Early 2009, Sonia Aplin was facing a challenge. As the Internal Communications Manager for Ericsson Australia and New Zealand Sonia was tasked with advising the senior leadership team on how best to communicate the new corporate strategy.
The challenge for Sonia and Ericsson was two-fold. She knew that for the strategy to be successful, employees needed more than to be able to just recite the new strategy – they needed to really believe in it and understand how their work contributed to the organisation’s success.
The other challenge was that the latest Employee Engagement Survey showed two concerning facts. The Leadership Communication index was at 57 points (compared with the Ericsson Group total of 73) while Strategy Awareness was at a moderate 66 points. A critical success factor for the Ericsson strategy depended on improvement in both these areas. Sonia and her HR colleagues had a goal to increase both those measures by 3 points….and anyone who works closely with employee opinion surveys will know that this is easier said than done.
During this time, Barack Obama was the hot topic. Being a communications specialist, Sonia was more interested in the way he communicated as opposed to his politics. What she noticed, as well as other commentators, was Obama’s effective use of story. So that triggered Sonia’s research into storytelling. What started with a Google search, ended with a tender process and working relationship with us to deliver organisational storytelling workshops to their top 80 leaders.
Sonia along with the Leadership & Culture Manager went to the executive team with their recommendation. To take the leaders through a 2-day program. The first day was designed to ensure understanding of the new strategy and the desired behaviours associated with that.
The second day was our organisational storytelling workshops, which would give them the practical business skills of storytelling to engage their employees and clients in the strategy.
They were tentative at first…..we are talking about taking storytelling into a male-dominated, engineering firm, but their courage was rewarded. The executive team supported the approach and every single member of the team, including the CEO, attended the training and continue to encourage and role model the use of organisational storytelling throughout Ericsson. 97% of the participants agreed it was relevant to their role with 91% saying it improved their effectiveness as an influencer and leader.
Leadership Communication Capability, increased by a staggering 18 points.
So did it work? Sonia states “Anecdotally, yes. The use of stories in team meetings, presentations and formal and informal communications is obvious and is having a real impact. Another measure of the success is that the Australian and New Zealand Communications team won the Ericsson Global Award for Best Strategy Communications, with storytelling being cited as the point-of-difference. So that was something we were all very proud of and we are now working with our global colleagues to bring storytelling to their organisations.”
But what about the tangibles…the key measures of success? Increasing both Leadership Communication and Strategy Awareness by 3 points. The subsequent Employee Opinion Survey showed that Strategy Awareness increased by 11 points and Leadership Communication Capability, increased by a staggering 18 points. That is what we call a success story.
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