Who doesn’t like a good story? Whether it is cosying up with a book, watching a movie or gossiping with your friends over a glass of wine. Stories come in different shapes and forms but they all serve a similar purpose: to connect us to other people, to a culture and a shared history. And they give us a point of reference so we can establish who we are and where be belong in a big and complex world.
Sharing and listening to stories is at the heart of human nature, so much so that the first week in February is national storytelling week. Storytelling has been around since the early days of civilisation. Even before writing came into practice, people used their voices, gestures and painted, etched or carved symbols to tell each other stories. Since then, storytelling has evolved through its traditional use in the conveyance of folktales, fables and myths to become a form of education and way of sharing information. This makes it a well-used tool in teaching children, but it doesn’t’ stop there. The role storytelling plays in business is as important as any other.
Storytelling comes into all aspects of company life, but one of the more obvious is corporate communication. Although storytelling is a form of communication, not all communication can be called a story. When your internal communications incorporate stories they become magical and take on properties that transform their ability to engage readers, spread messages and embed meaning. As HR professionals this is particularly important when we want to rally our teams around the latest employee engagement survey. We want to get our managers on board, our employees to participate. We want to maintain the momentum during the survey and ensure it leads to positive change.
- Does your story resonate locally?
It’s really important to get messages from head office, but bridging the distance between there and the call centre, regional store or even employees in a different country can make all the difference to how your communications are received. Ensure that you get local champions on board to tell you any relevant information it may help to hook your message into which will give it more power where they are. They can also help you to spread the word on exactly why the engagement survey is important in their area – after all, employees might be asking for more regular updates from leadership or more bike shelters, but they need you to let you know, and the employee engagement survey is the ideal opportunity to tell you that, isn’t it?
- Are you using the right communication channel?
How is your tone of voice? Does it reflect your employer brand? Is your message getting across in the right way? As we all know, the written word can be interpreted in a number of different ways, dependent on many things, including how the reader is feeling. When it comes to engagement surveys it’s important that every part of your communications is working together to create a joined up campaign and encourage people to take part. But don’t forget to keep it personal – ensure that managers and champions are taking time to have those one-to-one and group conversations with employees too.
- Does your story have a brand that ties it all together?
Two important elements of every story are the hows and whys. What are you trying to do, why is it important that people take part and how can they do that? Create a brand that is consistent in information and builds on these elements. Your brand name sets the tone, brings people together and creates the relationship that will keep up momentum, getting people behind a shared purpose. Essentially it should make people excited to find out how the story ends (or to put it another way, what the results and actions of the employee engagement survey are).
- Does your story create belief in action?
For better or worse, people’s experiences influence their future choices. How much action did you take on the insights that people shared in your last employee engagement survey? What impact did those insights have? Be sure that you share the outcomes and actions that you have taken – after all, if people feel like their opinion counts, they’ll be more inclined to keep giving it to you. Of course you can’t act on every opinion, but sharing why you can’t meet certain requests is much more powerful than avoiding mentioning them. The way you tell your story should compel people to believe that every voice counts.
- Does your story have senior backing and a link to the bigger picture?
Some people buy books purely based on the endorsements on the front page or from celebrity book clubs. Your leadership are your newspaper columnists and Richard and Judys. Get them standing behind the importance of the employee engagement survey, drawing in the context of the organisation with the purpose, vision and values, to make employees really feel part of a bigger narrative, right alongside your leadership.
ORC International and our Engine sister company and communication specialists MHP collaborate on internal communications relating to employee surveys. For more information and advice about how to transform your survey communications please get in touch.
We’re also running a webinar on creating a continuous conversation about employee engagement. You can join up here.