DEI focus: Storytelling as a powerful communications tool

animated people holding a sign that says DEI & storytelling

Stories. We all have them. And by sharing them, we can do a lot to increase inclusivity in the workplace.

How? Because stories build connection and, in turn, empathy and action. When we hear, through other people’s stories, about their needs and challenges, we understand how we can make the working environment better and more supportive.

But storytelling as a recognised form of internal communication is still relatively new. It’s easy enough to say you want to explore it as part of your focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But it’s much trickier knowing how to put the idea into practice.

And that’s because storytelling only works if it’s authentic. But for it to be authentic, you’re often asking colleagues to dig deep and present their personal sides, in a workplace setting.

This is where we think some communications training can help – more on that in a minute. First, we want to share a couple of real-life examples of storytelling in action, that we think work really well to drive inclusion.

The power of video

Many of us may have a DEI strategy that includes ‘fighting discrimination as an ally’. Colleagues are encouraged to look out for and champion one another, and to call out discriminatory, hurtful or abusive behaviour when they see it.

But how do you show both how much it’s needed, and the significant impact it has? Video is a powerful tool. Employees can tell their personal stories, such as the struggles and discriminations they’ve faced. And those stories can be paired with the allies’ stories, showing the impact that having someone in your corner can have.

We loved some of the video content companies created for this year’s International Women’s Day, of employees sharing their allyship stories. Some of them are incredibly raw.

In one video by Siemens Energy, Sarah talks about how people in the past would openly disrespect her. Her manager Johannes talks about how he sees himself more as a coach or sponsor, someone Sarah can turn to if she is troubled. Through their story, you see trust and honesty in the relationship and it makes a strong impression.

Encourage conversation

There’s simply no substitute for face-to-face conversation to discover the lived experiences of the people we work with.

To help this happen, one organisation ran a series of ‘Let’s Chat’ sessions, bringing together people from different backgrounds to talk about their experiences of working through the pandemic. Not only did this allow people the space to listen, learn and share, it also gave them an opportunity to connect with colleagues across the business they may otherwise never have met.

We love this example of using a shared experience (in this case, around living life during the lockdowns) to give colleagues an opportunity to share perspectives and personal challenges. It’s by understanding what others might be facing that we help to drive inclusivity – and change.

Storytelling – where to start?

What both the above examples highlight is that you already have the content within your organisation to drive real change. The content is the stories within each and every one of us. But how do you bring those stories out?

This is where we think communications training can help you to lay some really solid foundations. Typically, you start with your leaders, because when leaders open up, it inspires others to trust and join them. The stories are in us all, but communications training can help people to really hone in on their own life events and what they have taught them, or their fears, challenges or imperfections and how to best articulate them to others. It also helps leaders to focus on why they want to encourage storytelling across an organisation, and how telling stories can align with their DEI business goals.

We hope this snippet has got you thinking about the power of storytelling as a way to promote inclusivity. Why not chat to us about kickstarting the conversation in your business with some communications training?

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