Workforce wellbeing and job satisfaction have reached a tipping point, leading to what has become known as the ‘Great Resignation’. Alison Esse explains how a compelling story can help an employer retain its best people.
Even as the pandemic subsides, swathes of the workforce remain unhappy. A global survey of 23,000 employees by workplace communication platform Firstup recently showed that over half didn’t feel valued in their role. Only 16% felt that their employer did not need to make any changes to improve their employee experience, and just 12% felt that their organisation had sufficient boundaries in place to safeguard their work-life balance.
Workplace satisfaction has always been a concern, but now organisations risk being left behind in the war for talent if they fail to act. Aided by opportunities for remote and hybrid working, employees have far more freedom to be selective about where they work, and consequently, more selective about who they work for.
The reasons behind the growing wave of employee discontent cannot be attributed to one factor alone, but how you deal with it can be honed by focusing on two key questions: do your people feel connected to your organisation’s purpose, vision and values? And do they clearly understand their role in the future ambition of your business?
Stories help all of us make meaning, find purpose, and embrace new mindsets and behaviours. For large organisations, narrative and storytelling have never been more of a critical tool for leaders looking to ensure that their best people remain motivated. Here are three key reasons why.
1. Winning hearts as well as minds
During times of uncertainty, humans crave compelling context, transparency and something to which we can tether ourselves. Providing clarity on the future direction of your business is clearly essential, but this must be led by leaders who are able to consistently communicate and role model the behaviours they expect to see across their organisation.
Having a clear and compelling narrative will ensure everyone is able to connect both rationally and emotionally to the journey the organisation is on. It serves as an anchor to help unite people behind a common purpose – and that includes alignment of your leadership team. When your story can be clearly articulated and demonstrated from the top, it becomes much quicker and easier to shift mindsets and engrained behaviours throughout the rest of the organisation.
Storytelling can be used to help an organisation to reconnect its people with what it stands for, its values and even why they joined in the first place. These stories underpin what makes an organisation a great place to work, as well as helping to ensure employees feel that their personal contribution is valued.
2. Ensuring people feel part of something bigger than themselves
What ultimately brings us purpose and meaning is contributing to something bigger than ourselves. The ultimate form of happiness and fulfilment is feeling that you’re driven by the very highest level of achievement, and the personal contribution you have made to it. Employees who lack understanding of how their role contributes to their organisation’s objectives are therefore more likely to disengage.
An organisation’s master narrative enables everyone – from the boardroom to the shop floor – to make both a rational and emotional connection to the journey they are on by giving people a platform to play out their own story, yet still maintaining that human instinct of the need to be part of a ‘tribe.’ It creates a sense of ‘belonging’, crucially by enabling employees to ask and understand ‘what’s my role in the bigger picture?’ and, ‘why am I valued in moving this journey forward?’.
An organisation’s master narrative enables everyone – from the boardroom to the shop floor – to make both a rational and emotional connection to the journey they are on.”
3. Elevating your EVP
The workplace is made up of thousands of stories of endeavour and achievement, but also disengagement and failures. These stories shape our belief about the organisations we work for. And they can also be harnessed to support, elevate and reinforce your employer value proposition (EVP).
For some time now, a firm’s social purpose, culture and values have become increasingly influential in the decisions employees make regarding their choice of employer, with research by Deloitte finding that purpose-driven companies had 40% higher levels of workforce retention than their competitors. For companies to maintain their talent base, a strong EVP which is clear on its purpose, vision, culture and values – as well as reward and benefits – is more vital than ever. However, your EVP still has to be clearly communicated and integrated into all aspects of your business.
Building a company culture that embodies and validates your EVP cannot come solely from the top. It requires everyone to live and breathe the business values to achieve the same shared vision of success. Embedding a storytelling culture that continuously learns from real and personal examples of best practice, success – and even failure – will help to ensure individuals believe in an organisation’s EVP.
When people are able to make sense of an organisation’s values and their role in helping achieve business goals, then employers will start to see a strong, engaged company culture that continues to attract and retain the best talent.