The importance of storytelling for inclusion, engagement and wellbeing
There are few things more gripping than a good story. Storytelling is part of our make-up, helping to entertain, educate and inspire us to greater things. In business, story-telling is an intrinsic part of our working lives. We hear how the Chairman started from humble beginnings and with confidence and self-belief quickly progressed through the ranks, and how a sale was secured at the 11th hour against all odds. We like to hear these stories and share them because they give us hope and motivate us. They also influence our everyday workplace culture. So why does storytelling have such an influence, impacting key factors such as inclusion, engagement and employee wellbeing?
Storytelling and culture
An organisation’s culture is a culmination of all the stories we hear and share at work every day. Imagine it’s your first day at work and a colleague tells you the story of when a new recruit disliked their manager so much that they went out for lunch and never came back! On the flipside, imagine the story being told was about how a colleague was so excited to be hired that they sent a thank you email to the CEO, and received a delightful email in response.
Storytelling pulls on the heartstrings of people, creating a positive or negative reaction. And although ‘stories’ are rarely backed by research or data, the messages they are communicating can make or break an organisational culture.
Storytelling and inclusion
True inclusion means allowing, hearing and responding to each employee’s story. People want to feel included and a sense of acceptance and belonging because of who they are, rather than who the organisation thinks they should be.
Storytelling and engagement
Staff engagement is also reliant on positive storytelling. Engagement is a choice an employee makes, rather than an organisational initiative, and an employee will only engage if they feel their current situation leads their story in the right direction. Employees also need to feel that they can relate to the storytelling happening around them, sharing in the peak experiences and feeling connected to colleagues’ own stories. And if leaders are open to sharing personal stories of both successful and challenging times, this makes them more ‘human’, helping them to connect with their teams on a more personal level.
Storytelling is also a key part of successful recognition. When celebrating a colleague’s efforts and achievements, it’s important to tell their story, and allow others to share their own stories and anecdotes of the person being celebrated. This brings their achievements ‘alive’, effectively showing what ‘good’ looks like while allowing for emotional connections to be created between the organisation and its people.
Storytelling and wellbeing
In addition, physical safety, psychological safety and financial safety are all critical aspects of wellbeing which are directly impacted by employee stories. Employee stories drag along baggage from their past, fears for their future, and high and low moments from their lives. But by simply listening to and acknowledging each employee’s story, this helps to create a greater sense of wellbeing, reducing the risk of burnout.
Storytelling is often viewed as a soft skill in business but it is crucial. Storytelling allows recruiters to entice the best people and organisations to attract consumers, and in the workplace, every story is a valuable means of fostering inclusion, increasing engagement and improving wellbeing. So make storytelling acceptable and listen, acknowledge and share. The impact to your culture may prove surprising!
The author is Robert Ordever, MD of O.C Tanner Europe.
This article is provided by O.C Tanner Europe.
In partnership with O.C. Tanner
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