Stories and storytelling during lockdown

With the huge surge in new cases and a new series of lockdowns, we are now officially living through what many defined as the ‘next normal’—where the uncertainty is going to stay, and the highs and lows will continue. But as we reflect back on the last year, it’s interesting to see how the human spirit has survived and, at times, even thrived during these testing times.

While we isolated ourselves at home, the joy of learning came back with a vigor. We were indulging ourselves in cooking, gardening, fitness and more to cope with anxiety and uncertainty. And we continue to find hope, happiness, and a sense of connection through stories and storytellers. In their numerous avatars, storytellers have showed the way in 2020, and continue to do so in 2021.

For organisations, this has meant engaging with these storytellers to help themselves contextualise and stay relevant to not only their consumers but also their internal stakeholders. Companies began reaching out to external experts to bring in much-needed viewpoints and advice to keep employees engaged—from motivational sessions to keep morale high, to tips and tricks for adjusting to work from home, dealing with uncertain times, counseling for mental health and lots more.

The different phases and faces of the lockdown

In the initial days of the pandemic, ambiguity was high, and motivational storytellers, mental health and wellness experts, and “hyper-learning” gurus were highly sought after.

As a speaker bureau, we were well placed to highlight the work of global thought leaders who could shed light on dealing with the new norms. Virtual boardrooms and chatrooms came alive with the conversations that cultivated extreme resilience, develop wholesome leadership, thriving in chaos, growing one’s personal brand in a crisis, and much more.

Over time, this evolved into a need for proactive action planning for recovery. Mentoring, advisory and counseling services with subject matter experts came to the forefront as they could help elucidate specific sectors and how they were set to evolve and impact businesses in 2020 and beyond—from technology and the 4th industrial revolution to marketing trends and the new wave of online content creation, talent management in the virtual workspace, financial and risk advisory as well as policy and regulation changes in a dynamic business environment, and others.

While 2020 saw several months of responding and adapting to the continuously arising uncertainty, 2021 began with a sense of cautious optimism. Businesses went all out to motivate their sales force and push employees to make up for lost targets and strive harder in the home stretch to the closing of a decisively tumultuous financial year. Employee engagement focused on high-decibel motivation and peak performance.

Nurturing conversations that matter

Amidst these ups and downs of the last year, some conversations have particularly stood out, not just in their frequency but in the impact that they are creating in shaping the modern workforce. From a larger focus on employee wellness to fast-tracking digitisation for remote working to the role of women leaders and gender dynamics during the lockdown.

Diversity and inclusion experts everywhere are talking about the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on women, with many leaving the workforce, especially in emerging economies. The need for decisive action for gender parity is stronger than ever and businesses are rising to the occasion by increasing D&I dialogues, specifically in understanding the unique challenges that women are facing in the current environment.

Culture specialists are helping build the workplace of the future where employee wellbeing and development is a central theme. At the heart of this lie experts bringing in their subject matter expertise to build L&D programmes that support skills for the future, such as storytelling in the digital world, data-informed decision-making, design thinking, collaborating in virtual workplaces etc.

These conversations have created new perspectives on how organisations can continue to engage with their employees, even during a pandemic. The old formats are no longer relevant. And the new ones are being developed at a rapid pace by some of the leading minds in their respective fields. Engaging with these experts and thought leaders will be crucial for businesses to stay ahead of the curve. And build a culture that is worthy of the ‘next normal’.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Shreya Pilani
With over 16 years of experience in Sales and Marketing, Shreya leads The Outstanding Speakers' Bureau. She works closely with business leaders and diverse experts, to match clients with the credible voices that will deliver lasting impact. She focuses on building strategic partnerships with forums to build content and opportunities.

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