How can you be sure that your managers’ primary channels for reaching employees are getting enough attention?

The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the difficulties of many organizations to reach their employees. Even as work life recovers, many people leaders still struggle to convey timely and accurate information to their teams and respond to their questions.

That can leave employees worried or confused. Or both.

Communicators have so many tools and channels: email, intranets, newsletters, chat apps and print publications. It’s time to focus on managers as your No. 1 internal communications channel to reinforce broad organizational messages and make them relevant to their teams.

We just need to equip them with the correct information and necessary skills.

Only 34% of people managers have access to communication training, according to a survey of 1,300 HR and communication leaders by Gallagher. Lack of comms training has undoubtedly played a role in The Great Resignation. In a well-worn phrase that’s true nonetheless:  Employees leave managers, not companies.

Here are four ways to help support your manager’s communication efforts:

1. Tip sheets: Start now with year-round reminders and tips to managers. Topics might include:

  • How to handle difficult conversations
  • Holding productive team meetings
  • Gathering feedback from employees
  • Best practices for getting your email messages read.
  • How to use inclusive language

Establish a cadence to send these tip sheets to managers, so that managers know when to expect them.

2. Toolkits: After every town hall, new program or leadership announcement, managers should receive a supporting toolkit. The toolkit should highlight the “what,” “why,” and “how” of communication, with suggestions on how to use it.

Provide specific talking points for managers in their team meetings and huddles. Always add FAQs that anticipate questions team members are likely to ask. Be sure to deliver the toolkits immediately after an event or announcement.

3. Training: Don’t assume your managers are confident about expressing themselves. Offer in-person or virtual 60-minute sessions to help people leaders with their presentations, delivery and listening. During the training, discuss how often and when managers should communicate with their team members. Include communication simulations to give managers a hands-on opportunity to apply what they learn and ask questions.

 Follow up: Managers are in the best position to gather employee reactions about business updates and changes, take their questions to leadership and then report back. Work with your leaders to set expectations for managers and carve out time for feedback.

More than 36% of employees say their manager “seems burned out at work,” according to the 2021 People Management Report, a survey of workers in 15 industries by The Predictive Index. Meanwhile, the No. 1 skill employees feel their manager lacks is effective communication. These two findings are hardly a coincidence.

Establishing an effective manager communication plan takes the burden off your people leaders to determine what needs to be shared and when. As the flow of information improves, employees’ anxiety will lessen.

And reducing employee anxiety will help slow down one of the costly effects of poor communications: high turnover.

Rebecca Shaffer is the managing partner of Ragan Consulting Group. Schedule a call with Tom Corfman to learn how we can help you improve your communications effort with training, consulting and strategic counsel. Follow RCG on LinkedIn here and subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

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