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What is the story of HR?

15th, March 2015
0 Comment
by Tom Haak
in  Blog

StoryAn area where HR clearly can improve is storytelling.

If you ask an HR team: “Tell me your story?”, it often takes a long time before the team has put a coherent and compelling story together. Sometimes they can show their plan (25+ pages in PowerPoint), but it becomes more difficult if they have to summarise the plan in a five-minute pitch. Often I loose interest after the first paragraphs.

Some tips for your HR story.

  1. Design your story with your audience in mind
    Think about your audience before you design your story. Is it the CEO? Is it your management team? Your global HR leadership team? Your industry network? Try to tell the story in the language of your audience.
  2. Stick to the rule of three
    Divide your story in three parts. The common “Why?/What?/How?” is a very useful framework. Stories that are divided into three parts seem to work better.
  3. Connect your story to the business issues of today
    A compelling HR story addresses a business issue of today. A business issue is not the same as an HR issue. HR issues can be very important, but they should be connected to a business issue. Lack of talent is not a business issue. “How can we grow in Asia?” is. Because we want to grow in Asia (as there is a growing demand for our services in this region), we will need more talent in Asia. How can we find talent in Asia?
  4. Add facts and detail. Stories are more convincing if they contain concrete facts
    Most audiences like facts and detail. “In the coming five years we will have to recruit 1,000 new engineers in China and Malaysia” sounds better than “We will have to recruit many engineers in Asia”.
    Of course too many facts and too much detail and spoil your story.
  5. Give some examples
    Illustrate your story with some examples. “Last year we recruited 200 young engineers in China. After one year 49 had left the company. A good example is David Chang. David studied in UK and US (an MBA) before he returned to China to work for us. I talked to David last week. The main reason he gave for his departure is that the career path in our company is very unclear. He moves to company X, where the package is comparable, but they offer him an international traineeship”.
  6. Imagine the future.
    Picture a compelling future. “If we make the required investment, in three years our Asian Leadership Academy will be able to train 500 young professionals per year”.
  7. Words to avoid
    Competency framework; blue print; policy; strategic scenarios; The war for talent; We hope….; I; An integral approach.
  8. Don’t make your story too long
    Long-windiness and HR go very well together. Surprise your audience and be brief and concise. TED talks are maximum 18 minutes, and good presenters can tell a very good story in 18 minutes or less.
  9. Use some pictures, but not too many
    It can be very powerful to tell your story without illustrations. If you want to use illustrations, spend ample time on the design of your graphics. If you design a couple of nice informative illustrations, you will be able to use these make your story stronger.

HR Trend Institute

The HR Trend Institute detects, follows and encourages smart and creative use of trends in the field of people and organisations, and also in adjacent areas.
Tom has a keen interest in organisations and service providers that use trends in a creative and innovative way. He advices organisations on how to get more focus in their HR interventions and how use trends to increase the impact of HR.

He can be followed on Twitter (@tomwhaak and @hrtrendinst) and on Instagram @tomwhaak.
The HR Trend Institute also has a Pinterest page.

Tom Haak can conduct inspiring presentations and workshops about trends in HR and how organisations can benefit. The HR Trend Institute can also conduct the HR Trend Scan.

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About the Author: Tom Haak


Tom Haak is the founder and director of The HR Trend Institute. Prior to founding the HR Trend Institute in 2014, Tom held senior HR positions in companies as Arcadis, Aon, KPMG and Philips. The HR Trend Institute detects, follows and encourages smart and creative use of trends in the field of people and organizations, and also in adjacent areas.