Apr 18 - May 8Phase 1May 8 - 27May 28 - Jun 5Jun 7 - Jul 1Phase 2Jul 2 - 14Jul 17 - Aug 14Phase 3Aug 15 - Sep 16
Humans have an emotive response to stories that begins when we are young, they stretch and test the imagination. They helping people bring to life a situation and communicate its significance. Developing the capability to tell stories effectively is an important way for HR to influence and motivate.
HR is a very complex, nuanced subject because it deals with human relationships in the workplace, and it is difficult to bring down to black and white bullet points. Storytelling is a very effective way to explain complex and nuanced issues to people because we can all relate to them
Too much of our communication is based on the rational and not the emotional. Effective story telling works on both levels.
Storytelling can help HR effectively sell ideas or opportunity to the business and bring HR data to life.
Ultimately, storytelling will help HR connect with the business and build its influence. HR struggles to get its message across at senior level and research has shown it is often not valued highly as a function by the top team. Developing the ability to ‘story tell’ effectively would help to solve this issue. Story telling is also a great tool that that can be used to engage people with initiatives that may initially be unpopular.
Good stories require a narrative that is compelling throughout. It also requires confident and passionate delivery. Too much of HR practice is fixed on the ordinary and mundane, our agendas are not compelling and our passion for what we do is missing. By learning to tell the story, through whatever means, we will learn to focus on the areas that excite and prioritise those.
We feel that storytelling should be a necessary part of the craft of becoming a competent practitioner in HR/OD/L+D etc. Learning to structure a narrative to make it compelling and to effectively present business problems using a storytelling structure will enable better relationships and cohesion across organisations.
HR also needs to better at articulating why things need to be done - including some of the boring processes. Good storytelling can explain this to staff, line management and make it memorable and relevant to them.
This mini hack is about giving HR practitoners the skills, confidence and a sense of what can be achieved through using storytelling in their roles. As well as what we can achieve wit this mini-hack (see first steps) in the short term, there should be more emphasis in initial training of HR practitioners on influencing skills – plus ongoing development on the practical techniques of storytelling. There are some great people out there who do this really well.
In practice, HR practitioners would develop the skills and confidence to communicate their vision and purpose in a way that excites and compels, they would tailor their vision and purpose to the areas that do this. HR would be a focal point of compelling narrative, it would become the must read thriller, not the process manual.
This is about airing and sharing. How can colleagues and peers understand what you do/know/learn if you cannot articulate that in an interesting way? This is about helping to do that - on a personal/professional/organizational and peer group level.
Role modeling is critical. If someone starts doing this in an organisaiton and gets great results others will follow.
The challenges are:
- The lack of capability in the HR teams. The considerable change from current practice.
- Noise from and trendiness of focus on data
- Incorrect belief that it isn’t a commercial approach
- Lack of bravery/courage to attempt new things
- Perception that soft skills don’t bring hard results
- Finding a voice, practical skills, confidence
- Fear of legal implications often gets in the way of HR voicing an opinion or putting their head above the parapet
In terms of overcoming these challenges, it’s about the courage to start...we all have anecdotes that we may tell between ourselves (other HR professionals). We just need to aim the right stories at the right people.
How many times have we said “I remember in my last company we had a case where...” or “I’ve encountered this situation before, it was during the last reorganisation, and what happened was...” At its most basic, that is storytelling.
See also the next section . . .
Our approach is to start small and build up, role modeling along the way.
First, we will get a bunch of HR leaders to tell their story in writing in a shared space for others to see. What is it they are trying to deliver in their organisations and how can others help them develop their story through editing.
We will create a shared space online (site) where colleagues/peers can share their stories. We propose supporting this with a Twitter profile and hashtag to provide a focus and support. We will compile storytelling resources on the site.
If these ideas work we would like to build on them with workshops asking HR leaders for stories. We will work with HR leaders to help them shape stories and ask them to share stories with teams or more openly (stand in the canteen! run storytelling lunches).
We would aim to publish a book of the stories. Circulate a recommended format. Encourage teams to create and share their own. All of this could be achieved at almost zero cost.
By the time of the CIPD’s centenary conference we would expect to have some stories to share and would like to do that at the event – and record and share them on our site . . . and get more people to try out storytelling. You get the picture.
We are collecting storytelling resources in this shared document so please contribute if you can.
Thankyou all for your time, ideas and input.
Our mini-hack was developed in an open document which anyone can access.
The document is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1davVMEDlHAtL2G9KUo8oo1iJFpGaBM5FaY6J...
And we developed our ideas in a Google Hangout which we recorded. You can see the video here:
Story telling is an effective process of building up the communication gap between many level of organisation.I liked the suggestions that you have provided here for better management by the HR team. In some cases the HR team are so much discouraging and rude that workers feel like giving up the job. Your article can help in making a change to this condition
I think Louise Beardmore, HRD at United Utilities, is talking about EfS work on Transformational engagement at the next Guru meeting, but the EfS website below is a useful source of practice:
That's really useful and much appreciated, Paul. Many thanks once again!
Many thanks for your input and insights and for sharing learning from Engage for Success. I'm a big one for examples so am interested in whether you have an example of a transactional and transformative narrative. Finding and sharing these examples of how stories have worked will be really useful to the wider HR community and will help us create an ongoing resource.
Hi Martin and team
I like the idea of storytelling and strategic narrative. Some learning from the field of employee engagement about the types of narrative needed...
