far as we can go. Using Thermo Fisher Scientific systems, the British Antarctic Survey evaluates chemicals in 800,000-year-old ice cores. Our instruments help the scientists measure small differences in the ice over time, giving the world access to unprecedented information about how the climate has changed—and crucial clues about what lies ahead.

Our work has global influence, but I also appreciate the small-scale rewards of what I do. Collaborating with my colleagues to provide new opportunities for our customers. Making sure the people we serve have the right tools to get the best results. Helping our customers speed up their analysis and productivity. Every day, I’m able to impact people who are doing important work and making groundbreaking discoveries.

If you’re looking for clues to your future, you’ll discover that, at Thermo Fisher Scientific, each one of our 50,000 extraordinary minds has a unique story to tell. And we all contribute to a singular mission—enabling our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.

In each and every story we want to demonstrate both the professionals and personal reason to be here. If you go back to the core positioning, it’s about realizing your best professionally and personally…that’s the one thing that has to come through in every story. You also recall the pillars, some of them talked about being a transformative company with a mission some of them talked about working together for the right reasons. So what we’re also demonstrating is a connection to the pillars in each story. And in most cases it’s more than one pillar.


The Campaign Look
 

Digging deeper into what you are looking at, we want to capture these as a immersion in a particular scene that makes it very powerful and come to life. Notice Dan is not smiling the idea is that you look at this and immediately feel the impact of the story. Therefore your association with this place as somewhere to work goes pretty deep. A pulled-back scene shows the employee reflecting on a specific moment of their story, within the context of an environment that supports the story.

  • The photography and its beauty anchors our stories.
  • We are not looking for standard portraits. Each shot should reflect a unique aspect of the story, through selected focus, interesting angles or other techniques.
  • We are seeking an emotional connection with our audience. Expressions are vital – employees are pensive or excited, always engaged in the moment and looking over their environment.

And so “What Story Will You Tell” was born. When job seekers reach Thermo Fisher’s careers page, instead of reading about hours, days, months in the lab amplifying DNA precision, they see Julio reflecting on the justice he knows his work has helped serve. He tells stories of families of victims who find peace through a rightful conviction based on DNA evidence; of wrongly incarcerated individuals set free, exonerated because of the science he helped create.

Alongside these stories of impact are even more personal stories. Joe, the CIO of Thermo Fisher Scientific, truly believes his work changes lives each day because the lives of his twin children were once transformed forever by sequencing technology. Both a giver and recipient of such a gift, he attests to his work being more than just science.

 

HOW WE USE STORIES

Competing for the top talent in science and technology, we bet on these stories providing value beyond just compensation, job perks, and creating the next big innovation. And the stories did just that. As you’ll recall each story ties back to a specific hiring need. For example, Thermo Fisher was opening a new technology data center in Tijuana, Mexico. Competing with tech giants such as Google and Amazon for top talent — as well as recruiting into an area not traditionally associated with tech innovation — the talent acquisition team used their stories to set them apart from the competition.

Armed with over 40 employee stories, Thermo Fisher Scientific incorporated storytelling training into recruiter training programs (template below), helping them speak to people’s hearts as well as their minds. To incorporate it into day-to-day culture, each talent acquisition member was asked to share their own story. Storytelling has also been introduced into corporate town halls, where company leaders begin meetings by sharing stories from around the company.

The employer brand stories were also turned into beautiful wall signage that dress their facilities around the world. These printed pieces build a strong emotional connection to the company and encourage their people to look at their work from a different perspective.

Thermo Fisher is also making strides to train their team members how to best use the content. According to independent research conducted by LinkedIn, when they share on their individual networks the same content as the official company network, employees on average receive 2x the click-through rates. The power of employees as brand ambassadors is overwhelming.

Aware of this fact, Thermo Fisher publishes a bi-weekly newsletter, #TATalk, which promotes the company’s stories and encourages team members to share the content on their personal networks. While not being forced, the newsletter arms its team members with engaging, easy-to-share content that when shared will resonate with potential candidates.

