Ever felt like you were just going through the motions at work? You’re not alone. Two-thirds of UK employees don’t feel a sense of connection and belonging in their jobs, according to findings from Reward Gateway earlier this year.
That suggests that an awful lot of organisations employ an awful lot of people that feel very little connection to what they do – which in turn is likely to lead to poor productivity and performance.
This disconnection became more apparent during the pandemic as workers in their droves took the time to reflect, in many cases coming to the realisation that they wanted a greater sense of purpose and value in their lives. Employers all over the world are finding that employees now want much more from the employer-employee contract, partially rooted in the desire for a deeper connection with their work.
There are of course many ways in which organisations can help to achieve this, from creating a purpose and culture that workers are fully behind, to treating them fairly, ensuring they have a voice and are recognised for their efforts.
But internal communicators can also influence the sense of connection between the employee and their work. One key way of doing so is by inculcating the use of stories throughout the organisation.
I recently talked to an accountant who told me how bored and disengaged he was with his work in the not-too-distant past. He saw his job as dull and fairly pointless. But recently, new company leadership had started making a point of showing staff the impact of their work. They found ways of telling stories from the firm’s small business client base to demonstrate how their work helped the SME owners, their families, and those they employed. He said it had a marked impact on how he felt about his job and his sense of self-worth.
A couple of years ago I was interviewing a waiter who worked for a global business, as part of a strategic review of how the company communicated internally.
He was in no way disengaged with his particular job. On the contrary he was very clearly passionate about it. I got a strong sense that he took great pride in doing his best every day. But he felt very disconnected from almost everyone in the company outside of his physical workplace – both at a senior level and his peers in other locations.
“We have standards we are asked to strive for”, he told me. “I want to do this. But I want them to show me how. I want to see how other people do it. There are also some things I think we do really well here. I’d love to share those. To reach the targets we have been set, we need to share what we do best with each other.”
He instinctively knew that the ability for people throughout the business to share stories with each other, the successes and failures of their everyday work, could have a huge impact.
Stories are powerful tools in business. They engage people and change the way they feel and consequently how they act. They are able to inspire and influence people in a way facts and logic can’t.
In internal communications, the ability to use stories effectively can psychologically put employees into a different place, remove them from what they might consider humdrum and inspire them to see a bigger - or just different - picture. How people feel about their job is partially influenced by how that job is framed in their mind.
On a practical level, here are some points for internal communicators to consider:
- Use your leaders: ensure business leaders are trained and understand the power of telling stories. This can have a huge impact on their ability to educate, engage and inspire their employees, bringing them closer to the company and contributing to building the culture they want to create.
- Tell stories from all over the business: workers aren’t just interested in what the CEO has to say, and in most cases they are probably more interested in their peers. By creating a platform for a wide variety of people throughout the business to share stories, you can create much stronger bonds across the organisation as well as a vehicle to share knowledge.
- Show people behaviours, don’t tell them: businesses are always talking about their values but often they fall on deaf ears, because they are either not backed up by actions or not communicated well. Real life stories about other members of the team that show the kind of behaviours you want to encourage will be much more effective. People are far more likely to remember those examples and be inspired by them, than they would be by the boss reiterating a list of adjectives.
- Tech can aid storytelling: the right internal communications platform can help to encourage the telling of stories within an organisation that are segmented, personalised to individuals so they only see what is relevant to them, and have the functionality to facilitate engaging content. All of which will help to engage and inspire.
This PRmoment Internal Comms Review is written by Ian Morris, director, communications, SEC Newgate UK.
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