Boosting employee engagement in a competitive retail hiring market

JOANN, a fabric and craft superstore with more than 800 locations across the United States, needed to reimagine their recruitment and employee experience messaging and update e-learning opportunities for increased employee engagement.

Brand strategy

With three major distribution centers, a bustling corporate headquarters, and a slew of deskless employees in store, the team at JOANN invested in re-creating a new employer brand. The objective was to authentically tell JOANN’s story, resonate with current employees, and position their recruitment efforts to attract and retain right-fit talent.

Collaborating with the Director of Talent Acquisition to conduct stakeholder interviews with JOANN leadership, we discovered that to achieve their goals we had to break free from the idea that JOANN is “your grandma’s fabric store” and accurately represent all JOANN had to offer.

Together, we crafted a distinct employer brand, including a new employee value proposition, voice, messaging, and communication pillars, including recruitment messaging. The employer brand positioning focused on the creative aspects of their employee base, resulting in the new positioning: “We create a happy place.”

Website and Recruitment Campaigns

To further carry the employer brand through to the candidate experience, strategic updates were made to JOANN’s career page, as well as creating an in-store recruitment campaign that connected to deskless employees.

Focused on crafting specific user pathways, updates to the career site intuitively lead candidates to the information they need based on their specific position.

Targeting the three employee types—distribution center, in-store/deskless, and corporate—we developed specific campaigns to communicate what mattered most to those roles. Our priority recruitment campaign was for deskless employees, due to the direct competition for in-store employees. With a deep connection to crafters and those already invested in the JOANN brand, this campaign utilized digital and print assets including in-store posters and bag stuffers, email campaigns, social media, and in-store referrals from employees who were empowered to have conversations with interested customers.

E-Learning Transformation

“We create a happy place” was not only an internal message, but a key motivator for new hires as well. We produced interactive e-learning modules with customized, role-specific onboarding activities. Starting with an audit of current onboarding and training materials, we edited relevant content for clarity, and created supplemental custom templates with the ability to gamify the learning courses, including quizzes and completion tracking.


The new employer brand helped carry the JOANN culture and story through the recruitment cycle and throughout the entire employee experience. This resulted in messaging that resonates with current employees and attracts candidates who fit the culture, supported by the training materials and assets to consistently execute across the organization.

“We first used Sanger & Eby [now Hanson] to create our EVP and employer brand. The relationship was so successful, we continued working together to create and execute our careers site and on-boarding materials. They have done an incredible job integrating themselves into our team, understanding our company objectives, and working with us to develop a world-class user experience that delights both our future and present employees.”

— Krysta Kluska, former Director Talent Management, JOANN Stores

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