#ChallengeTheProcess: How the Japanese art of Kintsugi can help repair broken internal communications.

Man holding kintsugi bowl

I smashed my favourite mug the other day. I look forward to waking up and drinking that first cup of coffee from it.

I have to admit, I was a bit gutted.

I was moaning to a friend about how my day started, and she mentioned using Kintsugi to resurrect the mug that was now lying in pieces in the kitchen sink.

Obviously, I headed straight to Google.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. It’s built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.

I loved the idea and ordered myself a kit to make the repair.

Then I started thinking about how this theory can be applied to most failures we encounter. Instead of focusing on the negative, can we Challenge the Process, reframe the failure, and turn it into a positive learning opportunity?

Finding strength when repairing communication failures

Have you ever launched a share plan, or annual total rewards, and it – didn’t go so well?

It can be demoralising to do all that leg work to get the scheme into place, put a comms plan together, and find it just didn’t land with your people. You’re back to square one. You’re noting it down as a failure.

Now’s the time to determine where the cracks are, and put steps in place to repair your messaging and communication strategy for next time.


The first question is, “where did it go wrong?”

An effective way to get answers to this question is by connecting with your colleagues and finding out why they didn’t sign up for your share plan, or engage with your pension scheme.

Set up focus groups where employees can share their experiences. You need to:

  • Choose your topic of conversation.
  • Choose your questions or conversation prompts.
  • Prepare your focus group questionnaire.
  • Establish who will be the notetaker.
  • Recruit participants.
  • Get consent and start the discussion.
  • Have everyone introduce themselves.
  • Ask your questions.

At the end of your sessions, you’ll be left with priceless information you can reflect on and address when creating your next communication launch plan.

Be honest

Employees can see through dishonesty. If your latest share plan launch didn’t go so well, own it. Tell your colleagues that you didn’t get the signup numbers you were hoping for, so you’ve made some changes.

Be honest about why you want your colleagues to sign up. You could say:

“We value your input and skills and want you to stay with us.”

“We want you to feel invested in our business so that we can work together to achieve our goals.”

“Your financial wellbeing is important to us. If we can help you build a stronger financial future, you’re more likely to feel healthier and happier.”

Go back to basics

You’ve run your focus group, and the participants told you they didn’t understand what was on offer. So, go back to basics.

Dig out your past messages. Are they:

  • Full of jargon and financial terms?
  • Packed with acronyms?
  • Lacking a clear call to action?
  • Boring?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then avoid them the next time you create your comms plan and messaging.

Consider using a variety of communication channels and mediums when talking to your audience. You could embed an exciting video in your launch email, or create a microsite where you put all the information and your people can self-serve. Use print as well as digital communication methods, especially if you have offline colleagues. We all process information differently, so the more opportunities you create for your people to absorb your message, the more will engage.


And finally, share plans and pensions may be topics you know inside out, but that doesn’t guarantee your colleagues understand them.

Not everyone is comfortable with financial topics and numbers, as we wrote about last month. Take the time to educate your employees, and they’re more likely to become financially confident and engage with investment opportunities in the future, such as share plans and pensions.

Financially educating employees has long-term benefits for employers, including:

  • Improved performance levels.
  • Higher retention rates
  • Improved job satisfaction
  • Lower absence levels
  • Less mental health concerns

The next time your communications don’t produce the results you’re looking for, don’t sling the metaphorical mug in the bin. Challenge the process and Kintsugi it. Look at where things went wrong and repair your communication strategy and messaging. Improving on failure is better than starting again from scratch. Use this opportunity as a transformative experience.

If you want advice on how to Kintsugi your share plan and reward communications, we can help!

phone Call us on 020 7420 1984 or send us a message

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