‘The whole person’: Internal publication tells employee stories

Robert Half—a staffing agency—takes readers beyond the walls of work when it covers its employees, drawing lessons from their surfing, football and military experiences.

"Half Times” is a publication of the staffing agency Robert Half.

“Half Times” is a publication of the staffing agency Robert Half. Click on the image to see the full cover.

Though digital communication has finished off some internal magazines, others have found new life, as organizations move from stodgy corporate promotions to people pieces.

Consider “Half Times,” a publication of the staffing agency Robert Half. Published for decades, in recent years it has transitioned from a collection of short, business-related stories to more of a consumer publication, says Amanda Jo Deppe, senior director of internal communications and community programs.

That includes a stronger focus on the company’s roughly 15,000 employees worldwide and the whole of their lives, not just the hours they spend at their desks.

“What we’ve done recently is focus on more of the personal attributes of people we’re interviewing for stories,” says Deppe.

The smart-looking quarterly publication also has a new online edition, launched last fall. Formerly, the only digital version was a pdf published in addition to the print magazine.

Editor-in-chief Jamie Menaker led the “redesign and reimagining of our online property so that each story has its own page … which allows us to cross-promote single stories into other areas of the intranet better,” Deppe says.

Translating stories

The company translates these pages, such as a piece on a new office in Brazil’s Sao Paulo in the most recent edition, into the local languages.

“If there’s a story about a team in Germany, we can have that story translated and put on the intranet for those readers,” Deppe says.

Perhaps a staffing agency, more than any other kind of business, has a keen sense that a workplace is all about its people. In any event, the editorial team seeks to include personal stories that relate to work.

“When you think about the experience of the employees at a company, we’re more than just the individual things that we do,” says Deppe. “I come to work, and I do my job. But I bring more to the table than just that, as do all of our employees. To be able to showcase the well-rounded nature of our colleagues gives people insight into who they are as a person, and it really helps make those connections internally.”

Even when touting a staffer’s success placing a job candidate with a key client, HalfTimes often calls out the Robert Half employee’s favorite hobby or nonwork activity. When interviewing a team member for a work anniversary, the writer also asks about their family or a favorite vacation spot.

West Point discipline

One recent story featured the Robert Half technology division director in Houston, who played football for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, as well as the University of Nevada, Reno.

Part of his secret, HalfTimes states, is his personal motto: ‘Desire, dedication, determination and discipline.”

The story notes that he uses the lessons of the football field, “giving his full commitment to his clients and candidates, and approaching obstacles as a challenge,” For example, he managed to staff an obscure technology position by tracking down and connecting with the candidate on FaceTime as the latter was vacationing in Japan.

In a story about the legal team, the writer noted that one member was a top culinary student in high school. “We never would have known that had we not asked that question,” Deppe says.

‘Giving another glimpse’

The magazine publishes milestone stories that aren’t tied to anniversaries, but are markers of a different nature, Deppe says. One featured a longtime recruiter, and instead of running a traditional photo of him at work, he was seen sitting onstage with his guitar.

The point is “showing someone outside of the office, giving another glimpse of their personal life in a way that feels authentic to the employee, but also interesting to their colleagues,” Deppe says.

The magazine includes a section about work-life balance, covering staffers who do yoga in the morning or train for the Ironman triathlon. This demonstrates how people manage their full life, and how outside skills make them better colleagues and employees, Deppe says.

Unlike some companies, when covering charitable activity, Robert Half doesn’t limit itself to cheering its own initiatives.

A recent story features a Sacramento regional manager who volunteers for Hire Heroes USA, a nonprofit that helps service members, veterans and military spouses make the transition to the civilian workforce.

The story highlights her own experience as loadmaster on a U.S. Air Force C-5. “I traveled the world,” the employee says. “We delivered tanks and troops to war zones, but also food and relief supplies for humanitarian missions.”

Hiring heroes

Another piece highlights a colleague who is a lifeguard at a nonprofit in Australia. The photograph features her in her wetsuit with a surfboard. Like the Air Force veteran, who is pictured in front of a giant airplane, the story enables photographers to get far more interesting shots than at an office cubicle farm.

“It really has been a focus on the whole person, versus just those with stories that happen within the office,” Deppe says. “We’ve received some really good feedback. People enjoy reading about their colleagues and finding out those details that they may not otherwise know.”

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