10 workplace trends for 2024: Humanising the future with storytelling

by | Resources

With breakthrough technologies, economic pressures and environmental concerns, businesses in 2024 face a unique set of challenges and opportunities. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly Gen AI, alongside societal changes are reshaping the workplace and our working lives.

These trends, while not new, are coming into sharper focus, demanding innovative and adaptive approaches. And, in this landscape of exponential change, storytelling needs to step up and be our guide, becoming a crucial tool for organisations to thrive, learn, and grow.

Rooted in behavioural science and neuroscience, storytelling is more than communication. It’s a strategic asset. Stories help us make sense of what’s happening around us, transfer knowledge, develop skills, unite behind a shared vision, and adapt to change.

Dive into these ten essential 2024 workplace trends for learning, people and comms teams, and discover how storytelling can help employees and organisations navigate these changes:

1. Gen AI transforming work
2. Change fatigue is real
3. People aren’t equipped to lead exponential change
4. Connection to culture is compromised
5. Trust continues to sit with co-workers
6. New hires are hard to keep
7. Lack of career development is a deal breaker
8. Learning culture and future skills
9. Redefining DE&I
10. A sustainable approach to wellbeing

Societal Leaders Not Trusted - Edelman Trust Barometer 2022

1. Gen AI transforming work

As technology continues to redefine work, artificial intelligence is now playing a central role in this paradigm shift. In McKinsey’s State of AI in 2023 report, whilst relatively early days for its use, Gen AI is already widespread with over a third of organisations using it regularly to improve work processes and outcomes. This is expected to more than double in the next 3 years.

This extensive adoption of Gen AI demands new skills and in 2024, as organisations roll out intentional transformation strategies they’ll also need to support employees and help them adapt. Continuous learning, reskilling and upskilling is central to innovation and needs to be a focus.

One impactful way to navigate the transition to AI-driven workplaces, alongside the skills piece, is storytelling. Sharing narratives helps employees understand the benefits of AI, alleviate fears about automation, and show how their roles will evolve.

2. Change fatigue is real

Is your organisation suffering from Change Fatigue? According to Gartner’s “Leadership Vision for 2024” report, many companies are facing a ‘Transformation Deficit’. The rate of change has increased x5 since 2016 but the willingness of employees to change has slumped from 74% to 43%.

Whilst this is no surprise against the backdrop of changing workforce dynamics, economic uncertainty and advancing tech it presents a growing problem. Organisations now need to focus their efforts on supporting employees through these transformations. This will enable them to plug the gap between the current state of play and what each business demands.

One of the key ways to prevent Change Fatigue is making space for employees to co-create your change strategy. And, with this, it’s vital that you don’t just stick to input through surveys and focus groups.

To really land change and help people cross the chasm to the ever-changing new world you need to make sure employees themselves feature in the change communications. Look to share:

      • Who’s already role modelling this change?
      • Why does it matter?
      • What challenges did they overcome to get here?
      • How does it make them feel?
      • What impact has it had on how they work, their skills and future?

Ask your people to share their stories and experiences to inspire others and help them embrace change.

Societal Leaders Not Trusted - Edelman Trust Barometer 2022

3. People aren’t equipped to lead exponential change

Change Fatigue and rising employee resistance to transformation is exacerbated by another major challenge; nearly three quarters of HR leaders say the people running their organisation aren’t equipped to lead change (Gartner – Leadership Vision for 2024).

The lack of skills and capabilities needed to drive change creates low employee morale and engagement, increased staff turnover, a lack of innovation and more. All the very things that change needs to be successful. Many organisations are looking to address this shortfall by tuning up their leadership programmes.

Stories that illustrate how people have already adapted successfully to different ways of working, as part of pilots or simply as pioneers for good practice, make brilliant blueprints for change. These stories motivate and guide employees through transitions, showing them both the end goals and benefits. Leaders need to understand the value of a storytelling culture and get behind it.

4. Connection to culture is compromised

One notable and much reported shift is decentralised and hybrid work arrangements. For most employees this means more flexibility and convenience (especially if they have a say in what their working week looks like). However, decentralisation does make it harder to achieve a cohesive work culture.

A recent study by WorkHuman found 41% HR leaders believe their employees’ connection to company culture is compromised by hybrid work. As a strong organisational culture is essential for employee engagement, productivity, and retention this matters.

Time to re-evaluate how we build culture and align it to our intended direction of travel. If you’re looking to align company culture to your strategy then stories are the best place to start. And, it’s not the stories which just reinforce established behaviours, it’s the one’s which show an alternative, the future and ultimately, what you’re aiming for.

Using narrative and employee stories as a pathway allows organisations to more closely link behaviours and company strategy. This article from Harvard Business Review emphasises the importance of empowering employees to craft and share their own stories about cultural change so the whole process is one of co-creation. They identified six essential building blocks:

      • Be authentic
      • Feature yourself in your stories
      • Break with the past and lay a path to the future
      • Appeal to hearts and minds
      • Be theatrical
      • Empower others to create their own stories

Use these to create the stories that not only nurture connection but also increase engagement, sustain productivity and boost innovation in an increasingly decentralised work environment and competitive market.

When we trust, like, or feel similar to someone, their words carry more weight, and will have greater influence on our behaviour.
Elaine Gallagher, Behavioural Science Consultant – Best At Digital

5. Trust continues to sit with co-workers

Trust and storytelling are inextricably linked. And, without trust, it’s impossible to create a cohesive, high-performing work environment.

