6 Tips For Successful Storytelling In New Hire Training
When you’re onboarding new employees, you want to equip them to do their jobs and make them feel at home. Settle them in quickly so the office can go back to “normal.” But don’t give them so much information that they feel overwhelmed or “fall sick” their second week on the job. Narratives are a good way to ease them in, but it has to be the right type of story. It can be fun and exciting, but it also needs to be practical and contextual. Your stories should feel authentic. If they’re too contrived, they’ll fall flat. Here are some insider tips to add storytelling to your new hire onboarding.
1. Keep It Real
New hires could be recent know-it-all graduates with minimal experience or seasoned professionals who think they know everything. A training approach that patronizes either segment will put them off. They’ll feel they’re in the wrong place, overqualified, and will soon be job-hunting again. So, as you craft your training stories, avoid the puerile. Use real, contextual examples instead of fables and clichés. Put things into context so that they can not only apply what they learn but relate to the story’s challenges and characters.
2. Build Up Your Setting
A story has several components: characters, conflict, climax, resolution, and setting. Curve your narratives around your typical workspace. They should describe or explain something that actually happened, or something that feasibly could. Include an anecdote about the person who forgot their key card at home. Then they had a very trying day because it felt awkward borrowing cards every five minutes to use the bathroom. Especially being a new employee with first-week nerves and a fidgety nature; one that needs to stand up and “take a lap” on the regular. You can even use images from the workplace and sound effects to liven up your storytelling.
3. Use A Virtual Tour
The story above—which actually happened—can be incorporated into a 360° office tour. These reality-driven video renderings are easy and fun to navigate. The trainee can use their mouse or arrow keys to view the office space from multiple angles. They can pan overhead to see everyone’s desk or take a mouse-eye view when they drop their pencil, giving them the ability to explore various parts of the office at their own leisure, without fear of bothering colleagues. Inside the tour, you can put little story snippets that pop up when the trainees hover. You could have safety tips at the emergency exit, or at windows and glass doors. At everyone’s (empty) cubicle, a pop-up could show the name and title of whoever sits there.
4. Apply The Story Arc
The reason fables and proverbs work so well is they’re self-contained. Think of the proverb “a stitch in time saves nine.” It immediately calls to mind a complete story. A garment exists; maybe a dress, or non-clothing fabric like a canvas tent, or a tablecloth. It gets a hole: that’s the conflict. You forget to repair it and it gets wider and wider as the rip stretches: climax. You realize too late and end up doing nine stitches for the rip. Or you do it early, using a single stitch for the hole: resolution. All your training stories, however brief, should similarly contain all the cyclic elements of a good story, even if their order is mixed up. New hire onboarding training should give employees all the tools they need to overcome challenges they’ll encounter in the beginning. And a well-crafted arc helps them recognize a problem when it arises and tips to resolve it post-haste.
5. Don’t Forget To Learn
While these stories make great conversation starters, they should always include a “moral” or “teaching moment.” It doesn’t have to be explicit; it works better when it’s not. In the first example, the one about the key card, there are multiple takeaways. “Security is important—that’s why the doors are biometrically locked.” “People are forgetful, so keep your key card on a lanyard.” You don’t necessarily have to spell out the learning goal or objective right off the bat. Just imply it, then use a quiz, simulation, or branching scenario to be sure they got it.
6. Leave Out The Tiny Details In Storytelling
You want to include enough information to foster an emotional connection, but not so much that new employees become overwhelmed. For example, they don’t need to know what the main character had for lunch. However, they may benefit from a brief backstory that highlights the character’s motivations. Keep in mind that new team members are already stressed about starting their new job. They don’t want to have to worry about remembering minute details they think might be relevant. Especially since many are soaking everything up like a sponge because they’re simply unsure of what info they’ll need on the job. This rule also applies to character development. Personas can be interesting to boost engagement, but not so quirky that they distract employees from the takeaways.
Telling stories to your new hires doesn’t have to be patronizing. It’s all in how you frame it. Leave out the “let me tell you a story” or “once upon a time” intros. Dive right in, keep it conversational, and always include a (subtle) training goal. Use authentic scenarios, things that really could have happened. Try virtual office tours with light-box story-bites. And as you edit your narrative content, confirm your story arc is complete.