In this fast-paced, competitive world of business, the ability to effectively communicate and engage with your employees, customers and other stakeholders is critical. It fosters understanding, builds trust and ultimately drives success. And one powerful way to make sure your communications tactics are hitting the mark is through business storytelling.
Business storytelling is the art of using narratives to convey messages, ideas and values in a compelling manner. It goes beyond knowledge transfer or entertainment. Corporate storytelling aims to connect with the audience by appealing to their emotions, experiences, and aspirations. Real business stories engage on an emotional level AND drive specific organisational goals.
In this blog, we explore the significance of business storytelling and how organisations can use it to solve different challenges. You’ll get ideas from the essential tips and real world examples to help you kick start your business storytelling journey.
Why is business storytelling important now, more than ever?
Whether it’s conveying insights to stakeholders or an informal chat over the watercooler, stories have always played a central role in how we connect, learn and thrive at work.
Yet in today’s digital age, business storytelling has struggled to gain traction. While billions of messages are shared daily across countless channels, it can be hard to find the stories you need in the sea of endless content. But, it’s precisely those organisations that have managed to digitally unlock real work experiences who have the competitive edge.
In business, storytelling serves as a bridge between information, understanding and action. Rather than simply presenting facts and figures, stories create a connection with the audience by bringing to life real, lived experiences.
This is particularly true of employee storytelling. Hearing from leaders and coworkers first hand is one of the most powerful forms of corporate storytelling. Not only does it amplify employee voice, it’s also relatability, authentic and instils trust in the stories shared.
It’s this connection which leads to better business outcomes like increased employee engagement, better knowledge retention, improved learning outcomes, higher productivity or stronger brand loyalty. Stories are more memorable than other, often dryer, formats and as such they help achieve organisational goals more effectively.
Human beings are storytellers. Our minds are finely tuned to the emotional significance of events – so much so that making words into a story can improve retention seven-fold.
Why the best way to engage learners is with storytelling, TrainingZone, 2021
The need for storytelling has also never been greater for the hybrid workforce. With dispersed employees, different time zones and flexible work being the norm, digital channels are not only channels of communication, they’re often a lifeline for workers. It’s how people now learn and connect because those water cooler moments aren’t happening.
The benefits of business storytelling show how vital it is:
- Storytelling engages and inspires. A captivating story moves people to action. It’s this strong engagement and trigger that helps achieve your business goals. Whether you are battling upskilling and reskilling or trying to increase employee retention, engagement is your road to success.
- A good story builds trust. Trust is perceived as a rare commodity for businesses these days. And, with CEOs being among the least trusted on Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2022, it’s something businesses need to work on. Authentic stories are a great way to do this.
- Business storytelling simplifies complex topics. So many concepts and ideas get buried because people don’t engage with them. A story can bring these to life in a way that’s relatable.
- Storytelling levels up communication. Having open communication channels is not enough. It needs to be effective. Using structured storytelling facilitates impactful communication across departments and throughout every level of an organisation.
- Business stories build connection. Culture matters more than ever. Employees who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to stay and work hard towards a common goal.
The benefits are clear. In a time when budgets are tightening and teams are expected to do more with less, organisations need tactics that deliver real business value. Smart businesses understand the power of a great story and are using them to amplify employee voice, drive learning, increase performance and motivate change.
How to use storytelling in business
Storytelling can be used across organisations and how you use storytelling in business will depend on your goals. For example, if you are struggling with recruitment, you might want to use stories to stand out from the crowd and attract the best talent.
Here are some ideas where business storytelling is already making the most impact:
Onboarding comes with a clear set of goals: time-to-competence, new starter connectivity and retention. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Particularly when a hybrid working environment makes it hard to create a sense of connection and belonging.
This is where storytelling makes a real difference. A great story helps new starters feel connected to people, purpose and their future careers even before Day 1. Showing company culture through stories means people get a sense of how things are done ‘around here’ and paves the way for that all important trust, retention and productivity.
Find out more about the impact onboarding video stories can have in your organisation.
The employment market is constantly changing and implementing an internal mobility strategy can be one of the best tools HR and Talent teams can leverage to stay competitive. When employees look for new opportunities within the company, storytelling can highlight career paths, success stories and the development support available. This encourages people to consider moving internally instead of looking elsewhere.
