Storytelling is the key to actively engaging employees in learning – get this right and your team will thrive.
It pains me to think that people are working hard and at speed every day, but if they slowed down just a little, they might learn something that would help them improve their performance and make not just their job, but their life, just a little bit better.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why people do not engage in learning, but two of the most common objections are ‘there is not enough time’ and ‘it’s too risky to spend time investing in learning when I might not actually get the improvement I want’. To be fair, these are both pretty good reasons. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone in my team investing valuable time in the fruitless pursuit of learning.
If you want to dip your toe in the water, begin with delegates in the same cohort, sharing any key stories more widely.
It is very easy to overcome both of those objections and help people not only understand if it would be worth their investment of time, but also to gain greater commitment from them to actually follow through with it.
That is through storytelling. The power of storytelling is, in my view, undeniable. When you share a personal experience, relating the emotion, the journey and the outcomes, you hook people in. If they are in a similar position they start picturing themselves in your shoes and visualising how they too might get the outcomes you have achieved.
Quite simply you MUST have storytelling as part of your overall learner engagement marketing mix. There are many ways to do this, not all will suit your organisation, but the bottom line is you do need to find a way to incorporate it if you want to increase learner engagement.
Here are five ways that you can introduce storytelling in your organisation and begin improving your learner engagement.
Telling their story
One key way I have found useful is to encourage delegates, or hand pick and invite key learners, to tell their story after they have consumed some learning. That might be in the form of a blog or an article in a magazine, but get them to tell their story and share it.
I always ask them to include the challenge they faced and results they achieved by applying the learning, not just a story about the learning experience itself. That way, potential delegates can see quickly and easily why the learning worked and feel more confident that they could achieve similar outcomes.
Make it social
I like to experiment and try to capitalise on the way delegates already share their stories using social media. You can ask them to hold up a sign with some key learning to share with others, or sum up in 140 characters the number one difference the learning has made to them.
If the culture of your organisation allows, I have found it quite interesting to create ‘shout outs’ on internal social platforms, i.e. encourage delegates to share how they feel, or the results they get when they have applied the learning.
In some places this is not an option but in many others the learners love it. If you want to dip your toe in the water, begin with delegates in the same cohort, sharing any key stories more widely. This would also be a good way to get anecdotal evidence of ROI.
Once you buy into the concept of storytelling, you will find many ways that you can share those stories. The more impactful they are, the more they will engage others.
Ask your learning champions to record a video, highlighting their experiences of consuming the learning and the difference it has made to them, and share that as part of your marketing mix. Peer endorsement goes a very long way.
You can also invite past delegates to road shows, e.g. Learning at Work Week etc., as advocates for specific learning events. Some people have more clout than others and if you can find the person that others aspire to, having them share their views can have an even more powerful impact.
Expect the learning to be shared
Engineering, encouraging or just expecting people to share what they have learnt with others is a great aspiration to have, but it is also important because it reinforces the learning for the person concerned.
Time and time again, people tell me that when they share their experiences with their colleagues formally, it reminds them how far they have come, reinforces the value for them (so they do it more often) and makes them feel proud of their achievement.
You could make it a regular agenda item on your team meeting – asking people to share something they have learned that week or month.
The additional benefit, when they tell their story, is that we all understand their role and challenges better, which means we appreciate them more, whilst also learning from their experiences.
This can be informal, but there is also a place to task learners with sharing their more formal learning experiences - after all, if they needed it, found it useful, and have got results from it, odds are others in their team would too.
Finally, if you have invested in someone attending a conference or exhibition the very least you can expect back is that they share what they learned. Many people do that by writing a blog, but bringing it to life personally is a great use of time and allows questions and further learning.
So, next time someone attends an expo or seminar etc., be sure to tell them they need to make a note of key points and examples, so they can share them with the rest of the team when they get back.
Once you buy into the concept of storytelling, you will find many ways that you can share those stories. The more impactful they are, the more they will engage others. The more engaged your audience is, the more they will want, and demand learning.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI was the former Managing Director of Bray Leino Learning.
Stephanie has extensive experience in Learning and Development and is passionate about helping people thrive in an ever-changing world.
One particular passion is helping people progress their careers to board level. Stephanie believes...