Kill the initiative – live the philosophy

Avoiding initiative fatigue

By David Tovey

Great_workI’m really fortunate. I get to work with some great people in great organisations. I frequently get to facilitate off site strategy meetings with senior managers at fabulous locations in the UK and internationally.

Strategic planning meetings are really important. They give the senior team time away from the business to focus on the future away from the pressures and detail of day to day issues. As we consultants are fond of saying, “it gives senior managers and business owners time to work on the business instead of in the business”.

As the economy strengthens there is inevitably more competition for customers, clients and employees across all sectors. It’s usually not long before the senior team is talking about the need to be a more customer focused business and the need to attract and retain the best people.

There is undoubtedly a connection between recruiting and retaining great people and business success. I’m firmly in the people first, customer’s second camp. Look after your people and they will look after your business and your customers.

It’s no surprise that the ‘E’ word crops up quite regularly amongst senior managers – ‘Engaged’ employees has become the mantra of organisations who want to differentiate themselves from their competitors or simply to build a better, more effective and innovative organisation.

Engagement initiatives

However the upsurge in employee engagement initiatives can have it’s problems.

It sometimes seems that as soon as a great concept is given a label it is in danger of being misunderstood, misinterpreted and then executed badly. It is then too often dismissed by those it was intended to ‘engage’ as just another management fad.

I can testify to the high number of positive nods and groans I hear when I ask audiences if they have ever suffered from initiative fatigue anytime during their careers.

It’s almost inevitable that as the employee engagement movement continues to gather momentum and more organisations jump on the band-wagon without fully appreciating the implications, we start to see all sorts of activities appear in the name of engagement. From team bonding sessions, fun activities, ‘back to the floor’ projects for CEO’s to newsletters and social media channels – all kinds of activities are suggested as ways to improve employee engagement.
Sadly many of these are more likely to result in cynicism rather than aligning people with the aims of the business and gaining commitment, unless people are already engaged for the right reasons.

No silver bullets

I work with Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. When I ask top management in those companies why they participate in the annual survey; the answer is always the same. When you are recognised as a Best Company to Work For – recruitment and retention is so much easier.

Lots of companies want to be recognised as great places to work but too many want to find short cuts to getting there. They look for silver bullets or boxes to tick.

But there are no short cuts when you need to address the fundamental employer/employee relationship, properly aligning people with the business strategy and values in a focused, congruent and mutually supportive way.

It’s not engagement ‘initiatives’ that are needed – what works is the embedding of an engagement philosophy that is lived by everyone from the bottom to the top of the organisation.

Great places to work with engaged employees:

  • Are clear what they mean by engagement
  • Have a senior management team fully committed to it
  • Ensure that everything they do supports the core purpose and values of the organisation
  • Are clear about how they measure engagement
  • Acknowledge that where action is required no single intervention is likely to succeed
  • Keep lines of communication with senior managers open
  • Actively encourage collaboration at all levels
  • Continually recognise, reward, celebrate and reinforce what is being done well
  • Look for and measure the impact of engagement on business results
  • Recognise that employee engagement isn’t a destination – it’s a journey.

Live the philosophy and there won’t be any initiative fatigue.



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David Tovey

By David Tovey

David Tovey helps sales teams, business owners and professionals to build amazing business relationships, win more business and accelerate profitable growth.

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