Storytelling: A powerful and inexpensive tool for increasing employee engagement

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Want to learn more about how you can better engage your employees through the use of storytelling? Lianne Picot presented a free webinar on Thursday, June 11 - you can watch the full recording here.

54% of employees in Canada and the US are disengaged.

18% of employees are actively disengaged.

That means 72% of the workforce just turn up. (Gallup, State of the Global Workplace Report 2013)

Employee engagement is a hot issue right now given these statistics showing how people feel about being at work. Add this to the changing nature of what a new generation of workers are looking for in their careers and employee engagement becomes an absolutely crucial area for your nonprofit organization to address. Although we don’t know what the breakdown of these statistics are for the nonprofit sector versus the for-profit sector, we can probably take a guess that nonprofits are facing similar challenges to their corporate counterparts in keeping employees engaged. Especially in the nonprofit sector, we can’t afford for people to ‘just turn up’.

The effects of the economic downturn are also still being felt. Organizations have had to restructure, reduce staff and are often existing in a heightened state of financial stress. When you are struggling to keep the doors open, it is easy to justify not investing time, attention or resources in employee engagement. But this is the worst thing a nonprofit can do. It is crucial to retain people with talent to ensure your services remain top quality for your clients and to be able to demonstrate this quality to your funders.

Here’s the good news. Employee engagement is not about salary, benefits or even security. These can play a part but ultimately, your staff are working in a sector that is not renowned for any of these things. Employees feel engaged when they feel connected to the organization and its purpose. And nonprofits are all about purpose. As a sector, we have the privilege to passionately serve our communities and your employees have chosen to be part of that by working for you. And here’s more good news. It does not require a big financial investment to keep your employees connected to your purpose.

Using story to increase engagement

There is a useful tool we can use in our organizations that will increase engagement with all stakeholders but in particular can help our employees want to offer their best work AND stay with the organization. That tool is story. Now just to be clear: Stories already exist in your organization. As human beings we love, remember and share stories all the time. But being more deliberate about finding and telling stories about the impact of your organization is one of the most powerful ways you can keep employees connected to your purpose on an ongoing basis. You can also use story as a way of showing employees the direct impact they are having on the work your organization is doing.

There are a number of different stories that are useful for employee engagement.

1. Your Founder Story. This is the story of why your organization started - what need it was trying to meet. This is a story that should be shared with all new employees so that they not only know it themselves, but are also equipped with a story to share when personal and professional contacts ask them about your organization. Please note: this is not the HISTORY of your organization. ‘We’ve existed for 30 years’ is not a story.

2. Your Impact Story. This is the story of who you help and how you currently help them. It shows the change that occurs for the people or communities you serve because of what you do. It may be, but often isn’t, reflected in your mission statement.

3. Your Client Impact Stories. These stories back up your overall impact story and personalize the work that you do. Using story to show how you have helped people and your cause is one of the most important things you can do for your employees and their engagement in your organization.

4. Your Employee Impact Stories. These are stories that you can collect as a leader or HR professional to share with your employees in their performance reviews. Or, even better, share regularly with your employees! Employee impact stories demonstrate how the individual employee’s work has helped the organization to carry out its purpose. They show how doing more than ‘turning up’ is making a difference. Whether the role is administrative, front line or even maintenance related, you can tie what the employee is doing to the impact of the organization with a story.

5. Your Stories. If you are a nonprofit leader, sharing your stories of the work you have done when you were frontline or your personal stories that reflect your understanding of the challenges your employees face are a powerful way to keep employees connected to you. One of the biggest reasons that people leave or stay in an organization is leadership and if you and your leadership team are able to use stories to connect better with your staff, they will work with enthusiasm.

Overall, recognizing that employees are a significant asset to your organization is crucial for creating, building and maintaining their engagement. Utilizing story as a tool to keep employees connected to your purpose, your clients, each other and your leadership will help ensure that they will not ‘just turn up’ but will be great champions for you and your cause.

To find out more about HOW to listen for and tell stories to increase employee engagement, sign up for a free webinar on June 11, 2015: Increasing Employee Engagement with Story.

As a Story Coach and the owner of Very Good Stories, Lianne Picot helps nonprofits and businesses to grow their storytelling superpower to bring them more success with the people they want to engage and serve. For over 20 years, Lianne worked as a practitioner, leader and storyteller in the nonprofit sector in the UK, Ireland and Canada.

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