ENGAGING PEOPLE WITH A NARRATIVE
With remote working here to stay in one way or another, the question of how to keep employees engaged and motivated is top of mind for leaders. As work becomes an experience rather than a place, leaders need to be able to draw upon a carefully crafted narrative that turns an uncertain future into something employees feel is tangible and meaningful.
Below are some of the key elements of a successful narrative, to help you with this critical process.
1. Provide a sense of calm and stability. Uncertainty is a key cause of anxiety – even if it is driven by positive change. To counteract this, it is helpful to start your narrative with the things that will not change. Identify the signature processes and practices that give your organisation its identity and make them non-negotiables that employees can make a part of their identity too. At the same time, it is vital to ensure that these non-negotiables match lived employee experience.
2. Give a concrete vision of the future. In uncertain times, the future can seem abstract. Clearly articulating the future you hope to build together, the collective investment you are making in it, and the steps you will take to get there can help the future feel more tangible. These purposeful narratives are inherently aspirational, which makes them powerful enough to engage and inspire.
3. Be transparent. In the context of an organisational narrative, transparency means being upfront about what it means to work for your organisation now – and what it could mean in future. In turbulent times, getting this right can be tricky, particularly in highly regulated industries or those that are most likely to be transformed by AI and automation. This means it is important not to promise too much, while also finding ways to provide a sense of autonomy and control over the future.
4. Co-create the narrative. Critically, the narrative needs to be shared. Engaging in a dialogue with the workforce helps make employers more aware of employee experience and where support is needed, and employees aware of how the organisation will support them through periods of change. These insights should help determine and shape the narrative – creating the future with your people, rather than for them.
Crafting a narrative does more than simply allow organisations to tell a story about who they are and where they are going. From an employee perspective, it can provide a much-needed sense of identity, meaning and belonging during turbulent times – one that helps combat feelings of disengagement and makes it easier for workers to thrive and collaborate together.