Since ancient history, lessons have been taught to the general public through the use of parables. Children learn about preferred behavior and to distinguish between good and bad through fairy tales.
Now storytelling is making its way into the toolbox of the human resources professional, particularly as an aide to training staff.
Narrative storytelling has been used at the Faculty of Nursing University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada to train health care workers in diagnostic skills, therapy, and as a tool for translating complex health information into everyday terms that patients can comprehend.
Sharron D. Scott, co-author of a study about the Edmonton project, concluded that narrative has untapped potential as a tool in a number of situations.
In the world of human resources, it is particularly effective because stories help employees connect and remember essential facts. It is also a method of teaching that is largely accepted in a variety of cultures and to people of all ages and genders.
It can also be a tool to pass on very basic knowledge. If small children can learn from stories without any kind of complicated knowledge base, so can adults.
Roger C. Schnak, author of Tell Me A Story and a proponent of using storytelling as a teaching tool, says people are naturally predisposed to hear, remember and tell stories. To engage them, the story simply has to be interesting, and they will listen.
In some business environments, storytelling is being linked to gamification and in others, to e-learning, and while it can adapt to both formats, it can also be used in face-to-face learning environments.
At the Center for Integrating Technology in Education at The Hong Kong Institute of Education, researchers Angela Ma Kit Fong and Mike Keppell have identified storytelling as an agent of change in organizations.
That is because each story actually contains the four foundations for human communication:
This alone gives storytelling tremendous potential as a teaching tool.
Alan Chapman of Leicester, England, who created http://www.Businessballs.com, a free learning and development resource, is a huge proponent of the use of storytelling as a teaching tool. On his website he has actually collected a series of some of the worlds best known fables and stories and charted the main lessons they illustrate.
(Human resources professionals should use caution when tapping into traditional fairy tale, however, since many of them are now politically incorrect.)
It is best to take the plots and adapt them to your own unique circumstances and tailor them to the specific lessons your employees need to hear.