‘Communicators and HR professionals have high expectations of line managers, yet the support they receive is often inadequate.’
This scary statement was featured in the recently published study on Effective line manager communications from the brilliant team at CIPR Inside.
This isn’t breaking news. It’s a frustratingly frequent topic that’s been perplexing IC pros since the dark ages.
So, what are we going to do about it?
Cracking this fearsome conundrum is not an easy fix, but there are some quick tricks we can have up our sleeve to improve the situation.
One of the refreshing findings from the CIPR Inside study was the insight gathered from the horse’s mouth – our long-suffering line managers…
“We have little to no support. When a message comes out, it’s usually just one line asking us to discuss it with the team and get back if there are any questions.” | Research participant
Don’t leave line managers in the dark – share the resources they’re crying out for!
According to the study, effective actions to consider include passing on the tips of our trade, providing practical support like simple skill guides, top tips and bitesize reference materials.
The study also revealed that HR and IC professionals broadly agreed on the communication tasks they expect their line managers to carry out:
- Forward updates and cascades (94%)
- Reinforce organisational values and behaviours (93%)
- Initiate conversations in their teams (90%)
- Listen to employees (90%)
At Alive, creating line manager guides on these very subjects is bread-and-butter business. Why? Because they work!
Here we share a little inside info on the guides we most commonly create…
THE CAMPAIGN GUIDE
When any new campaign launches within an organisation, what are we asking line managers to do? Why does it matter? How can they help to make it a success? And what conversations should they be having with their team members?
What to include: We know that line managers are time-poor, so keeping resources simple is crucial. But it’s important to cover the basics as well as enabling opportunities to share and discuss feedback. Guides to new campaigns should include practical information and actionable advice:
- A summary of what we want to achieve from the campaign
- Initiatives that will impact their team
- Ideas on bringing those initiatives to life
- Significant dates and milestones
- Who to contact with questions
THE VALUES AND BEHAVIOURS GUIDE
Whether you’re launching a brand-new set of values and behaviours or refreshing existing ones, your line managers play a vital role in embedding them across their teams.
What to include: Content should be simple, informative and focused on things they can easily do to make the values and behaviours visible, relatable and personal in relation to their own business area.
- Context from a senior leader on why our values are changing
- Defining their role in embedding the values and behaviours
- Inclusive conversation starter ideas
- How to recognise and reward colleagues
- How to act as a role model
THE COMMUNICATION SKILLS GUIDE
The study affirmed that line managers don’t see themselves as a channel, rather as translators, funnels, collaborators, and conductors. And along with distributing information, line managers ‘must enable two-way conversation between employees and the organisations they work for, as well as amplifying the voices of their team’. But without the necessary skills, how can they possibly wear all these hats?
What to include: To help line managers communicate confidently, we need to support them in understanding how they can build and maintain relationships, coach their colleagues, and keep them focused and engaged.
- Supporting hybrid environments
- Having courageous conversations
- Storytelling tips and ideas
- Listening tips – how to give colleagues a voice
- Useful links and resources – what already exists?
Clearly there’s a lot more that needs to happen to support our line managers, and this study provides plenty of practical food for thought.
But how about we start by giving line managers what they want and need?
There’s no need to have nightmares. Whether you’re creating manager’s guides in-house, or you need a little support from Alive, they can be a simple yet effective way to start addressing this age-old dilemma.
By Caroline Roodhouse