Learning and Training
There is no shortage of learning content out there. In fact, L&D teams are faced with an ever growing mountain of demand for training and development. Unfortunately, just because content has been created doesn’t mean it has the desired impact. Incorporating storytelling into learning, and particularly stories in the form of user-generated content, hits the most important elements for meeting learning outcomes: engagement, scale, skills and quality.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)
Many organisations struggle to achieve real outcomes in DE&I. Numbers alone don’t inspire us to change behaviour. People and stories do. After all, hearing stories allow us to take a different perspective and stand in someone else’s shoes which opens the door to more nuanced conversations. Storytelling is a universal human experience and helps us look through a new lens. Sharing employee experience and challenges to foster effective DE&I has the power for real change.
Anyone working in HR and Talent Management will tell you recruitment is a tough job, even more so when dealing with early careers. While recent figures show a moderate 3% decrease in overall graduate applications, numbers of those applying for apprenticeships have seen an increase of 17%. Yet companies are struggling with attracting and retaining candidates, as well as keeping them engaged. Business storytelling will help differentiate your early careers programmes, from recruitment through to follow on roles in the business.
Find out more about the impact early careers stories can have in your organisation.
Tips for Business Storytelling
Storytelling at work isn’t alway easy. But, following a few storytelling tips for business will set you on the right path:
Have a clear goal
Your storytelling campaign needs a clear, specific objective and should align closely with the business goal you’re aiming to meet. This keeps you on track to sharing the best stories. Whether it’s learning, performance or something else, success will depend on making your stories authentic, relatable and engaging. Supporting your goal with real work experiences from employees and leaders is an impactful form of storytelling for business.
Keep it engaging
How will you keep your audience engaged? Think about the best medium for your stories and your audience, whether it’s through articles, videos or presentations. Video stories, more than any other medium, will likely have the biggest impact because it’s easier to invoke an emotional connection and our brains process visual content faster.
Keep it relevant and concise
One common mistake is going into too much detail. It’s understandable as so many business topics are complex. But with 82% people struggling to codify complex experiences by themselves (according to Havard research), it’s important to keep your storytellers on track with a brief. If you’re sharing stories on video, using tools like StoryTagger help provide in-built frameworks and prompts so your storytellers stay on-point. With more complex topics, consider breaking down points into a series.
If you’re asking people to share stories they need to know why. Being clear on why something matters increases engagement and impact. It helps storytellers understand the reason for doing something and the benefits in the context of their organisation and role. It’s important to answer the all-important ‘What’s In It For Me?’ question.
Narrative story arc
Having a clear structure with a beginning, middle, and end to your story will help maintain a logical flow so your audience can follow the narrative. People aren’t natural storytellers so having tools and technology in place for this is a must. With StoryTagger, you can curate your campaigns around a structure and key talking points. This way, storytellers can follow guidance you’ve set and the resulting stories will provide consistent value.
Build in authenticity and trust
Your stories need to be authentic and relatable to build trust. As we’ve already noted, Edelman research shows CEO’s aren’t the most trusted of voices so think about inviting people at different levels of your business to be advocates and storytellers. User-generated stories from employees build credibility with co-workers on important topics.
Don’t ignore scalability
Stories don’t have to be from one senior leader, they should be captured from across your organisation. And this can be done with the right tools. Before you start your storytelling journey, ask yourself:
- How will you share your stories? Can you scale them easily? If you’re looking at storytelling videos, traditional corporate video often makes it hard to reach everyone and can have a high price tag. But user-generated content (UGC) will make a huge difference here. UGC, and particularly user-generated video (UGV) is a powerful form of storytelling and a cost-effective way to capture the stories you need.
- Will scaling compromise on the quality and consistency of your stories? Telling a compelling, purposeful business story is more complex than creating a one off TikTok reel. Use technology and best practice to maintain quality and consistency at scale.
- Can you use storytelling to upskill your workforce at the same time? When used effectively, business storytelling has the power to help employees develop future skills like communication, critical thinking and emotional intelligence.
Empowering your employees to be co-creators of the stories you need to share has many benefits. Find out how guided UGC video can transform your experts into inspiring content creators so you can democratise storytelling. You’ll also find more storytelling tips for business in our Storytelling At Work guide.
Best examples of business storytelling
Any storytelling approach you use in your projects, campaigns or programmes will be aimed at achieving your specific goal. What does this look like in practice? To show you, we’ve rounded up five best corporate storytelling examples from our customers.
Business storytelling example
London Business School: Enhance learning transfer
Business storytelling can be an incredible tool not only for leadership development but also as a way to showcase learning transfer, as evidenced in this story from the Executive Education team at London Business School (LBS). Their programme brought together five innovation champions from five different financial organisations to help them cascade good practice and realise their ambition plans.
