How to Use Storytelling to Engage Employees
Look around the office: Are your employees emotionally engaged in their work? Are they your loudest
advocates and ambassadors outside of the office, when no one's watching?
If your employees are merely going through the motions, showing up to be seen and counted, then it's a fair bet they are not engaged.
And I'd wager, further, that their apathy is a drag, a costly drag, on your enterprise. Actively disengaged employees alone cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity, and are more likely than engaged employees to steal from their companies and affect coworkers' morale.
This is an international dilemma. In fact, research shows that four out of 10 workers are disengaged globally. In the U.S., it's hit epidemic proportions: an astonishing 70 percent of workers report being disengaged at work, according to a Gallup poll.
Employee engagement turns on a company's ability to create an emotional connection with its employees that extends beyond mere job description.
When an employee is emotionally committed to and invested in the organization and its goals, he is said to be engaged.
How can businesses make their employees more emotionally invested in their jobs, and in their company's mission?
Storytelling is a powerful employee engagement tool. It has the potential to connect the hearts and minds of every employee and customer to a shared belief.
It's what Hollywood screenwriters call the internal narrative.
Why do I get up in the morning? What larger purpose do I serve?
If you want to engage your employees, give them something to believe in – a value or principle that is bigger than the product and that satisfies our universal longing for meaning and fulfillment.
If you want employees to go the distance for you--to work extra hours without complaint, and to sing the company's praises--then consider paying more attention to employees' internal needs.
The internal narrative may be more important to long-term success than the company's external, revenue-focused narrative.
Employees need to understand how their role fits into the company's big picture, and to feel that what they do on a daily basis matters, that it adds up. Applying the tenets of brand storytelling, every employee is an important part of the cast, each with a unique role, mission, and arc.
Like a movie's protagonist, every employee encounters and overcomes obstacles and becomes stronger and smarter because of these character-shaping challenges.
Companies that truly regard every employee as a hero undertaking an important journey will cultivate highly engaged employees. In order to engage staff, management must explicitly communicate the company's ethos and values to employees. More important, it must embody and demonstrate those values consistently at all levels of the organization. You have to mean it.
Anything else will be perceived by staff as artificial and will work against you.
The hardened cynics among us may dismiss this as soft, pie in the sky thinking. In fact, high employee engagement is correlated with better business outcomes. According to Towers Perrin, companies with engaged workers have 6 percent higher net-profit margins and higher shareholder returns.
The human race is filled with passion. In our eagerness to get the job done, we may sometimes forget that our employees are not robots. They need to be inspired. They need to feel something.
Successful companies with high morale are adept at tapping employees' passion reservoirs. By harnessing the power of storytelling, you can connect employees to your Brand Story, so they align behind it and feel they are contributing a verse.
The only question is, “What will their verse be?”