5 Reasons Why Storytelling Works at Work

By Laura Singer, Senior Communication Consultant

True story: Once there was a leadership team for a support function in a large global corporation. All the members were asked to create a story that communicated the value their work brought to the enterprise. But all came up short.  Their stories lacked characters, emotions and a narrative arc. They were a litany of the usual corporate talking points.

The moral of this story is that storytelling is easier said than done.

For most of us, storytelling in the workplace does not come naturally. In fact, storytelling forces us to unlearn a lot of what we do to communicate in our jobs. We’re trained to be succinct and stick to the facts. We focus on metrics, not people. Storytelling is the Un-PowerPoint. It’s the Non-Elevator Speech.

While slide decks and elevator speeches are important tools, good stories have a capacity to engage the audience in a way that other types of communication do not.

In our next blog, we’ll provide some tips for helping employees flex this little-used muscle. In the meantime, here are five reasons to make storytelling part of your communications toolbox.

  1. Storytelling builds trust

A common theme in corporate storytelling involves a person or team overcoming an obstacle—and this is something everyone can identify with. When we see ourselves in the characters, we experience empathy. So, the very act of telling a story makes people trust you more, helping to build and strengthen partnerships.

  1. Storytelling helps break through silos

Stories create connections, spark dialogue, and spotlight similarities, not differences. For example, If IT and HR need to partner on a project, they may bring different mindsets, ways of working, and even their own vocabulary. Stories break through the jargon, help people find common ground, and allow for a real exchange of ideas.

  1. Storytelling communicates value

Through vivid examples, stories allow you to show – not just tell – how your team or function contributes to the overall success of the enterprise. For example, we recently worked with a Global Privacy team to show how safeguarding customer data can lead to innovation and growth in other parts of the business.

  1. Storytelling simplifies complex information

Stories make abstract concepts concrete and understandable. This is especially important when you’re trying to engage those outside your own functional area who may not share your level of expertise. And stories help to demystify new initiatives — a merger, a change in employee benefits, a new legal requirement, for example— by providing scenarios and characters that folks can relate to.

  1. Storytelling is data’s best friend

Data doesn’t change behavior — emotions do. Research has shown that after a presentation, 63% of the audience remembered the story while only 5% remembered the statistics. By wrapping your numbers within a story, you have a better chance of getting attention and driving action.

Does your organization have stories that need to be told? The O’Keefe Group is here to help.