Line managers – one more channel in the mix or something more? 

career development, employee engagement, internal communications / Monday, August 27th, 2018

Line managers have a tough job. Endless responsibilities, demands on their time, and pressure. I want to do more to empower line managers in internal communications.

I want to support them to engage with our people , to help cascade information and be the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground for our communications team.  

But, how can we do this? I’ve put together some of my top tips for supporting your line managers. 

  1. Know your line managers. Organisations can be vast, unwieldy behemoths – but you need to understand how the line management structures work throughout the organisation. Is there a generic ‘line manager’ role? To what extent is communications built into line managers’ job descriptions? What’s there already in terms of training? 
  2. Talk to your line managers. Find out what works for them, what’s tricky, where we can help add value and support to their jobs.  
  3. Be clear about what you expect from your line managers in terms of communications – and what they can expect from you. 
  4. Give them something special. This was an idea that came up in the All Things IC change communications masterclass I attended. Have a dedicated line manager channel – something which gives them the ‘inside scoop’ as well as making it clear what information they can share with their teams. 
  5. Use line managers to engage with staff, not to just repeat your corporate messages, parrot fashion. As well as a channel to communicate with your line managers, you’ll also need an easy way for them to feedback their team members’ comments or concerns to you. Creating a closed group in Yammer could help build a sense of community, and be a timely method for communicating with potentially large numbers of line managers.
  6. Empower your line managers – encourage their authentic voices. They’re the people who best know their teams and how to get the best from them. 
  7. Think about measurement. We need to evaluate how engaging line managers is having an impact on their staff. How we do this really depends on the organisation. I’ve seen team briefing notes work really well in organisations where there are a large number of similarly-structured teams. But this might not work so well in a more complex organisation, or where team structures vary between departments. 

This is great in theory, but what about in practice? In their 2018 ‘State of the Sector’ report, Gatehouse discovered that:

“line managers scored very highly in terms of visibility, with 96% of respondents regarding them as very or reasonably visible and approachable.”

Line managers also tend to hold regular team meetings. This is great news when we look at how line managers can strengthen our internal communications: they’re visible, engaged with, and approachable to their staff.  

However, respondents to the Gatehouse survey suggested that line managers weren’t always effective communicators – just 25% of respondents rated line managers as excellent or good communicators (compared to 55% of executive team leaders). 

We need to engage with our line managers to help them be better communicators – and demonstrate how this will help them to be better line managers. Our line managers are more than another communications channel – they hold the key to a wealth of organisational knowledge, valuable personal connections, and great stories. The real question is how to best support our line managers so they continue to engage our people, support internal communications, and enable organisational engagement. 

How do you empower your line managers to support internal communications?  

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