Why BUPA introduced storytelling for leaders

by L&D26 Jul 2016
In 2015, the Australian health insurance provider BUPA used storytelling to communicate their corporate values in a more personal way.

“At BUPA we've been particularly focussed on authentic leadership and bringing your whole self to work,” said Naomi Attwood, Director of People at BUPA.

“One of the best ways to bring that out of people is to tell stories. Leaders telling personal stories about their successes, setbacks, families and life journey paves the way for others to be authentic.”

She added that “insecurity or lack of confidence are huge barriers to talent acceleration. Sharing stories is helping us to create stronger leaders who are not afraid to share their vulnerabilities and open up much richer contributions from others”.

BUPA introduced storytelling to increase employee engagement, to develop their talented leaders, and to more successfully communicate strategy and values, said Gabrielle Dolan, author of Ignite: Real leadership, real talk, real results.

BUPA is just one of many companies which Dolan has partnered with to introduce storytelling.

“Whilst organisations normally introduce storytelling to address challenges such as communicating values, they also receive positive flow-on effects in other areas such as talent development and employee engagement,” said Dolan.

Dolan’s top five strategies to help bring storytelling into your business are:

Attach storytelling to a current business issue
Bring in storytelling for a specific purpose, such as to communicate the new strategy, values or develop your talented leaders.

Provide business storytelling training
Storytelling in business is a skill. Just like any other skill you expect your employees to undertake, you need to provide the training to do so effectively. Train senior leaders, key support people (like Corporate Affairs and Human Resources) as well as other influencers across the organisation.
Create a tipping point
Train leaders in relatively quick succession including the senior leadership team. This creates an environment of support and role modelling to ensure storytelling becomes part of the way you communicate.
Start to actively capture stories
Use a structured approach to capture stories. Bring a diverse group of people together from across the organisation to uncover the great examples of your people delivering the values you want to encourage and celebrate.
Proactively and strategically share stories
Start to share stories across your already established channels of communication, as well as exploring mediums that lend themselves to storytelling. Don’t underestimate the power of the grapevine as a powerful informal communication channel.