In the UK's Engage for Success movement David MacLeod and Nita Clarke have been advocating that employee engagement (with whatever you wish them to engage with - being innovative might be one example) is essentially an exercise in creating a meaningful narrative. More recently, Engage for Success has also argued that this narrative can be seen in either transactional or transformative terms. The view emerging from practice can broadly be summarized as follows. A transactional strategic narrative strategy tends to involve the use of a process plan as part of a change strategy, something that is done to employees, rather than involving employees in the narrative. However, defining exactly what is meant by a more "positive" transformational narrative is harder to do - we often know what is NOT a transformational narrative rather then actually being able to say what the qualities are that MAKE it transformational.
But, in general, we came to the following pragmatic view of what a transformational narrative meant
... it has to involve a degree of shared beliefs in order to work because a transformational narrative inevitably has to lay out a series of emotional behaviours that employees need to “lock onto”.
... it has to “Raise the bar” which in turn means that people (all the people of an organization, or of its mission) are more mindful, attentive and attached to the goal. It is about building a picture so that people collectively understand and believe what is important in a strategy.
... people have to be able to relate to the strategic narrative, identify with it, and find meaning in this narrative. This is not the marketing of a strategy - it is about the creation of meaningfulness and authenticity of a strategy.
... finally, a transformational strategic narrative lays out the committing act, and also the contribution to an ongoing story – the ability for people to be able to add to the narrative.
Thanks for the kind words, Doug. Yes, agree with you about non-text ways of storytelling. I'm hoping we can create a site/resource for sharing stories so your offer of help would be much appreciated if we can get that off the ground. In the meantime, we are collecting storytelling resources here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1A5iyjZf3El7ZqoP8Kcl3o-RoRKOLLteOiMsS... so please feel free to contribute. Thanks again!
Nice idea Martin and co. You finish your pitch with the words 'You get the picture', and I think I do. I also think a picture paints a thousand words, so I wonder how much richer your good idea could be, if space were made to include imagery and maybe other forms of artistry into your storytelling portfolio? Poetry, video, mark making, drawing, animation, painting and more. Stories can be developed and told in many forms. If thsi sounds interesting and relevant I'd be happy to help in any way I can. Cheers - Doug
Hi Martin and team--thanks for submitting this "radical, yet practical" idea of implementing storytelling practices within HR. One part of the hack that particularly resonated with me was when you said that" too much of HR practice is fixed on the ordinary and mundane, our agendas are not compelling and our passion for what we do is missing." I totally agree that storytelling might provide a way out, but I also agree that it is a very difficult skill to master.
You've done a nice job building out the first steps, etc. One thing I'm hoping that perhaps you could develop further is the list of materials at the end of the hack? I'm sure there are some storytelling resources that your team could share (books, presentations, videos, etc.) about how to tell good stories that might be helpful for someone looking for the next steps. In particular, I'm drawn to Nancy Duarte's work, the Heath Brothers, and of course the classic works of Joseph Campbell... perhaps a bibliography and list of links might be a great way to make this an even more practical hack?
Perhaps you even have some additional ideas about how to tailor some of these resources specifically for the needs of HR professionals?
Thanks again for such a great submission!
Chris, thanks for your kind and enthusiastic comments! Much appreciated. You will note that in our First steps we will create a site where we will co-create a set of useful resources as well as showcase HR stories. By curating these links and resources we can help build up highly relevant content specifically for HR professionals. Do we need to do that now? I thought we had to wait til 9th September?!
Hi Martin! You certainly don't have to do it now, but going ahead and adding as many as you already have will make this an even more compelling hack now. While you are certainly welcome to continue to develop the list of tools after the hackathon ends on September 9, the more you can identify and have actually listed in the hack when people are reading it, the more it might actually prove helpful to them while the light of the hackathon is still shining on it. So totally your choice on timeframe, but in my mind there is no time like the present, and it will only make it a more complete hack! Thank you!
Many thanks for your kind words and support. I agree with your thoughts and I am hoping we can find a few HR professionals to tell their own story as a part of the next steps of this hack. More fundamentally, I'm also hoping we can help HR professionals grow their confidence and find their voice so that they can start to create and share their stories.
A while back I crowdsourced a short story for an HR unconference which was almost entirely made up of contributions by HR professioanls. It was fun to do and showed just how creative people can be (see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJG2huZ5J5s). It also showed that we all have stories to share - we share them outside of work, now we need to share them inside too!
Thanks for sharing these links too, which I will look at shortly.
Congratulations, for me this one is a game-changer because stories are so powerful. I believe that's because can be deep, difficult and dangerous - but by the same token there are some great allies/resources/ideas out there on other professional communities which could help. Eg I've encountered the great people at Sparknow - http://www.sparknow.net/stories-and-narrative.html
Good storytelling is skilled. Skilled in the way this hack proposes, HR could help line managers tell better stories. I think that's a great way to make HR more tangibly valuable.
To set an example, HR should tell its own story, including (for my money) how/why we haven't delivered our potential - how we have got suckered by 'data' - how in quite a few organisations we ironically became a repository for people who aren't really very good with people, as well as attracting the opposite type. By your experience that might be misjudged/too harsh - that might be right, but whatever HR's real vulnerabilities and mess-ups are, a good story will tell them. (I'm reminded of Brene Brown's amazing TED talk on the power of vulnerability: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
I've just done a book with a friend which combines some academic insights into narrative with the benefits for leadership and insight from developing story-telling in learning sets: http://www.palgraveconnect.com/pc/doifinder/10.1057/9781137005519
A 'one team' people plan, confidence around disclosure, the ability to inspire curiosity and an audience with capacity to trust are essential ingredients for honing storytelling skills. We should be adept at creating a compelling vision if we are to be credible. Historically we've been behind the scenes though, it's a tough habit to break.
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