One of the most complicated relationships at work?

The employees and HR relationship. 

Why, you may ask, is it soooo stinking complicated and fraught?

Well, for a few reasons like:

Conflicting priorities: HR has to balance employee needs with business needs and more often than not, the needs are in conflict with one another. 

Perception issues: Employees bring in their past experiences into their current workplace and most employees haven’t had great HR related experiences. I often say, instead of starting from zero with employees we’re usually starting from the negative. It’s a big hill to climb!  

Policy enforcement: Having to enforce policies makes HR more of a disciplinary force rather than a supportive force. And no one really likes to hear, no. Trust me!!

Communication gaps: Employees usually feel like HR isn’t being transparent enough or honest about decisions, policies, or changes. In my experience employees tend to lob the “lack of transparency” card when they think they are entitled to know something. Cough usually they don’t need to know cough. 

I can’t help but wonder, is the employee and HR relationship just destined to be contentious? 

Or can it go from enemies to lovers friendly coworkers? 

Maybe, there’s a way to strengthen the relationship… 

Something that can build trust, increase transparency and foster engagement. 

✨Something called storytelling. ✨

And before you roll your eyes at me and tell me, storytelling isn’t going to fix any of my problems, hear me out!

Neuroscience explains that stories can trigger emotional reactions and build trust, empathy and connection. 

By being better storytellers HR can build more trust, empathy and connection with and amongst the employees.  What a powerful thing to leverage!


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Imagine: instead of thinking of everything you need to communicate as an “update,” think about it as a story you get a chance to tell… 

Let’s make that a reality! 

Here are 4 tips to help you and your team be better storytellers. 

#1: Be authentic: 

If there’s one thing your employees can instantly sniff out its authenticity. 

The worst thing HR can do is make broad sweeping, embellished statements like “everyone is so happy here” and have reality be the exact opposite… 

Authentic stories:

✅Share real experiences. They avoid fabricating things and as much as possible use real stories and examples. 

✅Are honest and transparent. You can share successes AND failures. Sharing mistakes and what you learned is so authentic and appreciated! 

✅Are consistent with actions. If you say you’ll do something, DO IT!! Follow through is everything. 

✅Have emotions and empathy. Emotions are okay! Sharing how something made someone feel is authentic af. 

The bottom line: your employees can and will sniff out the BS. As we’ve seen with the rise of social media, more employees are speaking out and sharing stories when things aren’t adding up. 

#2: Be relevant:

Have you ever gotten a message or attended a company wide meeting and thought to yourself: “why the heck are they talking about this???” 

Been there!

Great storytelling is relevant to your employees, that means:

✅Understanding your audience. 

Consider: what challenges are your employees facing? What do your employees care about? What questions have they been asking recently? What are their interests? 

There’s nothing worse than HR being excited about something that then falls flat.

✅Being timely. 

Acknowledge the moment you are in. Is there something happening outside of work in the world? Any relevant holidays? 

Pro-tip: if you are working on complicated messaging and need a gut check you could preview the message with employees you trust to get their feedback. 

Be prepared to listen to their concerns and pivot if needed.

#3: Be engaging:

Engaging storytelling captures attention and leaves an impression. 

My #1 tip for making your storytelling more engaging?

Consider different mediums, like:

  • Video 
  • Presentations
  • Podcasts (an internal podcast would be a dope asset) 
  • Newsletters (this but internal could be FIRE) 

Every employee has different preferences and in order to keep things engaging you have to consider different modes to consume the content!

Check out what my friends at Spokn are building to make video super easy and relatable! 

Pro-tip: think about what type of storytelling captures your attention outside of work and what really caught your attention. Is there a way to replicate that at work? 

There probably is!

 ​📚Need some inspo? Here’s some additional reading:

#4: Be consistent:

^^Anderson, you and every employee out there! 

To make your storytelling super strong it needs to be something that you consistently do. 

Oftentimes in HR we communicate only when we think we have to and that’s when it starts to feel like we’re just doing reminders and updates. 

It can be easy to get caught up in that loop and forget about all the opportunities HR has to do excellent storytelling. 

Moments like:

✅Onboarding: what is the story and mission of your organization? How did the culture come to be the way it is? Who are some notable people at the organization who have grown and developed and taken on more? There’s SO MUCH opportunity during onboarding. 

✅Employee recognition: spotlighting stories of brilliant work employees are doing and how they are living the values of the organization is a KEY storytelling opportunity. What behaviors are you celebrating? How are they contributing to the culture? 

Consistent messages from HR makes employees feel informed, aligned and engaged. 

All this builds, you guessed it (hopefully), TRUST!!!!

Do you trust me? 

If you asked your employees that question what would their answer be? 

You can do everything to improve your storytelling and how things are communicated across the organization but if your employees don’t trust you… it might be a lost cause. 

So next week, i’m digging into one of the most important aspects of a relationship:

✨Trust ✨

P.S. Thanks for trusting me and giving me space in your inbox weekly.

Hebba Youssef
Hebba Youssef

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