How Storytelling Can Help Recognize Employees and Build Your Culture

Oct 18, 2013

Once upon a time, I worked for a company that used epic storytelling in their cultural narrative.

The annual company-wide party was a chance to recount the early, sputtering days of the company: the group ran out of money, and when the CEO met with the team to lay them off, all the employees volunteered to work for free, or at greatly reduced salaries. The company bootstrapped and clawed their way to a successful technology organization that sold for a handsome profit, rewarding all those volunteers and the employees who had followed.

The tale of “the little company that could,” the nights and weekends spent building the business, were part of the story that employees told each other.

Every company has a story

New employees learned the story of the company and how they could fit and contribute. Recognition rewards tied directly to the story of the company, fitting the concept of an organization that relied on the grit and determination of employees to build something special.

Every company has a story, every team has a narrative, and every company could do better at incorporating storytelling into recognizing their employees.

Whether your company has an epic story, a storied history, or has a vision of the future, the way you recognize your employees’ efforts and contributions should be tied to the stories you tell.

Building around workplace recognition

Take the chance to remember your employees efforts and how they fit into the story of where your company is going and how it will get there.

  • Recall the times employees contributed their energy, time, and special resources to accomplish a project; it puts the story of their efforts into context, creating a narrative that gives the employee, and their colleagues not just satisfaction, but allows them to develop a passion for great work.
  • Create a story around your recognition awards. What does the award mean? How does it transform the recipient? Do you have a narrative that fits with the company vision? Placing storytelling at the heart of your recognition forges an emotional connection with employees that can amplify the impact of any award.

What are the stories you tell about your company? How do employee efforts relate to the larger story of your team?

It’s time to start using storytelling to turn rewarding your employees into something greater than everyday recognition: stories make everything epic.

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

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