The power of narrative: Creating impactful employee engagement through storytelling
Marketers have long recognised the power of a great story to position their brand and win over consumers’ hearts and minds. They know that a compelling narrative can be powerful enough to transcend the product, propelling the brand into people’s lives, forging deep emotional connections and driving competitive advantage. But storytelling does not have to stop at your marketing department’s door.
At Ludic, where we help some of the world’s largest organisations navigate complex, sustainable change, we are passionate about putting this age-old skill at the heart of our next-generation transformation programmes.
We believe that by creating a workforce of storytellers – whether sharing stories about your company’s future state or stories about your business on its best day – you can take employee engagement to the next level, accelerating and supporting change from the “bottom up” as well as the “top down”.
Our team of storytelling experts – to include actors, coaches, writers and world-class visual communicators – share five reasons why storytelling is an invaluable tool for driving engagement, maintaining momentum and delivering effective and sustainable change.
1. Stories bring vision and strategy to life
Everybody loves a good story. Stories and storytelling are a significant part of our lives and always have been. We find information easier to understand and process when communicated as a “story”, as we learn better from specific examples than from abstract information.
Stories and analogies can help employees make sense of change, the reasons behind it and the need for new organisational visions, goals and ethos. Abstract strategies – which at face value may seem far removed from people’s day-to-day working lives – can be brought to life for employees more meaningfully through stories, framing change in ways that enhance credibility and instil in people the confidence that it can be achieved.
2. Storytelling creates deep emotional connections
Storytelling taps into the limbic part of the brain – the part where the “heart-winning” is done. It is the seat of the (often unconscious) value judgements we make that exert a strong influence on our behaviour and mindset. If we are told something as a story, we are more likely to relate to it, to bring our own experiences, memories, emotions and imaginations to bear upon it and, ultimately, to absorb it more deeply.
Storytelling can thus create strong emotional connections between an organisation and its employees’ identity or sense of self. These positive personal connections are “make or break” at times of change, when people may be feeling wary or apprehensive, and particularly when they are being asked to adopt the new values, attitudes and behaviours that this change requires.
3. Storytelling can highlight excellence that already exists – and amplify it
As a business looks to make changes, it is easy to ask questions that find areas of discontent, poor feedback and failings – but this does not mean that stories of great success, extraordinary commitment or new discoveries aren’t out there. In our experience, organisations that set out to find examples of excellence that already exist within the business and to share them through the art of storytelling are able to create powerful, energising engagement that can drive and shape future success.
These stories build pride and confidence among an organisation’s people. They are a terrific way of unlocking and sharing the knowledge that is already out there, are incredibly persuasive and can shape new conversations about what people do and how they do it. The most inspiring stories demonstrate new behaviours, perspectives and ideas that add value and improve performance in ways that can be replicated to achieve similar results. The best examples can be taken forward and amplified to unleash potential across the business.
4. Storytelling can create a focus for participation
Some of the companies we work with find that engagement and motivation stall not because their people are disengaged but because they simply don’t know what to engage in to change the business and help make it successful. Putting a simple mechanism in place, such as an online library for submitting success stories related to key strategy areas, enables large numbers of people to contribute, focusing their energies in a meaningful and productive way and helping to shift behaviours in the business.
5. Sharing stories can improve internal communications
Encouraging employees across the organisation to share their stories of success (which may also be rewarded) improves communications between leadership and the wider workforce. Employees feel that their input is listened to and valued, and that leaders take action according to the best suggestions. In today’s business landscape, where transformation is increasingly an ongoing process, momentum can be maintained and change effectively co-created as people take ownership of their organisation’s new narratives and apply their own experiences to the message.
Find out more about how Ludic’s storytelling experts can help your organisation create and present compelling narratives to powerfully engage and motivate your people and drive transformation across the business.