Employee engagement: ‘Initiativitis’

Symptoms – a feeling of ‘here we go again’ when yet another initiative is introduced from on high. Often identifiable by a silent eye roll and an audible exhale of breath.

There is one constant in business, no matter what your size or sector, and that’s change. Whether it’s an internal change, like the appointment of a new director, or an external change like shifting market conditions – or even the arrival of a global pandemic. Whatever it is, it often forces us to alter the way in which we and others have to work.

As a comms professional, you’ll recognise the challenges this represents – the ongoing need to communicate with employees, to keep them engaged, informed and motivated.

But as we know, problems can arise when employees get tired of constantly being told that change is coming. And with other business priorities vying for their attention, people can be left facing a barrage of disjointed campaigns and messages that eventually mean that they switch off.


Many of the comms professionals we’ve worked alongside are familiar with the scourge of what we call ‘Initiativitis’. It’s something that can creep into even the best businesses. And it then becomes a real struggle for any campaign to be really effective, as there’s just too much competition.

In our experience of working with clients, where there are a number of employee engagement initiatives across a business, having centralised ownership, planning and management makes a real difference.

Joined up thinking and developing one overarching initiative for a raft of changes, with ‘connected’ sub-campaigns wrapped up in a cohesive ‘whole’ has been much more impactful. And has translated into giving people more for their money.

With a clear hierarchy of messaging and content, the need for change can be presented more clearly, while sub-campaigns can address the more detailed questions ‘so what will this mean for me?’ and ‘what do I need to do?’.

More of the same

Often, when we’ve been brought in to assist a client, we’re told of campaigns that have failed due to them having been continually reinvented when only lip service was paid to the messages that needed to be delivered.

This looks like repeated conversations and a lack of commitment and continuity. Campaigns like this are a waste of everyone’s time – and of precious marketing budgets. And to employees may sound like change for change’s sake.

For many of the people we’ve worked with, we’ve seen that the work starts much earlier you might imagine. Some of the most successful campaigns we’ve been involved with have begun with the process of listening, then hearing, but most of all believing what’s been said.

Steve Gill Director, Forepoint

Where a campaign has been successful, we’ll find that people have taken the time to listen, to show that they value what their people think and put themselves in the shoes of others at every level of the organisation. When this has been done and done well, it results in employee engagement that’s so much more successful from the start.

Don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel

When it comes to internal change, across all sectors, we’ve come across numerous instances where comms professionals are working with senior execs who want to be seen to be doing something new. Even if that risks reinventing the wheel and overwriting campaigns that have been proven to work. Sound familiar?

Great internal, employee communications should have a good shelf-life. Messages need to be restated and reinforced over time to bed-in properly, become meaningful and allow people to get behind them. Really effective campaigns evolve over time to do exactly that – without sending you back to the drawing board.

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