Making your managers accountable for communication
The internal communications reviews that we deliver for organisations across a variety of different sectors reinforce that line managers remain a critical channel for most organisations, despite the growth of enterprise social networks and digital channels inevitably leading to more ‘direct’ communication.
Employees more than ever are looking to their manager to involve them on the key business issues that impact on them and to feed concerns up the line. Here at the Internal Comms Team we believe you have to make your managers accountable for communication and equip them to do the job – but this is easier said than done, especially as ‘making managers accountable’ only tends to work in organisations with a strong performance culture!
We recommend engaging your managers and team leaders in their communications accountability face to face. This is the most effective way to get them on board with their responsibilities and will kick start improvement and the cultural change needed.
If you’re now thinking “I’ll never get budget or support for communication workshops for all managers” then my challenge is: get creative and find another way – for example by proposing a session at a conference that’s already in the calendar, or working with the Learning & Development team to add a communications module to an existing leadership development programme.
Here’s what we’ve included in workshops in the past:
- Positioning their role: explain to your managers why they are the most important communication channel and how they are critical to effective communication in your organisation. Help them understand that this is a key driver of employee engagement which everyone now recognises is an enabler for business performance.
- Tell them what you expect of them in terms of building key messages on business priorities into their team communications and making the connection for their team between the priorities and what they are delivering. Remind them of the business ‘story’ (vision, strategy, priorities etc.) and answer their questions to ensure they have complete understanding of them (it’s great if you can have someone from the top team to support this Q&A) Also ensure they understand that they have a key role to play in feeding issues and concerns up the line.
- Be clear that they should be having a regular meeting with their team. Every time we do an internal comms review for an organisation, we see that where team meetings are happening regularly and consistently, people are positive about communication and are clearer on business priorities than areas where meetings aren’t happening (and surprise surprise, performance is also better!). You could show them some video vox pops endorsing this from a part of the business where meetings work well and are contributing to team performance.
- Let them know what you’re going to do to equip and support them to deliver against this accountability in addition to this session. This could include communication skills training, quarterly briefings for managers at your major sites, a regular digital channel for managers or an intranet site to support managers as communicators. This could include communication tips and enable them to share successes and learning through forums / social tools.
- Confirm how you’re going to measure their delivery against this accountability! This could include explaining how measurement will be incorporated into the performance management process, random phone surveys to check cascades have happened, or communication pulse surveys.
Finally, following this intervention why not create some gentle upward pressure on your managers by making it clear to all your people what they should expect from their manager in terms of communication.