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The Power of Sharing Employee Stories

It’s important for organizations to establish a mission and vision for the future.

Ideally, employees should be able to describe what they do…and why it’s important.

People want to do work that has meaning and purpose.

They want to work for an organization that shares their values, and they want to work with other people that uphold those values.

Having a known statement about your shared mission or vision can be very useful for this purpose.

But specific stories can be far more compelling and memorable.

Leading by example

Many organizations include stories as a part of onboarding and internal communications.

These stories tend to focus on founders and key leaders.

It can be useful to understand their mission and vision, the challenges they faced, the setbacks they overcame, and the pivotal events leading the organization to where is today.

Leading by example does make for a great narrative, but is it really the best way to influence employees?

It might not be.

Similarity matters

Think about what makes a story particularly compelling and memorable.

It’s usually because you can relate to the characters.

How much can you identify with them? How much are they “like me?”

A recent experiment compared different types of stories shared while onboarding new employees at a large organization.

How much influence did the stories actually have over time?

Stories about a high-level manager upholding the organization’s values had no effect on most employees!

On the other hand, stories about a similar coworker upholding the organization’s values actually influenced them.

New employees that heard stories about similar coworkers setting a positive example were:

  • More likely to volunteer for tasks
  • More likely to help out their coworkers
  • More likely to follow instructions properly
  • Less likely to take company property without permission
  • Less likely to intentionally work slowly

Stories about employees doing the right thing are probably all around you.

But in many organizations, they are only sometimes discussed around the proverbial “water cooler.”

Perhaps it’s time to start really sharing them.

Image credits: Scott Cresswell, JD Hancock