Insight article


Bring Home the Future with Storytelling

The ‘alternative’ is now the norm.

This fluid labour pool of 2019 is changing in remarkable ways. In some countries, the pool is shrinking because of declining birth rates, to the extent that 45% of employers surveyed by Deloitte* worldwide say they are struggling to fill open positions – a number that rises to 67% among companies with more than 250 employees. In the meantime, freelancing is growing faster than overall employment in the United Kingdom, while longer working lives, new employee expectations and progressive parenting policies mean that flexible working packages which don’t skimp on benefits are now the mark of the world’s leading talent organisations. 

Organisations are now faced with a challenge. How do they accommodate a fluid workforce without compromising on productivity, standards or ethical integrity? How do they pair a dispersed and ever shifting talent base with the needs of the agile era? 

The world’s highest performing organisations know the answer is not just operational. It’s cultural: a matter of the values, behaviours and sense of purpose that binds everyone together. The narrative, in other words, that everyone is sustaining, and the individual stories that spring from their daily lived experience to reinforce this. Together, this narrative and these stories are an organisation’s roadmap. They are the touchstone for shared values and aspirations, and the catalyst for the core questions of inspiring leadership. Where do we want to go, and why? Why should you join us on this voyage? 

Professor Brad Parkinson is one of the creators of GPS – the Global Positioning System that we all now take for granted as we embark on a journey to remote locations. 

And Professor Parkinson prefers to use maps.

“Most people don’t pull out maps anymore,” he told the BBC in 2014. “They pull out smartphones. And then tend to blame GPS if the directions are wrong.”

Invented in 1973 by the US military, GPS relies on a network of satellites transmitting radio signals containing their current time and position, in a constantly evolving reappraisal of relative locations. In other words, there is no single ‘home’ – no fixed and commonly understood physical touchstone. My GPS says I’m ‘here’ – so why does it feel like I’m ‘there’?

Professor Parkinson laments the loss of the skill of map-reading, where travellers on a journey refer together to a shared destination. 

The oldest map in existence, the Imago Mundi, dates back to between 700 and 500 BC. It is a carved clay tablet, depicting Babylon in the centre; a cuneiform text tells tales of the Babylonian mythology of its outer regions. On display at the British Museum, it is more than just the abstract depiction of a physical location – it is the story of a civilization. A shared identity.

Everyone embarking on your journey needs to be looking at the same map, however fluid your team becomes. Invite them on your journey – and then bring them home – with storytelling.

Alastair Hagger


*Deloitte 2019 Global Human Capital Trends Report

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