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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.
What are the core components of your solution and how are they interrelated? (Provide as much detail as possible). What, exactly, are you proposing needs to change in traditional HR practices or processes?
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. (MC)
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. It has little cost apart from time.
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.
This is about a change of style. We all tell our own story every day and everytime we talk to someone - we need to use that same technique to talk about HR. Everytime someone says “I get it now” is a result.
Dear All - apologies for my tardy reply.... I can offer nothing but excuses although graduation has been hectic and very enjoyable!! I have set up a google account - here are the details... I guess this might link me to the hack now and I'll have a read and put some comments on by the end of Wednesday.
Best wishes, Fran
Sorry to be very tardy with this - am happy with google as medium of communication (it may help me get my head round Google+ too!). One question - to misquote Marshall McLuhan - is our mini hack about the medium (the way HR communicates) or the message (what story we are telling). I can see elements of both being important but it could become way too big a topic!
Hi Martin - this is a mini hack that definitely needs a spirited wind behind it, and I would love to participate and learn. I like to think the main drivers for authentic HR story-telling (about itself and its contribution) are:
1. we (people-people) have identified a set of clearly articulated constraints (eg. limited commercial advantages, leadership succession and so on ...) or opportunities (eg. attractiveness, technological / market competitive advantages, and so on...);
2. we clearly understand (and/or have researched) the economic/business drivers of these constraints and/or opportunities, and are not bluffing that we understand them or simply repeating (paying lip service to) them;
3. we are confident as leaders, communicators and coaches/facilitators to share our evidence, and ideally how HR already adds direct value, or is getting there - the 'so what?' - to resolve these constraints or leverage the advantages;
4. we are brave and willing to go out on a limb in telling stories that are likely to have real impact ... particularly where this may be cross-current, and where constraints (business and HR's) outweigh clear advantages - ie. most businesses;
5. we take the time to familiarise ourselves with and become expert at leveraging some of the social technologies that help us build and share our HR stories, ever more creatively;
6. better still, we carve out significant boxes of time to tell stories face-to-face;
7. we are energetic, creative and consistent in our story telling, (not weighed down by our considerable day-to-day priorities) - and our commercial sensitivities and behaviours match;
8. ideally our stories clearly define the link between individual behaviours and commercial / service success - perhaps we add some numbers to explain;
9. ideally, a trusted HR identity (brand maybe ?) evolves that can be trusted for all of its decisions; including tough ones;
10. finally, we ask for feedback, and identify what we can and cannot adjust ... we will always have more constraints, and should be clear what these are, so we don't set ourselves up or mislead.
Developing broader HR community behaviours (skills?) to make this sing is the challenge that greatly interest me; and particularly learning fresh approaches from younger, or perhaps less constrained, HR professionals.
I have a few direct experiences in automotive, e-commerce and mobile technology / entertainment that I hope I can share, (particularly storytelling under significant constraints), though I expect that there will be many more and much better examples.
(Sorry for the length of this post - I should have added point 11. be economical in telling your story :-))
(Sorry also - missed the fact that this Hack team is already 'full' ... nevertheless, I look forward to following)
Happy to use Google, Skype etc. Whatever is easiest for the group. If at any stage we want to meet IRL (and I don't know where people are based geographically) then I'm more than happy to organise space at our offices in London.
Other than that suggest we get going online and see what magic happens.
Dear fellow team members, Thinking about a hangout for us, I have signed up to Skype, I don't profess by any means to be an expert, but from some YouTube info, I can see it is possible to see several people all at once. Perhaps if anyone has an actual working knowledge, or proof of concept :-) this might be an option for us? I do think us using some form of social media to communicate through is really important, it doesn't need to be the only way, but if it is something that we are suggesting HR teams and organisations needs to grasp in order to use to maximum advantage, somehow I just feel we should be setting a good example. Of course, for me I can reflect on the experience and use that as a story :-). The weather in Yorkshire looks set for another glorious day, I hope you enjoy your weekend. Best wishes Fran
Nice to hear Yorkshire is being shined upon. Google hangouts are good for sharing info and having multiple contributors. I prefer them marginally to Skype. Likewise Google docs make it easy to work on documentation collaboratively. As long as everyone is prepared to sign up for a Google account it doesn't take any more effort than that to be good to go for both. Have a great weekend.
Hello everyone, great to see the group growing! What do I think we could do to help? Well, I don't think it's an issue that can be solved overnight, but maybe a good first step would be for there to be more emphasis in the training and on-going development of HR folk on how they can use social tools in general to support their work. Not just for personal profile raising - but to support engagement issues, make performance management conversations more 'immediate' etc etc. Once people get more comfortable with the medium in general and come to see it as a positive thing, they are more likely to use it to start to share best practice and talk about what's working well for them.
My other comment would be that there is training around in 'how to do social media' - but a lot of it focuses on the tools rather than the messages. I think HR people need support in how to craft a message/story - and in fact not just on social media, but for other communication channels too. 'Telling the story' is often seen as something that should sit with the marketing/PR people - but I actually think it's a really important skill for HR too.
Thanks for the warm welcome! The MIX is amongst my first ventures to the virtual world although I've taken to an occasional Twitter and LinkedIn message.... I feel a little like I'm talking to myself so please, if anyone else is reading this, do join in - there is strength in numbers and more ideas help the mix!
I understand the value of 'storytelling' in an honest and professional way to help others understand our message; it is, for me, a way of sharing a message in a non-threatening and yet still adventurous way which is really inspiring. I think the idea of turning this concept into a mini-hack is a great one; I'm with Erika on the challenges of finding a (social media) voice - this is my attempt to over come my own doubts!
I think one of the key things getting in the way of HR people telling their story is there is still a huge fear of/reluctance to use social media. There are a few high profile HR people doing it really well --- but the majority are still very wary. We need to find ways of helping HR people get more comfortable with the concept.
I completely agree that this is a great way of telling the story.....there is a massive fear around social media use in HR mainly driven by listening to too many lawyers! People are also afraid of putting themselves "out there" don't you think? How would you suggest we could help them?
I agree. This is one of the key skills for HR Professionals in today's world of work Martin.
As an extension, perhaps this mini-hack should also consider what the HR Professional as a whole should look like in the adaptable organization: the Adaptable HR Professional perhaps?!
Thanks again for sharing. Good thinking.
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