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StrategyApr 05, 2018

Know Your Story: Employees Need to Embrace a Company’s Story

Cameron Weinert

Working with Credera leadership, I recently had the opportunity to research the question: How do you attract and retain great talent? One of the major findings was that leaders of the highest-rated companies ensure their company’s story is known, not only to their markets, but also to their employees.

A company’s story revolves around its mission and brand promise. The more a company can align its business and employees with the overall mission and vision, the more clear and effective their story will be both internally and externally. As Anthony Tjan, New York Times bestselling author of Good People, put it, “The durability or effectiveness of any leadership…requires this ability to connect and share a story.”

As humans, we naturally attach ourselves to a story we relate to within our everyday lives. Even in our data-centered world, stories remain the foundation of our personal drive and fulfillment, as Harrison Manarth, author of Breakthrough Communication noted, “Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”

Companies such as WD-40 and In-N-Out Burger, for example, generally rank at the top of employee culture rankings on Glassdoor (4.2/5 and 4.3/5 respectively), in large part because they empower their employees with their story.

the impact of losing your story

Research has found that in today’s rapidly changing world, it is easy for companies to lose sight of their story. More than 60% of employees claim to not know their company’s mission, vision or values.

This lack of a clear story and direction is costly to businesses when their employees grow apathetic or dissatisfied in their jobs. Inspired employees are 2.25x more productive than a merely satisfied employee and almost 3.2x more productive than a dissatisfied employee.

Many companies experience apathy and tunnel vision among other issues that lead them away from their business story. Losing their story results in lost revenue and decreased morale among employees, creating a difficult journey to recover their story.

fight for your story

How can you recover your company’s story after a long period of negligence? Let’s take a look at WD-40, whose story is centered on innovation.

1. Vision From Leadership

When current CEO, Garry Ridge, took the helm in 1997, he feared his employees would grow complacent in their jobs and ultimately lose sight of their company’s story.

So he decided to act.

He asks his employees to vow to a “Maniac Pledge” when they start at the company. This pledge reminds WD-40 employees to constantly learn and grow in their positions. The vision set by the CEO has paid dividends, encouraging employees to fight apathy and complacency.

2. Accountability and Execution From All Levels

A well-intentioned vision from the top can work wonders, but the entire company has to follow through. The Maniac Pledge holds all employees responsible for their actions, questions, and decision making. By creating a culture of accountability, WD-40’s employees began to excel in their roles and grew their company—thanks to the vision of their leader.

In doing so, WD-40 is no longer just the “blue and yellow can company,” but a multi-product company that is innovating daily and selling their inventions in 176 countries. It has become a billion-dollar company and has seen a 200% stock growth in the last 10 years (the S&P 500 index grew at 70% in that time period). Executing on the vision behind your story pays off.

It can be difficult to see when your company has strayed from its story. We live and work in a rapidly-changing world that demands innovation to stay relevant. We also live and work with people who attach themselves to a story and meaning beyond everyday tasks and responsibilities. The best companies find a way to make sure their employees remain attached to the right one.

If you’re interested in exploring or recovering your organization’s story, we’d be happy to help. Feel free to reach out to us here.