Storytelling is now Ingrained in HR vocabulary, and that’s Not Good!

By May 29, 2018 No Comments

Words matter.

The use of the word storytelling has crept into our HR vocabulary, and that’s not a good thing.

I am deluged daily with the virtues of HR storytelling in blogs, tweets, industry presentations, seminars, and webinars. And more. Please stop it.

Words matter.

From Wikipedia: Storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, often with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values.

As a recovering CEO, I believe most business professionals would agree that the word storytelling congers up images of “often with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment.”

When you are preparing to present a study’s findings and recommendations to the C-suite, do you focus on presenting complex data with clarity to inspire action, or do you focus on “storytelling”?

Words matter.

The human resources industry for decades has been trying to get validation in the C-suite, let alone at the board level. The vocabulary of the CCO, CFO and COO are in business terms. Unless you work for companies such as Disney or Electronic Arts – storytelling is not part of a business leaders’ vocabulary.

For decades, the HR industry has been bitching about not having a “seat at the table,” while also being comfortable collecting qualitative evidence primarily around surveys.

Correlation or not?

Do you remember the movement in the training industry to adopt ROE – return on expectations, because getting to ROI was just too difficult? No wonder the C-suite doesn’t believe the profession is strategic.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been an advocate for better analytics communications since I started this work in 2004, and have written extensively about it. We learned early in our journey that communicating complicated information (say that three times) was more effective using visuals with few words vs. reams of words and calculations.

I wrote a blog on this subject.

“I recently read Cole Nussbaumer Knaflice’s book Story Telling With Data, a data visualization guide for business professionals … It is the best book I have ever read on communicating data with clarity.”

I understand the need for the use of the word within our profession and continue to applaud all efforts to better our communication of people analytics.

However, after all the hard work, do we really want our CEO to think we are telling stories with their data?

Words matter.