Time to talk seriously about middle manager messaging

Many supervisors don’t see internal communication as part of their job description—or if they do, they lack adequate training to handle it properly. What’s at stake? Employee engagement.

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In my work, I often ask other communicators, “Are your people managers doing enough to communicate with their teams?” in surveys, audits, one-on-one discussions and more.

It’s telling that I can count on the answer being a firm “no” nearly 100% of the time.

When people managers are not actively communicating, it can impede the effectiveness of the best laid communication plans. At the organizational level, when managers are not communicating—especially with customer-facing frontline employees—it can erode alignment, efficiency and engagement.

Organizations with high employee engagement can routinely tie that to higher levels of productivity, profitability and customer experience. Yet employee engagement at most organizations remains stubbornly low. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce, only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs.

One clear downside: When employees are not engaged, it’s often because of their manager—and it’s easy to leave an organization. (Fifty percent of employees who quit jobs cite a bad manager as the reason.) Combine that with the historically low levels of unemployment, and it means that engagement levels become a true drag on recruitment and retention efforts—one of the most expensive things in which any organization invests.

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