Building Pride through Storytelling in the Workplace
Whether companies use words, pictures, or something more fun, storytelling in the workplace serves to remind employees why they do what they do. In a breakout session at the 2012 Great Place to Work® Conference, Barbara Armstrong and Kelly Gaglione of Kahler Slater, a Best Small and Medium Workplace, outlined how great workplaces express their organizational culture through their workspace. Based on their findings from cross-country travels to visit Best Companies, Kahler Slater identified several recurring themes. In this session, they shared concrete examples of how Best Companies used their workspace to give employees a sense of pride on a daily basis.
Find your Story
At Great Place to Work®, we have our Mission Statement written in bold lettering right as you walk into our downtown San Francisco headquarters. This daily reminder not only energizes employees, but tells our story to clients and visitors as well.
Keep in mind, a good story should trigger an emotional response. A storyline might also include the history of the company, a description of services or products, or pictures of a satisfied customer or patient. Nothing is a better reminder of the work you do than an enlarged photo of the smiles you helped create!
To find your company’s story, think about particular moments – perhaps how your company was founded, overcame challenges, or maybe a specific client victory – and find ways to share these stories with others in a new and innovative medium.
Select your Medium
While the office is a good place to tell your story, there are infinite other mediums that can also be used. Radio Flyer, for example, has a giant red wagon in front of their office. The wagon can fit up to 75 children comfortably and employees are reminded they are in the business of manufacturing fun. Ebay chose inspirational quotes to decorate their benches where employees eat lunch every day. Dixon Schwabl similarly uses outdoor space to recognize the exceptional efforts of their associates, by dedicating their garden to the employee of the month.
For a smaller company that rents an office and is unable to implement large-scale changes, Kahler Slater has recommended using magnetic paint. Magnets can be made with words or pictures, large and small, and won't permanently alter the space, but will have an enormous visual impact and bring your stories to life for employees, clients, and visitors.
It may be easier for a company such as Mattel to show pride in their product (they have life-size Barbie dolls in their office hallways), but any company can tell their story if they get a little creative.
Holder Construction decorates their offices with large prints of the buildings they helped to construct, and Acuity, an insurance company, has banners thanking all of their different departments for their hard work. Fat Wallet and Ebay also use large signs and banners to display their values, such as 'Passion' and 'People are Good'. These serve as daily reminders of their organizational culture. Zappos lets employees tell their own stories by providing a blank wall and magic markers. Employees have shared very personal and inspiring stories; one employee even wrote that working at Zappos has made him a better husband.
Just think about how impactful a story can be on employees and clients alike. Next time you see a blank space in your office, think of it as an opportunity to engage!
Visit Kahler Slater’s website to read the complete white paper on Lessons from America’s Best Companies.
Tiffany Barber is the Associate Manager of Marketing and Communications and guest blogger for Great Place to Work®.