January 27, 2016
Why Storytelling is Important to Company Culture

I’m not a huge fan of stand alone process (though I understand its importance). I prefer storytelling. I believe providing context and real life examples does a better job supplementing and driving the point home. Rather than suggesting to an employee, “Refer to the employee handbook,” or “Here are the steps you need to follow to accomplish X,” I prefer to talk people through the context and behaviors that deepen their own understanding.  

As any growing company knows, it’s a challenge to keep everyone rowing the boat in the same direction. Dictating a process for cultural evolution would never be effective. People need to see it. Feel it. Internalize it.

While we live in a networked world and it would be far less expensive to use technology or enable other approaches for information sharing, cost isn’t always the driving factor. You cannot put a price on building real, genuine, face-to-face relationships.

Storytelling’s Role in the Workplace

That’s why, when Rapid7 hosted its global kickoff in Boston this week, we had almost 800 members of our team come together from all over the world. We had a singular purpose: to learn, connect, and build relationships with one another. We did this in large part by sharing stories. Our team came together expecting to hear the company goals for the year, see some product demos, and connect with each other. But what they got wasn’t just information sharing. They got visual, descriptive stories to help drive the messages home.

It’s important to help employees see and hear what your company is up to and about. But sharing information in memorable, authentic ways - like through storytelling - takes their understanding to a much deeper level.

Here are two examples from this week where I used storytelling to help drive an understanding of what our culture is truly all about.

  1. At our kickoff, I shared how each of us are keepers of the culture by sharing a video we produced. It included the voices of nearly every single one of our people contributing to the reading of “Moose Manifesto” - our own unique articulation of our culture, and what it means to be part of Rapid7.

    Rather than just presenting and telling your people how great your culture is and how they should live it, help them share it.

  2. During the kickoff, I highlighted three outstanding people on our team. These people are cultural icons. They don’t just do phenomenal work every day, but represent our company in the very best ways we claim that we value most. They’re very different people, with very different roles, in different offices. And yet, they share the same values set that has allowed all three of them to thrive here.

    Spotlight individuals who uphold your company’s values and share real, tangible examples of your culture in action.

Make it real. Help people understand and embody what your culture truly is and why their contribution to it plays a critical role in the success of our business goals. It’s not about memorizing a set of core values, hanging some motivational posters up on the wall, or creating the coolest office space. It’s about helping each person understand the importance of their role in contributing to the greater community and your business success.  

You can find a plethora or articles, posts and advice about culture these days. Each covers how to build it within your company  and why it’s so vital to your success. But let’s not over complicate it.

If you want to build a true, sustainable, healthy culture start here: tell your own stories to make it clear, relatable, and impactful.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7, where she leads strategic people initiatives, focusing on the entire employee lifecycle. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.

Images via Shutterstock and Christina Luconi.