Story Is Core to Employee Engagement

Engage December 17, 2018

Story Is Core to Employee Engagement

Employees have never wanted to go to a job that they find meaningless, and employee engagement has always been important, but today, more than ever, people are searching for purpose in their work. People are actively aware of how much of their waking lives they will spend at work – and they don’t want it to be for nothing.

Combining this with the new possibilities of AI freeing us from the most monotonous labor – people are coming to realize that they’re more free to find work that’s more fulfilling and does tangible good in the world. But, along with this comes stark challenges for business leaders trying to remain ahead of the curve. Given the ever tightening labor market, workers are able to leave to find new places of employment quickly. So, what are businesses to do to retain their best, most innovative, talent, and stay ahead of the competition?

The answer lies in storytelling.


cup of coffee near open book with eyeglasses

Storytelling is at the heart of how humans construct meaning for their lives. Our purpose, our values, our goals all lie in the stories we tell ourselves. For employers to successfully offer a meaningful place of employment, employers must tap into the power of stories.

The story an organization tells can’t just be any story – it has to be aspirational and inspiring – a story that tells the why of the business beyond simply making a profit. Of course, the irony is that organizations with purpose that extends beyond profit are ultimately more profitable.

The power stories have for companies is clear from forming brand image for marketing products to inspiring talent – stories bring an unenumerated set of benefits to the table. But, how do they do this, and what strategies should businesses employ to harness the power of story to engage employees?

How storytelling engages

man using white smartphone standing near woman wearing black dress

When people feel like they’re a hamster on a wheel they’re not going to give much more than feeble effort. But, when there’s a solid intrinsically worthwhile goal in sight to run towards they’ll give it their all. This sort of tangible destination is exactly what a company vision provides.

A company vision is a part of a broader story that a company creates for itself. A story involves an arc, for organizations that story involves its history, how it understands its past, and a vision: how an organization views itself today, and the direction it’s headed. A key finding of Dragonfish UK’s recent study is that vision has marked relationship with performance: companies with strong visions have employees who go above and beyond in their performance.

This makes sense given the findings of this literature review – examining the effects of storytelling on employees. When people are offered a story about their company, it establishes a sense of ownership of the company and feelings of personal connection and commitment. When employees feel a sense of ownership they will put in the work accordingly – giving their all to help the company succeed. In other words, when a story connects the personal to the whole company, employees become truly engaged.

How does your company use storytelling to maximize employee engagement?