This article is an expansion of a contribution to our 2018 report, ‘How Internal Communicators can help leaders communicate & engage’. To download your copy – which features insights from 50 global internal comms experts – click the button below!
You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses’. In this blog, IC expert Gabriela Torres shares 5 ways you can help supercharge your senior leaders and managers’ communication skills – and take employee engagement to the next level.
There’s nothing that can replace human connection – not even digital workplaces or great employee benefits.
Leaders who have a genuine interest in their employees are more likely to communicate and engage with them effectively. They go the extra mile to build relationships, and achieve great results.
Keeping this in mind, there are methods that leaders can use to boost communication and engagement – one of this year’s greatest challenges for IC.
And since organisations are made up of people, effective communication from managers and senior leaders is an important asset in promoting engagement within any organisation.
It is not without reason that people say: “Employees don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses.”
From employee surveys and various forms of feedback I have analysed through the years, it is clear that the kind of communication employees crave comes from their managers and leaders – not the IC team.
While they appreciate the company’s efforts to reach them and create conversations, they also express that direct communication with their managers and information from senior leaders is much more valuable.
That’s why one of the most strategic approaches any IC team can have to increasing engagement is to shape the communications of managers and senior leaders.
Even with a limited budget, there are always actions that can be taken to help leaders create an impact.
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5 actions that will help your senior leaders and managers communicate and engage more effectively
1. Deliver useful tools
Putting together tools such as workshops, team-building activities, and communication plans, and making these available to senior leaders and managers, is a great opportunity to boost leaders’ communication skills.
Eventually, senior leaders will ask for these kinds of things, when they recognise the need for them. But it is always better to deliver these before leaders find a need, especially in the case of direct managers – who may not have as much access to the comms team as senior leaders, for example.
This means supporting leaders to be proactive, rather than reactive, with their communications activities.
These tools can be quite handy, not only to build career plans and develop strategies, but also to get to know individual employees.
It is important to map strengths and areas of improvement, and support them as they power through them.
It is equally important to advise leaders and managers regarding the use of these tools and any other issues that may crop up. They shouldn’t be aiming to do everything, but instead using what’s available to create a real impact and take actionable steps to solve issues.
Through all this, their voices should be authentic. Internal communicators can provide tools and guidelines, and simplify the process as much as possible, but employees need to feel that senior leaders and managers are being themselves every step of the way.
2. Small details matter
Sending personalised birthday messages to employees, acknowledging personal and professional milestones reached by the people in their teams, producing short videos for special occasions, and speech-polishing to align top-down messages with the overall engagement strategy are all very important.
Senior leaders and managers usually know how to inspire people in the technical aspects of their jobs, but as mentioned before, human connections are what really strike a chord with people.
Connections make the difference between indifferent employees, and raving fans of the company.
Having multiple channels and spaces for people to engage with senior leaders and direct managers creates great opportunities to build long-lasting relationships that are beneficial for everybody.
3.Training to give feedback
Senior leaders and managers need to know how to give formal and informal feedback.
This is one of the most important things in my opinion, because this can make good employees better, or cause them to quit due to a bad working environment.
Training leaders to be empathetic and to develop people for greatness through the way they communicate is something that internal comms, and especially HR, should regard as a priority.
Understanding why, and in which areas, some people have trouble communicating is crucial. Being skilled in their professional fields doesn’t mean that leaders are automatically great communicators.
4. Share best practices
Communicating best practices which are being used by other senior leaders and managers to engage their teams can inspire the leaders in your organisation to emulate their actions.
In addition, this creates opportunities to recognise and highlight employees who are contributing significantly towards the objectives of the company or the corporate culture.
Furthermore, inspiration ‘from leaders to leaders’ is a great way to promote a collaborative environment and complement each other’s ideas and practices in such a way that everybody ends up winning.
However, to avoid employees feeling that there is inequality between teams or departments, it is important to define the channels and audiences that will be targeted for this type of communication.
5. Contribute to HR recognition programs
This should be non-negotiable. At the end of the day, employees value a ‘well done’ from their leaders more highly than one from the organisation in general.
This is especially true of revered senior leaders, direct supervisors and managers who have visibility of employees’ day-to-day work, and who can also contribute to building formal recognition programs based on their knowledge and insight.
Finding the right way to communicate these achievements is really important, as it gives all employees a clear message about commitment and what is expected of them to generate value from their contributions, which is what most people want in the workplace.
All these actions, in addition to contributing to enhancing employee engagement, can be powerful tools to keep people committed during difficult times or major changes such as mergers or the implementation of new systems and processes.
Having consistency in communications from senior leaders and managers is one thing that can keep employees focused and grounded during these types of transitions.
Beyond that, the most powerful tool I have discovered is simply asking people what they want from their leaders and managers.
HR and IC teams can have the most sophisticated or diverse plans, but at the end of the day, what matters most is what employees want from the C-Suite – the messages they want to be communicated, and the channels they want them to be communicated through.
Let us not allow our people to hear from others what they want to hear from their leaders!
Meet the author
I am a Barcelona-based communications specialist with extensive experience in offline internal comms and creative writing. I’ve worked in the manufacturing and education industry, focusing on employee engagement and emerging internal channels. I love to inspire employees so that they feel empowered to figure out their own goals and shoot for the moon. In my free time, you can find me writing mostly about animal advocacy or personal growth.
104,748: The number of global senior leaders our dedicated Leadership Development team have equipped with the skills to communicate and engage authentically over the last 12 months.
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