It’s hard to believe, but 2023 is nearly over. This will mean a bevy of different things for communicators, from figuring out what strategies to prioritize the new year to refining cadence, channel mix and message personalization going forward.
But what’s sometimes overlooked is how these conversations and decisions originate within an organization — and, as with so many things in the world of work, it starts with the manager.
There’s no better time than a new calendar year for managers to start planning with their teams. We spoke with some top minds in the comms world to gain a better perspective on how comms can work with managers to give them the tools to have fruitful planning meetings.
Cultivating a culture of planning
With so much to be done in the new year to be set up for success, good results often come with good planning.
According to Sukhi Sahni, senior vice president and head of brand communications at Wells Fargo, the time for managers to start planning conversations should have already begun when the leaves start to change colors during the fall, not when holiday celebrations are underway and the year winds down.
“Planning should begin a few months into the third quarter, ideally in September, with the intent and goal of having a plan or at least directional framework on paper before year-end,” Sahni said. These directional frameworks can include plans like editorial calendars, content cadences, and more.
“Managers need to first and foremost focus on wrapping up the year– getting their 2024 conversations in check, maximizing resources across retained clients and projects and planning for Q1 as much as possible so when their staff returns from the holidays, they can hit the ground running, already having that foundational organization underway,” said Steph Lund, CEO, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment.
Comms can help set plans in place by having discussions with the proper stakeholders about what comms aims and goals there are in the year ahead, and the metrics that need to be hit to attain them.
“Sometimes communications teams are unable to plan this in advance given the quick turn-key nature of our work. Managers should create a culture where strategic planning is an important lever for managers to do their jobs and help support their teams by continued prioritization,” Lund added.
But when you need need to respond to issues that might arise unexpectedly, how can you help managers prepare? The key lies in strong organizational culture.
“Create a culture where strategic planning is an important lever for managers to do their jobs, but also help support their teams by continued prioritization,” Sahni said.
The conversations to have
With all the prep in place, you can help the manager focus on the types of planning conversations to hold. For starters, you can encourage managers to talk about the importance of recharging over the holiday break. A well-rested worker is more likely to be a happy, productive one.
“Managers need to understand the importance – and implement via leading by example – of having their employees fully disconnect during the extent of their break,” Lund said.
“The reset is critical to your employees heading into the new year feeling ready and energized. This is a key conversation to have and to enforce during the break.”
Beyond wellbeing, planning conversations should also touch on the metrics, goals, and important business-related factors that managers and reports work on as part of their larger roles. You can help this along by sending periodic reminders of what needs to be talked about.
“Managers should work with their organization to understand the business goals and imperatives and whether their teams are making an impact or not,” Sahni said. “Strategic planning allows teams to be more proactive about reacting to any given situation that arises.”
Finally, you can also help managers organize and plan conversations with reports that are both in-person and remote. In today’s workforce, it’s increasingly common for a manager to have both types of employees under their purview, and it can often take different tactics to drive a message home to each type of report.
“A manager’s interactions and touch points land differently with remote staff than in-person ones,” Lund said. “You need to strategize on how best to authentically break through and motivate those remote employees without having the in-person touch points to fall back on.”
Celebrating wins and the path ahead
“The end of the year calls for recap meetings, memos honoring accomplishments from the year and celebrating the part that every employee played in the overall success of the organization,” Lund said.
The end of the year is also a time for managers to self-assess and look forward.
“It’s also about looking ahead to the next year with optimism,” she added. “Managers need to reflect on how they will celebrate the closing of the year and the start of the next to ensure those tactics are resonating.”
Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.