‘A strong narrative that provides a clear, shared vision for the organisation is at the heart of employee engagement. Employees need to understand not only the purpose of the organisation they work for but also how their individual role contributes to that purpose’ (Engaging for Success, Mcleod & Clarke, 2009 p76).
Arguably, one of the most influential engagement drivers is leadership, the ones responsible for thrusting the business forward and taking their employees with them. Part of providing leadership for an organisation requires a strong strategic narrative which employees buy into – commitment and ownership needs to be sought in order to have any chance of employee engagement success. The McLeod & Clarke (2009) report suggests that this narrative should be a ‘clearly expressed story about what the purpose of an organisation is, why it has the broad vision it has, and how an individual contributes to that purpose’ (p74).
The narrative is apparently designed to take employees on a journey, show them how they fit into the bigger picture and where they are heading as one organisation for the future; this can become even more important during difficult economic times where the future becomes uncertain.
The ways in which a narrative can be developed are varied, but a good place to start is often an employee engagement survey where current engagement can be measured and used as a future benchmark for progress. With focus groups used as part of the initial process, what employees understand of the company’s vision, mission, values along with perceptions on leadership can be sought and used as part of the foundation for the narrative. This employee engagement survey coupled with the focus groups can be the basis for learning about what employees already know and what knowledge is lacking and therefore provides a basis for building a strong strategic narrative that delivers commitment and ownership from all levels of the organisation.