In today’s work culture, it is becoming increasingly easy to feel disengaged. More and more people feel as if their jobs barely matter, especially with so many working for large companies or in departments or branches that don’t closely interact with the core of the company. The need to improve employee engagement is becoming ever more pressing. When the only connection employees feel to their company is a paycheck, it becomes very easy for them to become depressed and unmotivated—and eventually to leave in search of something more meaningful.
We’ve explored ways to improve employee engagement in the past, and it continues to be an ever-evolving issue, especially as companies continue to make efforts to recover from the disconnect caused by the pandemic and adapt to the future of hybrid workspaces.
As with any issue, there are a variety of approaches and solutions, but we wouldn’t be Narativ if we weren’t about to explain why we believe the simple solution to much of this lies in storytelling.
How Do Stories Improve Employee Engagement?
If you ask us, stories have something to do with everything. But for the sake of clarity, we’re willing to be a little more specific.
Recently, Narativ CEO Jerome Deroy was able to sit down and have a discussion with Antoine Belaieff—North American lead for FAIRTIQ, a mobile ticketing system for public transit—and had a great conversation about how storytelling can make all the difference to increase employee engagement in any company.
In their discussion, Jerome and Antoine shared various examples of this in play and identified 3 reasons why storytelling is key when your goal is to improve employee engagement:
It’s a no-brainer that employee engagement relies on employee connection, but let’s take a closer look at the reasons why. A pretty direct cause of disengagement is employees not having a clear idea of how their specific job serves the mission of the company. In some cases, many employees may not even know what the company’s mission is. This is why it’s so important for the people directing the mission to be familiar with the story of the company’s “how” and “why”—and then to be able to effectively share that story at every level of the company.
Every company exists for a reason, and that reason usually has a story connected to it. For the company to get off the ground, there had to be a motivation. That drive likely came from the founder recognizing a distinct need for a certain product or service within their community. Perhaps it was through a difficult personal experience or through witnessing an inefficiency in their industry that they felt they could solve. Regardless of what the story is, it is integral to helping employees understand how their job connects to the company’s mission. Making the story a central part of the company’s internal messaging and ensuring it reaches employees at every level of the operation will make a world of difference.
If you are in a leadership position, something else that may improve the overall sense of connection within your company is casual monthly or quarterly meetings with your team and other leaders and their teams. If it’s viable, maybe every so often the CEO and/or founders could join too. During these meetings, people can share stories and experiences, but they can also take the time to listen to the stories and experiences of other employees to foster an even greater sense of communication and connection within the company.
Company cultures have definitely taken a hit in the wake of the pandemic, which in turn has done a number on employee engagement. When employees don’t have as much opportunity to casually interact with their managers and coworkers, building relationships with them, it becomes that much harder for anyone to really feel at home in the company.
Without the reliable employee culture of the break room or water cooler, or the broader company connection of corporate lunches and holiday parties, stories become integral to maintaining a sense of culture and connection. This can be facilitated in a number of ways.
One possible point of connection that Jerome and Antoine discussed was employee spotlights. Focusing on the specific people who were responsible for recent company successes is a great way to inspire and foster a positive company culture. In fact, there is perhaps no better way to make employees feel valued and engaged than for them to see that the company recognizes exactly how their contributions aided in the success—this is a particularly powerful leadership best practice that improves employee engagement.
Other activities to improve employee engagement could include scheduled daily or weekly “coffee breaks.” These offer opportunities for employees to share stories and discuss anything they need or want to with their coworkers—whether it be work struggles or successes, or simply casual conversation. These forums naturally encourage the sharing of stories, which, as stated before, will help to maintain a company culture of engagement and connection.
3. Customer Experience
It isn’t just internal stories that can help people feel more connected and enhance employee engagement. The ability of employees to connect the work they do with the experience of the end user can also greatly improve their sense of purpose.
Antoine mentioned a vice president of a company he formerly worked for who would routinely share positive customer feedback with the entire company to help the employees see the good their work was doing. Antoine explained that stories from customers about how the company specifically helped them were a huge point of connection for employees at every level.
“Regardless of the role somebody plays, they can link themselves to the end user,” Antoine explained.
The experience of being a customer is one every single employee can relate to, and providing them a way to understand how their job influences their customers’ experiences can be invaluable—especially when positive customer feedback is readily available to help remind them of their impact. Stories are integral to communicating that impact.
Engagement and Intent
The reasons why stories are so crucial to employee engagement are clear, which can make the task of introducing these measures seem a little daunting. It can be pretty stressful knowing that many of your employees may be languishing when they might flourish under the right conditions. Don’t get overwhelmed. Intent is everything. If you begin by setting your intentions on bringing more storytelling into your workplace, you are already well on your way to fostering greater engagement in your company.
Overall, the best thing you can do to harness the power of storytelling in your workplace is to learn how to tell stories yourself. The skills of both listening and connecting that come with story training will naturally help create an environment where others can open up and learn to share their stories as well. Stories always invite more stories, and when stories are shared freely, employee engagement is inevitable.