The great resignation – Stories make people stay

One day you’ll have a new job. Maybe not next year, or the year after, but surely somewhere in the next decade you will have moved to another company. Because you grow. Find out new things about yourself. Look for challenges your current job can’t provide. That’s just how it goes. We as 1Camera will say goodbye to two marvellous employees this month. People who have contributed to 1Camera in a big way for almost a decade. But there are no hard feelings. Both of them found a new path to personal growth they want to explore. We wish Mari and Meike the very best with all our hearts and Paul and I will never forget all they have done for us!

The Great Resignation

Nevertheless, when people leave your company, it’s always good to ask yourself: What can we change to make sure great people want to stay longer? Many companies worldwide are currently struggling with this question – maybe yours as well – because the last couple of months we have seen a remarkable development: the Great Resignation, people all over the world quitting their jobs in much larger volumes than before the pandemic. Why are all these people quitting? The seemingly easy answer is that people are looking for higher wages. But the reality is that most people have more profound reasons to quit. They may be looking for a job that brings less pressure or more fulfilment, or they might seek a deeper feeling of appreciation, but many of them will find their decision to be driven by a longing for more connection. Because especially during a massive upheaval like a pandemic, people start reflecting on their lives and wonder: Is my current job the best use of my time and talents? Do I still feel connected to the things I do now that my work is mostly remote? And do my employer’s values connect to my personal values ? I’m sure you have asked yourself those questions as well. The key word there is values, a word we use a lot in a corporate context, but also a word that is so overused as to become almost meaningless. Are they really that list of three or four principles every company has on its website? Or is there more to them?

How values are expressed

The answer comes from the world of storytelling. In a good story, the true nature of a person – their character – is revealed when that person needs to make an important decision under pressure, when the stakes are high. What you do in that difficult moment is what you truly stand for: A genuine expression of values. That’s exactly what’s happening all over the world right now. The pandemic puts us all under pressure., which means our values are being tested continuously. Employees are being pressured into reflecting on their life choices: Do I really want this life, this job, or is there a better life for me? But employers are being tested as well: How do I stay connected to my employees who mostly work remotely? How do I help them cope with the stress and chaos of having to work with their kids a bedroom door away? And how do I show my appreciation to staff who I maybe only see once a day in a quick Teams meeting? The answers to those questions – the genuine expression of your corporate values – is what makes employees decide to stay or quit. Because through shared values, we feel connected to each other. And when we feel connected, we feel the need to stick together. To stay.

Connecting on an emotional level

So how do you communicate those corporate values to all your co-workers honestly? This is hard, if not impossible, by just listing them on your website. It’s a social process, there is intimacy involved, you’re dealing with human emotions. The problem is: personal contact doesn’t scale too well. That’s where the power of storytelling comes to the rescue again. Because storytelling is in fact a tool for communicating values to others. Perhaps the oldest form of storytelling, sharing stories around the campfire, is not just a way to inform people about dangerous predators or good hunting grounds, it is first and foremost a method to imbue a social group with shared values, to make sure we all have the same idea about what are the right and wrong choices in certain difficult situations, what constitutes good and bad behaviour within our group. Film, as a storytelling medium, works exactly like that. It is a tool to connect with others by conveying shared values. A film that shows people embodying the values you wish to express can be extremely powerful – because it connects with people on an emotional, personal level. A good example of how our clients recognize the power of video, are all the internal Christmas films we made this year. For instance a film we made for the KPN TDO team, in which a new employee from India tries to navigate her new job, while working remotely and living in a different country, battling loneliness and insecurities that are all too recognisable in the age of Corona. At the heart of this story are people who make choices based on their values. These values may not be exactly in line with the corporate values you may find on the KPN website, but they are the emotional and narrative translation of the corporate culture. The story is designed to touch the team members’ hearts, but also to make them experience a feeling of social connection. To the company, to their co-workers. The underlying goal is to make KPN TDO employees feel that their values align with those of their employer. So, they stay. * Another example is this Christmas message we made for DSM: their Co-CEO’s felt the need for connection and more specifically, felt the urge to personally reach out and connect.  Together we made a parody to that famous scene from Love Actually, you know, the one with the cards, to create a visual metaphor for connecting from a distance..

A non-Christmas themed example finally, is this film we made for Heineken, when their former CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer left the company after 36 years, filmed in the middle of lockdown. The wonderful irony of this film is that it expresses the true values of the company – why people stay – by showing someone who has decided to leave.

These three examples are part of a trend we as 1Camera see: companies becoming more aware of the importance of internal communications and using that realisation to create internal films that delight and inspire, as a way to fortify connections between employees and the company. It’s an effective way to create a communal feeling between co-workers who rarely meet in person nowadays.

Tips for your story

Stories like the examples mentioned – personal, heart-warming stories that are genuine expressions of shared values – can be told about your organisation as well. But it takes time and energy to find a story like this and tell it in the right form. Here are some of my tips to get you started on that journey. And feel free to contact me if you want 1Camera to be your guide.

  1. Start by thinking about your main character: a real or fictional person in your organisation who will be the heart of your story. It must be someone your viewers can feel empathy for. Do you want that person to be a manager, a customer, or an assembly-line worker?
  2. When constructing a story, you need to make sure your main character has true challenges to overcome. Struggle, big decisions and endurance are essential to drama.
  3. A flawed main character works best: by overcoming the obstacles the story puts in the main character’s way, the character is challenged to overcome their innate flaws or weaknesses to become a better person or learn something about themselves and for the audience to -vicariously- learn and grow as well.
  4. Dare to be bold. Do not shy away from raw reality. A great story has vulnerable, painful and negative elements, because life has those elements and if stories are not like life, they are not relevant. Research is the only way to find out what this true reality is and avoid clichés and pseudo reality. True storytelling is not for the risk-averse and faint-hearted!
  5. Partner up with people who are invested in getting to understand the heart and soul of your organisation, not just read the list of corporate values on your website.

Creating a powerful film like the examples I gave, a film that is a genuine expression of shared values in your company, can be a valuable means to keep your great employees connected. And you can be sure that each and every one of them will be invested in honouring the values that make your company great. If only we would have had made a film for our own people, maybe we could have swayed Mari and Meike to stay a little longer…

– Jasper


*Since the film for KPN TDO is for internal communication purposes only, we unfortunately cannot show it on our website.

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