Have you been noticing for a while that not all of your staff is adequately applying the latest procedure for a key operation? You’re probably thinking that, between new arrivals and tasks that have been reassigned, there have been a lot of changes in the team, which certainly explains the situation.

Indeed, in all the hullabaloo, it is quite possible that there have been oversights. You decide to send an email to the whole staff explaining the procedure, step by step, to rectify the situation. However, in the weeks that follow, you do not see any significant improvement. Although clear and to the point, your email failed to capture attention and hold people accountable. A colleague suggests that you use storytelling to increase engagement.

It is well known that human beings retain more information when it is presented to them in the context of a story than as part of a detailed procedure. Why? Essentially, the emotions that are transmitted and experienced through a narrative activate different hormones in our brains, moving the learner from passive information absorption to an “action” mode. In pedagogical terms, we know that this represents a change in learning attitude that allows for higher information retention and more tangible applications in daily life.

Illustration of a group of a person consulting a storyboard

The use of storytelling in training also fulfills one of the basic principles of andragogy. In order for an adult to invest in learning new skills or knowledge, they must be able to see the immediate utility. The use of storytelling in e-learning helps to re-frame the way the most important information is presented. Instead of deconstructing a procedure into five key steps, we focus on characters, on situations and issues that echo what happens in real life. A story clearly identifies the context in which the procedure is important. Not only do learners recognize themselves in these situations, but their curiosity is engaged. They will naturally seek to predict the next step or the consequences of a given decision. They are suddenly engaged in the training since they are able to participate in the problem solving themselves and realize that the procedure presented represents a good solution to problems they encounter on a daily basis. Thus, the usefulness of the training becomes apparent, directly increasing commitment.

Storytelling is a particularly effective technique for implementing preventive behaviours, especially in occupational health and safety or cybersecurity. Indeed, it is difficult to get strong support for something that could happen. It is rare for statistics to evoke the strong emotions that lead to changes in behaviour. A statistic is abstract and distant, even when it is scientifically established and alarming. Yet, we have all observed that people’s attitudes change when someone close to them has experienced an accident or been the victim of a cyberattack. This is because these stories engage our emotions. We feel more empathy towards our colleagues than an instruction manual, which means that we are more influenced by their experiences, by their stories. A narrative frame bypasses the coldness of an infographic and highlights the real impacts of a given behaviour.

Now all you have to do is decide how far you want to go, from reproducing a conversation between colleagues to staging a quest worthy of The Legend of Zelda. A world of possibilities awaits.

Contact us to help you write your story and generate the desired impact in your team.