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How Storytelling Can Boost Employee Morale and Loyalty

By Cathie Ericson | 3-min read

Everyone loves a great story. In fact, our culture is riddled with stories, from Harry Potter to Greek and Roman mythology to ancient folk tales.
Storytelling is integral to society. It illustrates intangible concepts—think Aesop’s fables—and forges emotional connections. In a fascinating experiment, researchers Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn purchased random items at a garage sale, each for $1.50 or less, then posted them on eBay accompanied by an descriptive short story. These tales increased the perceived value of the objects, which resold at a premium and earned nearly $8,000.
Want to put the power of storytelling to work in your organization? Here are three ways you can embed storytelling in your company culture:

1. Tell stories that reinforce your company’s core values

Companies can trumpet their core values from the rooftop (and social media) all they want, but employees will believe it when they “see” it. That’s why stories are such a powerful way to not only share core values, but show employees that you live by them. Here are a few ways to use stories to bolster your core values:
  • Bring your mission statement to life with stories about employees who exhibit your vision every day.
  • Use stories in your external and internal PR efforts. This Nebraska Medicine video profiles the bond between a hospital worker and patient. In doing so, it highlights the healthcare provider’s mission to provide extraordinary care.
  • Create a “legend” about your company’s origins that helps coworkers buy into the mission. Share stories about the founders and the firm’s heritage to inspire a sense of pride and ownership in every employee.

2. Make stories an integral part of employee recognition awards

Taking the time to recognize your team can be a powerful ally in employee retention. Unfortunately, it seems to be in short supply. A Gallup poll found that only one in three workers strongly agreed that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. Companies that don’t make recognition a regular part of their communication strategy are missing out on this compelling way to boost morale.
Recognition doesn’t have to entail material items like gift cards or trips. According to the poll, the most memorable form of recognition is “public recognition or acknowledgment via an award, certificate or commendation.” This form of recognition topped promotions or monetary rewards.
So, why not take advantage of those powerful moments by going beyond an announcement? When you incorporate storytelling techniques into employee recognition, you reinforce the values that are important to your company culture. You also acknowledge the individual employee that brings those values to life for your entire workforce. Here are tips for integrating storytelling and employee recognition:
  • Play “guess the employee” by sharing anonymized short stories of someone’s contributions.
  • Create stories around the talismans you give to employees. When you create a legend that aligns the story with a company value, it reinforces it for your entire team.
  • Invite other employees to share stories about the person you’re recognizing.
  • Share the stories in your employee handbook and at new employee orientation.

3. Collect stories from every employee

Collecting stories from employees can reinforce a culture of recognition. It can also create proof points for the core values of your organization. Supervisors and managers certainly play a key role in identifying employees who exhibit the company code in action. In addition, inviting stories from the broader employee base will reinforce the values that your company strives to exhibit. Try these methods to invite employee submissions:
  • Use thought starters. For example, try asking your employees when they’ve seen a particular company value in action.
  • Recognize both the person who shared the story and the person honored.
  • Use different formats to share stories you’ve collected over time. This could include a video for internal TVs, a podcast for monthly huddles, a photo montage for a company newsletter, or a social media post.

Your employees are your greatest asset—and they are also in the the best position to champion your company values. Their real-life stories can make your company culture more meaningful, memorable, and aspirational.