The power of storytelling in employee onboarding: Examples & tips

Appical Team
Khrystyna Fedoruk
January 25, 2024
min read
Table of Contents
From ancient times, stories have been used to educate, inspire, and foster a sense of community, but in today's businesses, they are no less meaningful. Stories harness the power to humanize a business’ culture, values, and mission. By turning the onboarding process into a narrative, new hires become part of the story, helping them connect with the company better. In this blog, you'll gain a clear understanding of the concept of storytelling in onboarding and learn effective strategies to incorporate it into your onboarding process.

What is storytelling in onboarding?

Storytelling in onboarding involves embedding the values, mission, and culture of an organization into the onboarding process in a narrative manner. Instead of simply providing new employees with a list of policies or procedures, storytelling onboarding makes the journey more interactive and engaging by turning these principles into tales. 

For instance, sharing rich stories about the organization, its heroes, past successes, and even failures can help create a more vivid and memorable journey for the employees. 

Storytelling is an important part of Appical’s onboarding app. We try to combine the art of storytelling, technology, and visual aids for the most engaging onboarding experience. This is also helpful to make the employee feel connected and encouraged to learn more about the company, as it doesn’t feel like a bunch of boring information anymore, but rather like a story that they want to immerse themselves in.

Stories are twenty-two times more memorable than facts alone. ~ Rewardian

Why is storytelling important for your onboarding?

Storytelling plays a pivotal role in onboarding because it's not just about conveying information, it's also about connecting emotionally and creating memorable experiences. Stories humanize corporate cultures and provide a framework that helps new hires make sense of their new working environment. This way it is easier to show what the company is about and demonstrate the culture to set the tone from the get-go.

More importantly, it helps new hires feel included and connected from the outset, thus increasing their engagement and improving retention rates. The power of storytelling can help new employees retain information during the onboarding process, rather than treating it as a skim-through checklist. Story is a “sense-making device”, which means that stories help us make sense of the world.

According to a study by Stanford professor Chip Heath, 63% of those tested were able to remember stories, while only 5% could remember a single statistic. ~ Rewardian

Storytelling in onboarding: Where to begin?

Using storytelling in onboarding begins with understanding key elements needed for a good flow of your story. Here is one of the ways to structure it using 6 main components: 

The hero, or the new hire, embarks on a journey within your organization with the goals of understanding, engaging, and feeling comfortable. However, challenges like adapting to new environments and rules can pose problems

You should ensure that your hero is not alone on their journey, that’s where they meet a guide (a buddy, a manager, or the company itself) to help them solve their problems. The guide is the character who helps the hero win. This character is a capable, competent problem solver (Nordic Business Forum). Together with the guide the hero will embark on a journey for which they need a relatable roadmap for the new employee. 

The storytelling continues by providing solutions to the problems (Medium). Whether it is managerial support, team-building exercises, or success stories of current employees, these elements add value to your narrative. The 6 components should be used when writing and structuring your narrative. They are helpful in giving you a plan of action to build up your story and enhance your onboarding content, which can be further enriched by methods discussed below.

How to get better at storytelling: Tips & tricks

Incorporating storytelling in your onboarding process requires a strategic approach: it should be clear who your audience is, what the goal is and the central message. Here are a couple of tips and examples of creating effective general narratives when making onboarding content:

Work top down

First work out the structure of the chapters, then write the texts, and lastly - add visual content (images, videos, etc.). Begin with your company's core values, mission statements, and purpose. Once these elements have been identified and combined with the hero, journey, goal, challenge, problem, guide, roadmap, and solution - they can be made into compelling narratives to create solutions. 

Captivate the audience with engaging stories

When writing your company overview, create a compelling narrative that tells the company's history, milestones, and ethos instead of just reciting facts.

Relatability builds stronger connections, and telling your company's story in an engaging, human way helps new hires connect their roles to the larger organizational vision.

