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Home / Resources / Connecting trainees, context and meaning with storytelling

Connecting trainees, context and meaning with storytelling


This is a story with a happy ending. Like all good stories, it began once upon a time...

Sponge doesn't have a magic lamp, a genie in a bottle or even three magic wishes. What we do have is the ability transform training and create a workforce that is confident, knowledgeable and efficient. How? One of the methods employed is maximising the powers of storytelling to rejuvenate corporate facts into engaging, inspiring and memorable company information. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin...

The long lost training

In a land far, far away employees dutifully examined their company information and participated in workforce training. Yet a short time later, all was forgotten – the training they had studied so intently was lost. This concerned their managers: they needed training content to be memorable for the long-term benefit of the company. Then, just like team of fairy godmothers, along came a group of wise learning experts who had the solution to all of their training problems. Creating long-lasting, unforgettable training became completely achievable with their help, through the illusion of storytelling. They explained the impact that storytelling can have on workforce training by following these steps...

Chapter 1: Wake up your brain

An active brain is vital when it comes to learning and engagement. When stories are told, the brain becomes more stimulated. Depending on the context and descriptions within the story, different cortexes in the brain are awakened. For example, the phrase, ‘soft as velvet’ will stimulate the sensory cortex. A creative story can put the whole brain to work by relaying feelings, experiences and evoking emotion - helping the content of the information to be retained more effectively.

Chapter 2: Emotional ties

Emotion is the glue that binds the trainee to the meaning of the learning context and creates a memorable experience. Memories are not stored in the brain in the same way that books are stored in a library. Retrieval relies on neural networks and associations; the strength of these neural pathways determines how quickly this information is returned. Stories which evoke high levels of emotional association will result in high levels of retention because this type of stimuli creates stronger pathways in the brain by having a more meaningful impact.

Think about the Edinburgh or London Dungeons, these attractions are simply recounting the tales of these cities. Would this be as effective or popular if there was a historian in a lecture hall? No. These places have a high impact on retention and memory of historical events because they make visitors feel a certain emotion as the stories are told – excitement, fright, empathy and comedy are all part of the performance.

Chapter 3: Putting training into context

It’s important to put the training into the perspective of employees and ask ‘What does this mean for me?’ By explaining the ‘why behind corporate processes, employees have a better understanding as to the reasons that these systems are in place.

This practice is used during health and safety training in the oil and gas sector. Rather than a list of  do’s and don’ts trainees are told of the outcomes, should they choose to disregard any safety practices and procedures. Trainers paint the picture of what the results would be for the employees, their employment and their families. This puts the training into context in a powerful way: it explains to employees the ‘why’ behind company practices and at the same time, taps in to the all-important emotional aspect of storytelling within learning.

Chapter 4: Get creative

We’ve all become invested in a book or a film to the extent that we can’t put it down or switch it off. That’s why being creative is vital when it comes to hard-hitting, effective storytelling. When it comes to storytelling within corporate training the more creative the better; transport employees from their stuffy offices to somewhere far more exciting that will create a memorable experience – the more creative, the better!

Chapter 5: Sharing is caring

Storytelling is part of human nature, and the majority of our learning comes from past experiences. The past experiences of the company, and the ways that this has shaped the future makes it easy to understand, and easy for employees to share. Stories are enhanced by being shared amongst employees – employees gain confidence in being able to retell a story and in turn, this encourages collaborative learning amongst peers.

Putting theory into practice

There’s no right or wrong method when it comes to communicating your business’ company information via storytelling. Customer stories, a brand’s timeline, reflective stories or constructed situations are creative ways to bring dull data to life. A perfect example of this is given by Hans Rosling, see how he communicates 200 years of stats in an engaging just four minutes!