Do line managers still have an important role to play when it comes to communication?

Date posted: 7 October 2021  |  Posted in: Communication

With digital comms platforms becoming ever more present and important in the workplace, you could be forgiven for asking this question.

My answer is a resounding yes.

Almost every internal comms audit I do throws up similar results when it comes to managers and their communication accountability:

‘Team Meeting with my Manager’ is always the most preferred channel when it comes to communicating the issues that are most important to them e.g. ‘planned changes and what they mean for me’

But more often than not, the data in my audit survey tells the same story:

  • Typically, 30 % disagree with the statement ‘My manager keeps me informed on key business issues and how they impact me’
  • 40% also say that they’re not having a team meeting at least monthly
  • 30% say that their team meetings don’t include content from the organisation’s ‘cascade’ / team brief
  • And 50% of managers say they don’t have the tools to enable them to engage their teams effectively

So my audit reports normally include a recommendation to run a session with managers to engage them in their communication accountability: I call it ‘Leaders as Communicators’ and have run it successfully for a number of organisations.

I tell them that they are the most important channel and driver of employees’ communication experience, engaging them in their people’s communications needs and preferences and talking to them about

  • Putting face to face at the heart of their communication – this will be even more important as organisations ‘return to office’
  • Connecting their team to the organisation’s strategy, priorities and performance, bringing the story to life with them
  • Keeping them fully involved on issues that affect them, especially change
  • Giving them a voice to share ideas and give feedback
  • Leveraging the comms framework and contributing to channels including digital platforms – especially if they are a key communicator / content provider
  • Encouraging their team(s) to do the same.

The session includes some thought-provoking self-assessment for the participants and some focused action planning to take back to their desk. It’s also an opportunity for leaders to put up their hand if they’d like some additional support – not everyone is a great communicator.

Equipping them to do the job well is key. Regular leaders’ events / calls are a must so that they are fully engaged and an effective team meeting support tool is key, ensuring a manageable number of discussion topics you want leaders to specifically engage their teams in.

My personal keys to a successful tool are:

  • Avoiding content which doesn’t require specific leader endorsement / involvement which has been communicated direct through other channels
  • Providing content that is ‘team meeting discussion-friendly’ making it easy for managers to use as part of their team meetings.

So yes, line managers definitely still have an important role to play – and supporting them to fulfil that role remains key to their success.

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