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Forget the Fads - Talk to Your Managers

Liam FitzPatrick and Klavs Valskov Outline Five Simple Steps that Top Bosses Need to Get Right if They Want a Communication System that Works

Every few years you hear about a new way to answer the age old question ‘how can we excite and engage our workers?’

Once corporate video was going to transform business. Then intranets were the answer to every communication problem.  Today, social media is the panacea de jour.

But the truth is rather duller and somewhat less expensive than spending millions on a new IT platform or trying to get employees to stare at flashy new digital signs. It’s your managers who always were and always will be the first point of communication.  If your supervisors don’t get it, no amount of hi-tech shouting at the staff is going to work.

There is little doubt about the financial and business benefits of getting communication right.  Studies show that workplaces that communicate a clear vision and a compelling story perform better than organisations that fail to get the message over.  Good communications bring higher revenues, lower staff turnover, better margins, higher quality and stronger safety records.

And the lynchpin in achieving these results is a leadership cadre that understands its role, is equipped to fulfil it and gets listened to when it provides feedback.

Employees want to hear from someone who understand them, their work and their concerns.  People trust people they know more than a remote CEO who appears in a corporate video or a breathless announcement on the intranet.

Yet too often organisations grumble about a blocking layer of managers; supervisors who don’t pass on a message or actively subvert the story.

In our book Internal Communication: A Manual for Practitioners we argue that there are simply five steps that top bosses need to get right if they want a communication system that works.  If your preferred technique of working with line managers is to send out emails and hope for results you are going to be disappointed.

Instead, we suggest that organisations worry about

  1. Being clear to managers that their job involves communicating
  2. Treating managers as a special audience – giving them more background, context and insight
  3. Investing in their skills
  4. Giving them tools they can use to support conversations – not just Powerpoint packs they can forward on without adding to
  5. Making sure that feedback from managers reaches the top of the organisation – show staff that their managers are passing on their concerns and views.

Clearly there are issues where employees will want to hear from HR, IT or the CEO.  But when it comes to driving actions and behaviours it is the supervisor who has to translate the big picture into terms than make sense on the front line.  It's the manager who can answer the question “ what should I do on Monday morning?”

Helping them answer that question doesn’t need a ground-breaking new tool – just a bit of care and attention.

For more information about FitzPatrick and Valskov's new book, Internal Communications: A Manual for Practitioners please visit the product page.