Insight article

Engagement and change start with a clear narrative

David Macleod, author of The Macleod Review, has again called for every business to underpin its employee engagement efforts with a ’simple, clear and compelling narrative’ that articulates the journey the organisation is on, articulating where the business has come from, where it’s going and why.

This widely reported piece of research, which brought together the opinions and examples of best practice from dozens of some of the most respected business leaders, has received wide acclaim from business journalists and leaders across the globe since it was published in 2009.  Macleod, who was speaking at Osney Media’s Employee Engagement and Employer Brand conference in London, was accompanied by his co-author, Nita Clarke, and opened the conference by reiterating the need for a narrative and an ‘aligned senior team’ to drive engagement through the organisation.

Macleod’s recommendation was endorsed at the same conference in an articulate and passionate presentation by Andrew Powell, MD Human Resources at Colt.  Powell explained how Colt, which has gone through momentous change in transforming itself from a product-led organisation (with a heritage of expertise in fibre-optic cables) to one providing a network and IT infrastructure with expertise in IT managed services, networking and communication solutions, drove rapid, momentous change through the organisation starting with a clear, simple narrative or Story that explained what people needed to do differently and why.

The change that took place in a matter of months was astonishing, driven by a truly invigorated and united workforce that worked together to demonstrate that it really could change the way it worked – and quickly.  Powell made repeated references to the role played by the senior leadership team in driving this change, saying that had they not achieved alignment behind this Story and the change that was needed, it simply wouldn’t have happened.  Engagement scores have improved, behaviours have changed, and leadership understanding and commitment universal.  Interestingly, the role of ambassadors has played a critical role too in supporting managers in engaging their teams.

A simple narrative and an aligned senior team – two critical success factors to change which have been amply demonstrated by Colt.  The Storytellers are proud to have played our part in building this narrative and providing an effective methodology to cascade the Story to 34 cities throughout Europe and India.  Change often takes time – and relentless energy from the business – but with the pride, passion, understanding and business-wide alignment it seems that it can be done in a relatively short space of time.

Nailia Tasseel