How the art of storytelling applies to HR

by John Hilton10 Nov 2016
Stories help HR deliver more strategic value to the business by taking the audience (e.g. executives) on a journey, according to Mike Erlin, managing director, Australia & New Zealand, Cornerstone OnDemand.

Through stories, the storyteller provides direction and points of relevance to focus the audience on the items that drive action and positive change for the business, he added.

So what does a good story look like?

Erlin explained that they bring people of different backgrounds and mindsets to a common point of reflection. 

From this point, they can each consider the impact, positive or negative, that the story’s message will have on them and, if done well, compel them to be a part of the required action and change.  

He added that the crucial aspects are needed to craft a data ‘story’ are simply the beginning, middle and end. But not necessarily in that order.

“Start at the end with what success looks like: What is the end-point of the journey? A change,” said Erlin.

“Next, work backwards:  What do you want to compel your audience to do to drive the change you seek? An action.

“With that clearly understood, work backwards still:  How do they need to feel in order to be compelled to take the required action to drive the change? An experience.

“Finally, the start: What does your audience need to know? The scene.”

For instance, adopting a policy to recruit an age diverse workforce (an action) will drive a two point increase in customer satisfaction and a $7m improvement in operating margin across the business (a change).  

Erlin said that HR can best communicate this story to the C-suite or workforce by being ready and competent to deliver the story. 

Ready might mean you get to leverage your online learning to freshen up your presentation and/or sales skills. 

“With that complete, consider graphics, video in support of the ‘experience’ and be prepared to take your executives on a journey to realise that change,” said Erlin.

“Competent might mean you understand the tools and skills within your department, you’ve analysed the available data, gained the appropriate insights, have modelled different scenarios that will drive the change needed in the business and have a story that will cover the journey. “ 

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Three must-have skills HR should borrow from marketing

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