Example 1. Sharing your company’s history

  • Avoid this: "So, the company was set up in 2001, in Silicon Valley. In 2024, we're one of the top in the industry. Everyone works together, and we've accomplished a lot since we started."
  • Try this: "In 2001, company XYZ was born out of a garage in Silicon Valley. With a simple idea, a second-hand computer, and relentless courage, our founder aimed to revolutionize the industry. And here we are, two decades later—pioneers, leaders, continuing the legacy. Each employee is a part of this unique journey, and together we write the chapters of our ongoing story."

Example 2. Meeting the team

  • Avoid this "This is our Marketing team. Jane leads it. She came on board two years ago, and she’s done some good work. She likes coffee. She has led some successful projects."
  • Try this: "Meet Jane—our Head of Marketing. Jane joined us two years ago, bringing with her a wealth of knowledge—and her love for coffee. With her innovative strategies, she has led her team to deliver record-breaking campaigns. Did you know that she's the mastermind behind campaign X? Here at XYZ Corp, Jane's story serves as an inspiration for our newcomers, emphasizing our core belief that every employee can make a difference."

[.callout-small] If you find yourself stuck, don't forget to seek assistance from AI. Check out Appical.AI.[.callout-small]

Work with bridges

In order to produce a logical and fluent story that makes sense and is framed well, it’s important to work with ‘bridges’, small paragraphs that connect each topic to the following one, thus tying them together neatly.

  • At the beginning of each chapter, briefly introduce what the chapter is going to discuss. 

For example: "In this chapter, we will present the different departments and introduce you to your team!”.

  • At the end of each chapter, wrap things up with a closing bridge that relates the topic to the next one. 

For example: “Now that you know who your colleagues are, let’s show you to our office, so you know where you will be sitting”.

Linking the chapters together this way keeps the user engaged and makes them curious about what is next to come!

Narrow the scope of your story

Too much information given all at once can overwhelm new employees and delay their productivity. Therefore, it's crucial only to provide information relevant to their role and responsibilities initially. Gradually sharing key information over several weeks can help new hires maintain a better understanding of the company's culture and working practices. 

Tip 1: put yourselves in the shoes of the hero (the new hire) - what do they need to accomplish their goals?

Tip 2: use highlights to mark significant information within your materials. This can make revisiting and remembering crucial points much easier for your employees.

Crafting a narrative is only one part of engaging your new hires; delivering it in the right way is crucial. Besides written or oral stories, videos or animations can also be effective. Whatever method you choose, it should enhance the narrative and create a lasting impression on your new team member. Read on for tips on how to accomplish this.

Bringing your stories to life through different formats and mediums

The most important part of the storytelling is the story itself, but if you want to bring something else, you can also use different mediums and formats. Here are some ways you can present information to create the right solution for your company's goals:

Incorporate different formats and channels 

  • YouTube or podcast series: Engage your new hires with a series of enjoyable and informative videos or podcasts. These can be accessed and absorbed at their leisure, offering flexibility while promoting immersion in your company culture.
  • Personalized newsletters: A weekly newsletter personalized for each employee can also effectively deliver onboarding content. This approach keeps the onboarding material fresh and engaging, while also allowing you to introduce company culture, expectations, and other critical information in a digestible format.
  • Blog post series: Create a sequence of blog posts for your new hires to read. Utilize an engaging, approachable tone and provide valuable insights about your company, the team they are joining, and essential tasks they will undertake.
  • Onboarding platform: Keep your new hires engaged and enthusiastic by combining visual, audible, and text mediums. An onboarding platform can be a helpful tool to combine different formats and keep everything in one place. 

