Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Express Learning’s ROI Through Storytelling

 -  1/27/12

When told well, stories add meaning to metrics. Learning leaders should embrace the skill to convey business impact and show the worth of a leadership development program.

Learning leaders who design and implement leadership development programs are faced with a challenge: How to convey the full value of their initiatives to executive leadership when dollar figures and metrics only show so much.

Advocates for ROI suggest learning practitioners have plenty of quantitative data to hang their hats on. They can collect evaluations, cost data, participation rates and leadership assessments.

But much of the comprehensive value of these programs is rooted in the intangible traits leaders acquire, most of which are difficult to measure through numbers or financials. For instance, how might a learning leader measure qualities such as collaboration, reputation or influence?

While advocates for ROI defend their methods as ensuring the worth of leadership development programs, some suggest another return-on metric is equally crucial — return-on-emotion, or ROE.

In other words, use stories.

According to Linda O’Connell, a principal of learning services provider Learnologie LLC, by wrapping ROI metrics with powerful and compelling stories, learning leaders can more potently convey the total value of a leadership development program. Stories help add emotion and drama to ROI, giving that additional bit of business impact that sticks in the minds of C-level executives.

“It doesn’t mean that you throw your data out the window,” O’Connell said. “It’s more about understanding [data’s] value and place.”

The practice of pairing stories with data to drive business impact isn’t entirely new. Bill Baker has been teaching “strategic storytelling” for years through his firm BB&Co Strategic Storytelling. One organization he’s trained on the practice is General Electric Co.

“A story can make that message, that information, that direction that a CEO is giving [and] it can make it real and meaningful,” Baker said.

An advertising veteran, Baker said storytelling is a tool that comes naturally to people, yet most seemingly turn it off when they enter the professional environment. “We, as human beings, we add color, we add depth, we add richness … to exemplify points that we want to make,” he said.

Article Keywords:   communication   ROI   leadership  


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