The Importance of Stories at Work
One very good way of learning about how things are going at a company and the atmosphere of the company is to listen to the stories employees tell about their work experiences.
You may hear more positive stories – about the hard work that people do to keep their customers happy, or how they work with customers to determine new products. But the stories also may be more negative – how management didn’t like an idea, or how management expected too much without providing the needed resources to get the job done.
The question is whether the stories employees tell help to promote the culture that you want at your company, or whether the stories of your work culture will be a hindrance to your success.
Human resource consultant Susan Heathfield argues that the stories people tell are potent influences in forming the culture of companies. What employees talk about and the stories they share, can set the tone for the entire organization. It is an important part of the working life of employees, Heathfield says.
These stories have an even greater influence on new employees because they become part of the new person’s learning process. They are instrumental in forming expectations about the company and in expected behavior.
Since these narratives about the company are so important, what can you do to promote positive stories?
Heathfield says the first thing to do is to listen. Find out what kinds of stories are making the rounds at your company, and are they the kinds of stories that are good for the company.
If you don’t like what you hear, get together a team of employees that represents different levels and areas of the company. It will be their job to listen to the stories in the company, to monitor the atmosphere.
Tell stories of your own. When you have meetings, make sure to tell positive and inspiring stories. But also make sure that you have a culture in your company that makes these stories believable. You have to be able to back up your stories with action. Also, make outstanding employee contributions part of your company history, something you highlight on your company website or handbook, and something you pass on to all new employees.
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