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Craft the Narrative

by Wellness Council of Wisconsin

 A WCWI Guiding Principle

We remain students of the human experience. We continuously listen and respond to the voices and the needs of our people. We tell the stories of the data, the workforce, Wisconsin’s employers, and our fellow wellbeing strategists.

View WCWI's Guiding Principles.

A narrative is simply described as a story that connects thoughts and actions to values. It’s a way of understanding, presenting, and talking about a situation, experience, or concept that reflects a particular perspective. A public narrative is a perspective that many people share and it reflects deeply held cultural views typically derived out of shared experiences. All organizations have public narratives of their own; narratives that are familiar, repeated and - because they represent a perspective shared by many - they often shape how and why decisions are made and how things are done. When we take care and diligence to craft a narrative that describes why employee wellbeing is needed and how it will impact the people and the business, there is a higher potential for the outcomes to be meaningful. Employee wellness may already have a particular public narrative at your organization right now – what is it? 

The opportunity lies in the fact that narratives can be shaped, shifted, transformed, and evolved by crafting the narrative expansively. To shift the narrative, we need to describe the value of employee wellbeing based on the data, stories, experiences, and needs of your workforce. What we talk about and how we talk about it expresses the values behind our words and actions. WCWI believes that carefully crafting a narrative that reframes wellbeing through a wider and deeper lens will contribute to employee wellbeing being valued as a foundational strategy and business priority for your organization.

Let’s breakdown the elements of this guiding principle:

  1. When we say that we remain students of the human experience:

We know that wellbeing is not static, rather it’s dynamic and derives from our experiences – it’s what people think and feel about their lives at any given time. So as students of the human experience, we are willing to learn as we go and keep our freshest learning on the forefront and in the script of the employee wellbeing narrative. 

  1. When we say that we continuously listen and respond to the voices and the needs of our people:

We know the power and potential of connecting the experiences that we’ve seen, heard, or noticed as data points to shape the narrative and ultimately contribute to how to develop a wellbeing strategy for impact. We know that listening, observing, and always seeking to learn and understand what’s needed is what crafts the most meaningful narrative. The scope of care for employee wellbeing is wide-ranging so listening to the perspectives of others - especially those who have different experiences, different roles, different values, and different definitions of success is crucial to crafting a narrative about wellbeing that advances it as a priority. 

  1. When we say that we tell the stories of the data, the workforce, Wisconsin’s employers, and our fellow wellbeing strategists:

Our ability to listen and share stories is one of the most powerful ways for us to connect, empathize, and to move toward action. Stories – based in observation, experience, and rich data collection – help us to continuously expand the conversation. More inclusive stories about the factors that create or hinder wellbeing will help our colleagues, teams, leadership, and collaborators develop a more complete and realistic understanding of wellbeing. Storytelling is a powerful prompt to explore new and different solutions together.


3 Actions & Resources to Help You Craft the Narrative

Action 1: Practice identifying the narrative(s) that you personally share about wellbeing. Think about how you tell your own story and the way that wellbeing shows up in the values that define who you are. What are the narratives that you most commonly identify with wellness and wellbeing? Think about the potential you see to shift your own narrative about wellbeing.

Ideas to Support Your Learning & Practice:

Action 2: Practice identifying the narratives about employee wellbeing that are currently held within your organization. What are the stories that are most commonly identified with wellness and wellbeing? Think about the potential you see to shift the narrative and how you will expand the conversation.

Ideas to Support Your Learning & Practice:
  • ­Does the current narrative about employee wellness at your organization feel disconnected from what you believe it to be? Explore what wellness is, and is not, with the insight and support of your leadership and stakeholders. Use WCWI’s Well Practice: Vital Conversations to uncover and elevate the values and beliefs about wellbeing that you want to see lived out in your organization.

Action 3: Gather the stories and representative data of the experiences of your people across your workforce. Listen, observe, ask, and invite a reframing of the concept of wellbeing through your own words and actions.

Ideas to Support Your Learning & Practice:
  • ­­Consider hosting a series of focus groups across your employee population – centered on the purpose of listening, learning, and gathering insight into their experiences with wellbeing, how they’re thinking and feeling about their lives, and what they need from their employer to be wellbeing-supportive. Check out this template to formulate a focus group agenda from SHRM: How to Conduct an Employee Focus Group
  • ­Gather an understanding of how your employees are feeling and their experiences with symptoms of burnout especially related to the workplace culture, the demands of their job, their relationships at work, the support they have, and the challenges they’re facing. Utilize WCWI’s Employee Burnout Survey to collect meaningful insight that will support you in crafting the narrative of the wellbeing needs of your workforce.

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