Data + Narrative + Call to Action = Data Storytelling!

By Alejandro Builes, vice president product managementtotal talent solutions, KellyOCG

Craft a compelling story with data.

There’s no question that workforce data is valuable. In fact, it’s impossible to make smart contingent talent management decisions without it. But when that data is woven into a story, you’ll see the real value. Good data storytelling connects the audience to data through context and emotion.

Why? Research has shown that human brains can hold a limited amount of information in our short-term memory at one time—and we only retain that info for about 30 seconds. But crafting a compelling data story—with a beginning, middle, and an end—gives context that engages an audience and links to emotions that embed the story in a person’s long-term memory. Instead of presenting dry statistics, charts, and tables, storytellers convert facts and figures into a captivating tale that people can more easily understand, remember, and act on.

Data stories “stick” in our minds much better than stats alone—and that makes data storytelling a powerful tool for effective contingent workforce management, driving change, and delivering value.

Elements of a data story.

Like all interesting stories, good data stories have an arc or a plot. Think back to high school English class—what elements make up a story? A good story should include who, when, where, why, what, and how

It should also have a big idea. A big idea is exactly what it sounds like—it’s the key takeaway from your story, or the thread that weaves it all together. When crafting your data story, ask yourself: If there was only one sentence you’d want someone to remember, what would it be? That’s your big idea! 

Storytelling for business.

Before you sit down to craft a data story, make sure you know your audience. When you understand stakeholders’ priorities and pain points, you can build a narrative that speaks to them and engages them. (And one that they can comfortably champion across the organization themselves.)  

Then, you’ll find that a review of your business relationship using data naturally encompasses all the elements of a good story:

  • Examining the current state of the relationship (who) and highlighting the value that has been delivered (when and where).
  • Explaining opportunities to deliver incremental value through expanding the relationship, adding products, or increasing the scope of services (why).
  • Discussing the current state of the relationship and future plans to make sure they are in alignment with strategic goals (what).
  • And finally, a call to action offering solutions that provide additional value or solve a problem (how).

Risky business: a real-world data story.

Data can drive a real-life, edge-of-your-seat narrative. Consider this: A program team sees that their life sciences organization is on the brink of significant risk—data from their MSP shows that the cycle times for hiring external lab techs are continuing to increase—ticking up month after month.

At the same time, they know a large project is starting soon. This project will require expanding their roster of experienced lab techs. The timeline is tight with no room for delays. If they can’t find the skilled talent needed to hit the ground running, there is a real possibility that the project could fail.

Here, MSP data sets the stage, illustrates the conflict, and makes a strong case for using the MSP program itself to more quickly source and hire new qualified talent. With a compelling story built on program data, this program team can mitigate risk, effect change, and make a significant strategic impact on the organization.

Another reason for stories over statistics.

Aside from the benefits of storytelling outlined above, there is real risk in not creating a narrative surrounding data: you may fall short of expectations. Today, people have come to expect work to be done for them. They are looking to consultants, external partners, and internal departments to go beyond presenting straight data and to provide the persuasive stories they themselves can adopt and use with other stakeholders in the organization.

At KellyOCG, we’re privileged to create these stories from the powerful data delivered by our MSP solutions and Kelly Helix Analytics. Helix Analytics leverages cutting-edge technical architecture to deliver real-time, customized data that provides a comprehensive view of our clients’ external workforce. And it’s this type of data that all of us, as data storytellers, can leverage to craft compelling narratives that make an emotional connection, drive change, and deliver value.