LBS integrated StoryTagger into their cohort-based program to democratise learning, support personal reflection and knowledge transfer, amplifying what each participant had learned through video storytelling. Leaders shared video reflections before, during and after live learning modules as well as their innovation journey to celebrate the final graduation.
The end result was astounding. By creating impactful business stories, LBS amplified learning transfer and advocacy while building meaningful connections among participants.
“I’ve got better comms skills, a new way of seeing things and can understand people better than before. My plan is now to spread knowledge across our organisation to drive innovation.” – Programme participant
Business storytelling example
City & Guilds: Support positive change around DE&I
We loved how City & Guilds (C&G), a global leader in skills development, used workplace storytelling to support their IWD Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) campaign.
Using StoryTagger, C&G created several real-life video stories from employees around the world. They spoke about what International Women’s Day means to them and why it was important to celebrate. These stories not only raised awareness of the importance of diversity in the workplace, but sharing them across their social channels also shone a light on their inclusivity as an employer.
This authentic approach to DE&I resonated with diverse communities, emphasising the group’s values in an impactful way. Find out more about how C&G used storytelling in the workplace to improve engagement and an inclusive work culture.
Business storytelling example
Amazon Alexa: Build resilience and culture change for everyone
Have you ever run a Storytelling Challenge? It’s an impactful way to get your people to open up and share their most valuable insights on a theme that matters.
Amazon Alexa is a brilliant example of how this worked for a leadership programme. Michal Niezgoda, Leadership Development Senior Program Manager at Amazon Alexa, used StoryTagger to run a storytelling challenge on what it means to survive vs thrive in the workplace.
The platform provided the organisation with a simple mechanism for Amazonians to record their insights. Each storyteller then nominated a colleague to share their thoughts on Surviving Vs Thriving. Creating a ripple effect for learning and culture, Amazon Alexa was able to:
- Create a more open, visible approach to leadership development
- Help everyone connect to company culture, values and behaviours
- Provide a mechanism for leaders to lead by example, share experiences and actionable tips to benefit everyone
- Embed learning and enable people to learn from each other
- Increase impact, multiplies learning transfer and ROI
But a storytelling challenge doesn’t have to be just for leaders. You can follow the same concept for everyone. Download our step-by-step model on how you can plan and run a successful workplace storytelling challenge too.
How to run a storytelling challenge
An impactful way to get people to open up and share their most valuable insights.
Business storytelling example
TogetherCo: Connection at scale for onboarding
Together Co, a loneliness charity based in Brighton, did a brilliant job using corporate storytelling as part of their induction process. Faced with a surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, they needed to rapidly onboard new volunteers at scale. Using StoryTagger, they created a series of 12 targeted onboarding videos, including a welcome video from their senior leadership team. By sharing these stories, Together Co built trust, a sense of belonging and showcased the organisation’s culture from the start. They decreased time-to-competence by 50% and helped their new volunteers feel part of something meaningful from day 1.
Read more about how this corporate storytelling example enabled Together Co to support their new volunteers.
Business storytelling example
DofE: Amplify community voice in development programme
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), a charity dedicated to transforming the lives of young people, aims to reach one million participants in the next five years. Tasked with training a jaw-dropping 10,000 volunteers a year, they needed to overcome many of the typical challenges faced by a busy team when upskilling a large, dispersed population.
Real stories are great for showing people why something matters or to spread vital good practice so the DofE used storytelling to recognise the wealth of experience in their community. StoryTagger helped them capture stories, both practical and emotive, to bring key learning points to life and inspire people to get involved. Participants and volunteers shared their experiences through guided prompts, creating deep insights for digital learning. Embedded in a blended learning programme, these powerful stories made sure every volunteer is equipped to help young people transform their lives.
Check out how DofE used stories to boost learning, without losing human connection.
Business storytelling is one of the most powerful tools an organisation can use. However, many businesses are yet to harness its true potential by democratising how and who can share stories. An inclusive approach to business storytelling can effectively engage employees, customers and other stakeholders with context, trust and purpose.
The possibilities for using business storytelling are both flexible and far-reaching: from onboarding and leadership development to early careers and DE&I. Real stories by real people create real impact. Use these essential tips with real-world employee storytelling examples to set your campaigns up for storytelling success.
The best way to find out how business storytelling will transform your HR, learning and comms campaigns is to see StoryTagger in action. Why not book a demo today?