One piece of research we monitor is Edelman’s insight on trust in the workplace. Their Trust at Work 2023 report shows employers continue to be the most trusted institution and employee influence is rising. We trust our co-workers more than our CEO.

But many organisations are still limiting themselves to traditional top-down communications and instructions. If employees only see senior leadership it risks them:

      • Failing to understand what your culture means to them and their role
      • Not seeing how developing new skills will improve their career and day-to-day performance
      • Struggling to connect with people outside their immediate team

Storytelling plays a significant role in building and maintaining trust in the workplace. Enabling your people to share their own stories, insights and lived experience is a great way to develop trust whilst reducing the gap between expectation and reality.

6. New hires are hard to keep

According to Gallup, only 12% of employees say their company has a good onboarding process. A shocking stat when the stakes are so high and failing to provide a positive experience for new starters puts engagement, performance and retention at risk.

But when you’re spending time and money recruiting the best talent, you want to make sure they stick around. And, research from Brandon Hall Group shows a great onboarding experience can improve retention by 82%.

When starting a new role we want to know why what we’re doing matters, where we fit in, how we can make a difference, what development and career opportunities there are and lots more besides. So much of this is cultural.

Hearing first-hand from leaders, co-workers and fellow new-joiners is the most compelling way to accelerate and improve the onboarding experience. Capturing and sharing onboarding stories can build trust, inspire, engage, develop and help people wholly commit to your organisation.

And, when employees become advocates you’ll see how your onboarding programmes improve.

Societal Leaders Not Trusted - Edelman Trust Barometer 2022

7. Lack of career development is a deal breaker

38% UK workers say they don’t hear enough about ‘career and personal development opportunities’ from current employers according to the IC 2023 Index Report. This is second only to ‘Pay and Benefits’ which would be difficult to overtake during a cost of living crisis.

It’s clear more still needs to be done to show how it’s possible to learn, grow and develop in and beyond our current roles. This is vital for retention, internal mobility and performance.

When lack of career development is such a deal breaker for employees, it’s so important they can see opportunities and have a clear line of sight to the path they can take.

Whether squiggly, lattice, up or sideways, career stories are one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate pathways. Asking your people to share their real career and development journeys is an important part of showing what’s possible – so don’t forget to include this in your comms mix!

8. Learning culture and future skills

A strong learning culture prepares people for the future. It enables employees to upskill, reskill, and grow in line with what their organisation needs. Mindset and expectation is key as evolving roles are seen as a positive, and necessary, part of working life. LinkedIn reports that job skill sets from 2015 will change 50% by 2027, and other research shows this shift to be even more dramatic.

The point here is a learning culture isn’t a soft option. It’s inextricably linked to future skills, engagement, talent, innovation and performance. And the fact 94% employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers, means there’s an even stronger business case for your learning culture.

The benefits of using stories to encourage employees to reflect and codify their work experiences are two-fold. You’ll not only surface valuable knowledge others can learn from but also the very act of reflecting and crafting concise narratives helps employees develop must-have future skills at the same time.

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9. Redefining DE&I

According to LinkedIn Learning, 60% employees want business leaders to speak up on diversity issues. But for diversity, equality and inclusion to have real cultural impact, responsibility needs to shift from the passionate few into the hands of every employee. Baked into how we do things. DE&I matters in everything from talent acquisition and internal mobility to innovation, customer service and employee wellbeing.

We know from behavioural science that we’re more likely to change our perspective or action if we hear from someone relatable. So, as well as senior support we need to hear from our peers.

The messenger needs to be credible. This is where real employee stories come in. They raise awareness on important topics, create conversation and let communities speak for themselves.

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to build an inclusive workplace culture, read the Triple Point story. They used storytelling to break down barriers for this year’s International Women’s Day. It’s an excellent example of stories you can share all year round to make a sustainable difference.

10. A sustainable approach to wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing is not only a human right, there’s also a strong business case. It’s the primary cause of work-related ill health in the UK and WHO has found that anxiety and depression alone costs the global economy US $1 trillion each year.

And, with 78% saying ‘a healthy and sustainable culture of work’ is most helpful to their mental health, it shows just how important it is to get every work culture right.

Sharing our mental health stories in a supported way can make a huge difference. UC Berkeley researchers found using storytelling in workplace wellbeing initiatives produces these five benefits:

      • Telling our story helps us get better at getting better – it allows us to reflect on our journeys and how we overcome challenges.
      • Growth towards self-acceptance – storytellers feel empowered by using their experience to help others.
      • Break down walls by talking about mental health – the more conversations we have the more we improve understanding.
      • Increase connectedness – people who share their story and watch others feel more connected and part of a community.
      • People are more likely to seek support – everyone becomes more aware of support available and ready to encourage others to seek it.

Culture change approaches to support a healthy and sustainable culture of work need both ground up and top down approaches. Leaders going first and sharing their mental health story to spark conversation and trigger a change in work norms is a good way to start.

Final thoughts

Do these trends and challenges resonate? In 2024, the human story matters more than ever. Workplace storytelling stands out as an agile, powerful strategy to drive sustainable change and impact. And, our co-workers as credible messengers, are able to inspire, reassure, teach and transform how we approach change in a way senior leaders can’t. How else do we take people with us?

If you’re looking to explain the ‘why’, humanise these trends, and illustrate the real-world impact of these developments on individuals and teams build workplace storytelling into your 2024 strategy. And, ignore it at your peril.

To see StoryTagger in action and find out how People, Learning and Comms teams are adapting to these 2024 workplace trends through structured video storytelling, book a demo.

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