[.callout-small] Check out Appical’s platform to learn more about the ways we can help.[.callout-small]

Use various mediums

  • Short videos: Leverage the power of video to explain the core aspects of your company. Keep it brief yet comprehensive to maintain engagement.
  • Images: Visuals can help to explain complex concepts, and they bring your content to life, creating a more immersive and relatable experience.
  • Audio files: Audio allows your employees to listen and learn at their own pace, perhaps even during a commute or on a break.
  • Animations: Consider adopting animations to add an element of fun while also explaining complex concepts clearly. Animations captivate attention, making learning more enjoyable.

Interactive methods

  • Quizzes & polls: Implement quizzes and polls within your onboarding process. These interactive tools not only test what new hires have learned but also reinforce their memory recall.
  • Job simulations: Simulation games based on real tasks offer an immersive way for new hires to understand their day-to-day responsibilities, enabling them to learn while they play. This can be further enhanced using VR technologies.

[.callout-small] Learn more about the ways you can incorporate VR into your onboarding in our blog. [.callout-small]

  • Reminders: Set up automatic reminders for critical tasks to reinforce what’s been learned. These can serve as helpful prompts, ensuring continuous learning and application.

Creating the most effective onboarding process often requires a mix of formats and content, combining text, videos, and interactive questions. Incorporate a variety to cater to different learning styles and keep your new hires connected and actively involved in the journey. Get creative!

5 Storytelling techniques on Appical's onboarding platform

An onboarding app allows you to easily incorporate storytelling and personalize the onboarding process for your company. You can engage new hires with activities like quizzes, feedback forms, and mix-and-match exercises. Let's explore some practical examples from our platform.

Captivating onboarding content with Appical.AI

Turning information into compelling content for new hires can be time-consuming. But with AI Content Assistant, writing onboarding content becomes effortless. Just provide our assistant with the topic and any specific instructions, such as length or tone of voice, and let the magic happen. In seconds, our AI-powered assistant will generate engaging and creative content that will captivate your new hires.

[.callout-small] If you need help with writing your content - discover Appical.AI. [.callout-small]

Accessible checklists: In our onboarding platform, it’s quite easy to create checklist for your new hires. These serve as quick references and reminders which can guide your employees through their learning journey.

Gamification: Incorporate games that are both fun and educational. Gamified content adds an element of enjoyment and competition, enhancing retention and engagement. In the Appical platform, you can add quizzes, surveys, likert-scales, rankings and more.

Embedding interactive content: In our platform, you can also embed content from outside the app. Add Spotify playlists, YouTube videos, and other favorite content for a better experience.

Time-based unlocking of content: Being a new hire is often overwhelming, so make it easier for your employee by creating chapters and unlocking the information at the right moment, instead of all at once. Just like new episodes of a tv show - create anticipation after each chapter, and until the next one!

How to measure the impact of storytelling?

While storytelling may appear qualitative, its impacts can be measured. Indicators of successful storytelling in onboarding include increased engagement rates, improved productivity, and lower turnover rates. To measure this, you can regularly survey new employees throughout their initial working period and track their performance and progress. 

In Appical’s onboarding platform, it is possible to track the progress of a new hire and see how much they have completed, or even review their feedback and send personalized messages and updates. Their feedback can provide a wealth of insights on how effectively the stories have helped them understand their role, relate to the company values, and feel part of the team. 

Finally, embrace innovation and authenticity. To truly captivate your new employees and communicate a heartfelt welcome, strive to be transparent and genuine. Keep in mind that a warm, honest narrative forms the foundation for successful engagement and deeper connections within your team.

Share this post

Join 6.956 HR and onboarding specialists!

Have all our latest onboarding news delivered to your inbox. Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Related posts

Want to know more about onboarding? See our other blogs

5 min read

5 Ways to enhance your onboarding program with VR

Explore the benefits of using VR in onboarding! In this blog you will find 5 actionable tips to leverage VR for a successful onboarding experience.

5 min read

7 Tips for writing onboarding content with AI (+ Prompt Examples)

Discover 7 tips to enhance onboarding content with AI! Learn how Artificial Intelligence (ChatGPT) can create captivating, experiences for new hires.