Ragan Refresher: How making connections can improve manager comms

A new survey reveals what’s on the mind of middle managers — and what comms can do about it.

Happy New Year! There’s no better time for comms pros to polish up their familiarity with the trends shaping the future of the trade.

To that end, we spoke with Anne DeAngelis, executive vice president of employee engagement strategy at Zeno Group, about some of the comms disconnects middle managers are feeling, the data behind it and what solutions can be developed from these insights.

Join us as we apply lessons from the top manager comms trends of 2023 to strategies for forging ahead in 2024.

Middle managers and the comms structure

No one ever said that a communicator’s job was an easy one. Juggling mandates from leadership, initiatives meant to show the organization’s best facets both internally and externally, and the day-to-day tasks that arise along the way is certainly a challenging prospect. But comms pros need to ensure they’re prioritizing manager communications as part of their overall scope of work. According to a 2023 study by DeAngelis’ organization Zeno Group, the data shows that there are shortcomings to confront when it comes to communicating well with middle managers.

In the study, 86% of middle managers stated that focused and timely communication was important to an organization’s smooth operations. However, the same study revealed that just 54% of managers thought that senior leadership effectively implemented these much-needed comms goals.

According to DeAngelis, this gap needs to be addressed, and the comms department holds the right people for the job.

“It’s startling because it’s a rather large disconnect,” DeAngelis said.

She advised comms pros to use their skills to educate leaders about the issues at hand.

“The communications team can play a really large role in helping to bridge this gap and wake up senior leaders as to the lack of support that they are providing,” she added. “They can use their communication skills to help them to be able to make those connections with the middle managers.”

Running the comms imperative up the ladder

It’s one thing to say that communicators serve as a conduit between leadership and management. That should be the case in any effective organization. But it’s entirely another to identify the issues at hand and act as a counselor to leadership to provide concrete solutions to the concerns of teams across the organization. DeAngelis said that comms pros need to take action that gets leaders face time with managers to show the top brass that changes need to be made.

“There’s an opportunity to tell leaders that we need to take them out C-Suite to do town halls with all employees or go out to the front lines and talk to employees out in manufacturing sites, for instance,” she said.

The importance of making these connections doesn’t just center on making managers happier and more fulfilled in their roles, which is undeniably important. It also has to do with coaching and advising team leaders within an organizational culture. DeAngelis suggests that comms reinforce the idea that leaders need to take material action such as providing open forums for managers to share successes and struggles and make material change.

“They are your future leaders,” she said. “Trying to help make those connections between the senior leaders and the middle managers help them to feel more supported goes a long way.”

“Once the senior leaders hear directly from their team, they will start to recognize how they need to just make some changes inside the organization with whether it be resources or new programs, training, things like that, that could make a big difference,” DeAngelis added.

A look back at 2023 and manager comms 

As we embark upon the beginning of 2024, let’s take a quick look at a few of the highlights of our coverage of the world of manager comms from 2023 from our Ragan Insider vault.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.


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