Ways to leverage stories

  1. Social editorial calendar to promote our stories on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Facebook and Twitter and to guide content curation

  2. Career site - rotating stories quarterly

  3. Recruitment marketing channels (i.e., Indeed; Glassdoor, LinkedIn).

  4. Video storytelling

  5. Candidate conversations

  6. Internal branding & Interview rooms

  7. Events

  8. Employee advocacy

  9. Internal Comms/Employee engagement.

 

KEY RESULTS

 
  • 123% increase in global career site visits

  • 162% increase in apply clicks

  • Reduced media cost per hire (CPH) by more than 60%, reduced total CPH by 11%

  • Application to hire ratio reduced by 56%

  • Time to fill decreased 47%

  • Employee referrals grew 6.4%

  • Fastest growing bio-pharma brand on Glassdoor growing more than 2x the rates of our competitors

The overwhelming success of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s story-based employer brand launch demonstrates just how powerful storytelling is as an employer branding methodology.

The organic process has more than doubled traffic to the careers page, more than halved cost per hire ratios, and drawn in a higher quality of applications.

Without an activated employer brand, we are simply recruiting talent. Our brand has been a game changer, helping us target the market strategically and enabling our recruiters to speak with confidence on why candidates should join us.

Beyond saving time and money, the use of stories has also altered employee engagement and morale by improving how team members are choosing to communicate with each other. The stories have anchored them in Thermo Fisher’s mission and been a welcome reminder of just how important the work they do is.

 

WHAT WE MISSED

 

#1 Technology

The biggest miss what not realizing the technology hosting our website was unstable. Shortly after launch we had a series of technical challenges and errors, candidates were unable to find and apply for our jobs. It goes without saying that the best employer brand in the world does you no good if candidates can not apply for jobs, or have a bad CX. Rule number one, ensure your technology house and CX is in order before launching your new employer brand.

Check out the newly launched jobs.thermofisher.com built on the Smashfly platform.

#2 Recruiter Adoption

We significantly underestimated the complexity of getting our recruiters – about 150 around the world – to leverage the content in their day-to-day interactions. It was like handing someone a scalpel and expecting them to know how to perform an appendectomy. We didn’t take the time to think like a recruiter. As a result the recruiter adoption was much slower than we anticipated.

#3 Internal Adoption

We missed an opportunity to roll the brand out internally to our employees before launching externally. This happened in parallel.

#4 Talent Pipelines

We also missed an early opportunity to use the brand to build talent pipelines. The CRM we had in hand (Social Source) was unused and unloved. We are implementing a best in class CRM in January (Smashfly) that will enable us to use the tailored content we’ve created to reach our passive audiences.

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

 
  • Keep your steering committee small, but your stakeholder group wide. The more people you can bring in, make part of the effort, the more successful you'll be.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a really good Integrated Marketing Communication plan to build buy-in at the onset.

  • Make the case for resources. I've build employer brands at four different companies, and by far, this has been the most successful. The main reason for that success is that Thermo Fisher allowed us the time and resources to do everything right - meaning, we didn't cut corners. We invested a year's worth of time and invested in strategic partners to help us with the different steps of the process. I grew my team from an army of one to a global team of five over two years.

  • When it comes to your photoshoots, make the investment to help your employees shine (hair, makeup, wardrobe). Trust me, this was an area I wasn't sold on at the onset, and now having lived it, I would never go without. When employees show up to a photoshoot with crazy hair or too much/not enough make-up, or in unflattering clothing that clashed with our brand colors that would frame their photo, I quickly appreciated having carefully chosen pieces we could offer up as well as a glam squad to make people really feel special and look their best. Each employee felt supported because of these extra steps, and proud of the final product.

  • Gathering stories at the onset is really challenging. My advice is go outside of TA and HR. Connect with the business leaders. I remember drafting fake stories to illustrate what I was trying to produce. I drafted a simple questionnaire each group could fill out to submit their ideas, and went back to interview the ones with potential. Remember this is new for everyone. Show them what you are after, it will help.

Story Questionnaire

Describe what you do in one sentence.

When you think about your career at Thermo Fisher Scientific, what has made it a great place to work? (Feel free to describe elements that matter to you both personally and professionally)

Describe one experience or project that has made a lasting impression on you.

What’s the most innovative idea/product/project you’ve ever been involved with while at Thermo Fisher Scientific?

What product/idea/project has changed the way you see how your work matters and why?

How are you enabling your customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer?

  • Don't forget to activate internally - your employer brand should work to re-recruit your existing employees on a daily basis.

 

RESOURCES  USED

 
  • Outside agency to conduct the research and build EVP
  • Multiple creative partners to submit pitches for the creative concept
  • Smashfly - total recruitment marketing site
  • Built an internal employer brand team of 5 professionals to support the activation
  • LinkedIn Elevate
  • Canva for work
  • Constant Contact - branded and trackable internal comms (#TATALK)