You may know that stories are a great way to convey complex messages. But did you know they are also a powerful way to make employee training especially effective?
That’s because stories can break down barriers to create meaningful connections with the listener. And by artfully weaving in related activities, the memorable aspect of storytelling can be further enhanced to reinforce a learner's ability to retain new knowledge. Here are some steps you can take to effectively include exceptional storytelling in a way that amplifies learning to create an immersive training experience.
1. Offer a safe space for learning
In an HBR article, How Sharing Our Stories Builds Inclusion, consultants Selena Rezvani and Stacey A. Gordon suggest, “The best way to create a cascading inclusion effect in an organization is to offer safe spaces where stories can be heard without judgment. This works best when psychological safety is being actively cultivated.”
Action step: Consider what method of learning is most appropriate for your organization. For instance, larger organizations may opt for online learning to create a safe and consistent experience across the organization.
2. Put the spotlight on personal storytelling
Personal storytelling, such as first-person interviews, can create a way to help people open their minds to new perspectives. Hearing someone tell their own story, sharing how they felt, how it affected them and what they learned carves out an easily accessible path for the listener to connect the story to their own life. And if the story is told with authenticity, it will provide an opening to empathize with the storyteller and understand their point of view.
Action step: Be sure that personal storytelling is the centerpiece of your employees’ training experience.
3. Support personal narratives with relatable scenarios
Once people hear a personal story, it’s helpful for them to envision a scenario that can apply to them in real-life. For instance, if they hear how someone felt minimized in a meeting and then this is followed up by a scene with similar circumstances, they might see themselves in the story and be able to see more clearly how their own behavior might affect another person. This opens the door for learning through self-discovery.
Action step: Flank personal storytelling with realistic and relatable scenarios that have broad application across the organization.
4. Surround stories with interactive exercises that show the impact of choices
After hearing a personal story and seeing a scenario with similar circumstances, the next step in the learning process is to create a situation where the learner must make choices about how they might react in a similar situation. This enables them to see the impact of their behavior. And if this is followed with constructive guidance, it creates the perfect opportunity for learners to see what behaviors are most likely to support inclusion and which are not.
Action step: Ensure that your training experience includes realistic scenarios, along with strategies employees can deploy in real-life.
5. Provide opportunities to pause and reflect on learning points
New ideas and ways of thinking can take time to set in. That means this kind of learning cannot be rushed. Once learners get the guidance they need to support making their choices, they will need time to pause and reflect on the stories they heard. For instance, they may need to reach into their memories to evaluate past events, their behavior at that time and then consider how they may react going forward.
Action step: Provide employees with the time they need to reflect on self-discoveries and for important learning points to soak in.
6. Follow-up, assess and create regular opportunities for learning
Once employees have completed their training, it should be solidified with well-thought-out follow-up. This will help to reinforce what they have drawn from the learning experience and provide you with feedback on any improvements that can be made.
Action step: Gather feedback, assess success and address any questions that may arise. Prepare a plan to repeat training at regular intervals.
Storytelling paints a very personal picture in our minds. By hearing someone’s story, we are suddenly able to envision life from a new and different perspective. And in so doing, it engenders our empathy and understanding. This is how it can make training most effective and become an essential part of your employees’ learning experience.
A version of this article, Storytelling and Inclusivity: The power to learn and connect, was originally published on HR.com
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