July 3, 2014 • Rick Beller
Organizations invest upwards of $550 billion annually to achieve employee engagement, but 70% of U.S. employees are still not engaged.* It’s a staggering investment that has risen to boardroom visibility because research confirms that employee engagement is at the root of productivity, profitability, growth and other tangible business measures.
At The History Factory, our work exposes us to the wide array of employee engagement initiatives employed by industry leaders. Among the important variables in the engagement equation are training and development compensation, recognition, new tools and technologies and flexible work schedules. While these initiatives do a good job of aligning employees’ minds with a company’s strategic direction, they are not sufficient to achieve authentic employee engagement—the deep level of employee commitment that weathers the next downturn, growing pains, or business transformation as well as further solidify employee commitment when notable accomplishments are achieved.
If a focus on the head (alignment with strategy) and hands (alignment with skill sets) are insufficient, then what’s missing? In our experience the difference between short-term and long-term engagement is the emotional connection employees have with the organization’s culture, value, and character. The successful employee engagement equation is head + hands + heart.
Getting the “heart” piece of the equation is often a challenge. However, we use storytelling as a proven approach to assisting organizations in building engagement.
Studies confirm that stories are remembered 22 times more than facts alone*.
With that knowledge in mind, we help organizations develop and employ their own stories rooted in authentic content. These stories demonstrate the character of the organization through well-established story architectures — the same story formats that have governed great stories from the Bible to Star Wars. Employing these storytelling aspects to communicate a company’s demonstrated experience helps employees enjoy a more visceral belief in who and what the company does and supports the confidence that needs to exist between an employee and the organization.
The positive impact from combining authentic story content with employee understanding of the organization, its mission and its objectives can – and will – align employees, despite a change in leadership or strategy. In other words, if used appropriately, communicating with your employees through storytelling can keep them committed to your organization — whether or not it’s about change.
At The History Factory we work with world-class organizations to identify their true character. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, so we look into the demonstrable history of the organization and pull forward the proof points of the past to build compelling, authentic, and audience-focused programs. The authenticity that comes through when reflecting on the individual and collective struggles and accomplishments made by those who came before inspires employees with a renewed commitment to the organization.
Whether an organization is looking to address growth imperatives, mergers and acquisitions, working through the challenges of right-sizing, leaders need to have the authentic content and stories necessary to deliver powerful messages rooted in their heritage which keeps employees engaged.
Counterintuitively, organizations that look to their past and use good storytelling to communicate it are securing the future of their employees’ engagement.
*Source: Gallup, State of the American Workforce Report, 2013
**Source: Clayman Institute, Stanford University