Brittany Walker

Three tips for cascading manager communications

Properly arming managers for cascading consistent communications can make or break your message delivery. In many cases, managers are responsible for delivering news to their teams. Without the proper guidelines and tools in place, managers will filter any information they receive through their own lenses. The problem comes in when their interpretation of the message changes, slightly or vastly, from the message the company intended.

The answer to this common issue can be easier than you think. Providing managers with simple communications tools, like talking points and FAQ sheets, can help them stay on message in face-to-face sessions. All while making things easier on managers. And making communication easier for managers will increase the likelihood that the message will be shared.

For major initiatives or change management issues, a communications toolkit can be an efficient solution. You can accommodate a range of manager communication styles by providing an electronic tool box of email templates they can copy and paste into their own emails, bulletin board flyers they can print out at work, PowerPoint presentations, videos, tip sheets, training guidelines and more. Many managers have different preferences when it comes to communicating, so providing multiple delivery methods will aide in a dissemination that is timely and authentic to their management style.

If you can, allow managers to receive the news of a big change before the rest of the company. For major change initiatives, giving managers a heads up will allow them to process the announcement before cascading information to their teams. Before they can lead their teams, they should have a solid grasp of the upcoming change and how it impacts the company. Providing this information in advance will also give these leaders a chance to get onboard with the change.  Once a manager is embracing the change, they act as informers, as well as reinforcers.

Interested in helping your managers cascade more efficiently? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Cascading Communications: Give Managers Communications Tools

In many, if not most, large companies, communication from corporate is cascaded through direct managers. For instance, corporate will email managers the news, and then managers are expected to share that news with their people.

This is particularly common with non-desk employees, like those on the retail floor, in the distribution centers, the manufacturing facilities and out in the field. Since these employees rarely have company email addresses, corporate deems them nearly impossible to reach, except through their managers.

In Tribe’s research, employees have two concerns about communications that come through their managers. The first is timeliness, in that some managers will share with their team right away, others will eventually get around to it, and still others may never do it. Corporate often has no way of knowing whether the information has in fact been shared or not.

The other issue employees often cite is inconsistency of message. Human nature being what it is, each manager will filter the information through their own lens. Employees in our research often referenced the childhood game of Telephone, where a message is whispered from one person to the next to the next until what the last person in line hears bares little resemblance to the original message.

Tribe’s research also indicates that many direct managers may struggle with this process. In our most recent study, 53 percent wanted online tools to help them communicate with their teams more effectively. This could be a comprehensive online tool kit of PowerPoint presentations, email templates and videos. Or it could be as simple as providing a one-pager of talking points and maybe another page of FAQ.

Either way, these communication tools address several issues at once. They increase the likelihood that direct managers will indeed share corporate communications with their teams. They promote consistency of message. And they help both the direct managers and their direct reports feel supported and valued.

Of course, in most cases Tribe would also recommend some corporate communications that go directly to employees rather than through their managers. In our research, 72 percent said that hearing from their top management is important to them. And 84 percent said they currently receive “not enough” information from corporate.

Even with employees who don’t have company email addresses, direct communication from corporate is quite feasible. If you’d like to know more, just ask us. Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Managers Want Tools to Help Cascade Communications

Do you use direct managers as a communication channel for non-desk employees? The default method for reaching employees on the production line, in the distribution centers and on the sales floor is usually to depend on their managers to communicate what corporate communicated to them.

The thing is, few managers in these settings would consider themselves communications professionals. In Tribe’s national research on non-desk employees, managers said they’d like more communications support in the form of tools and training.

When it comes to communications tools, putting them online can be best. Of those who said they wanted additional materials, 57 percent responded in favor of using online materials. Comments of respondents included,  “Printed material tend to be a waste unless you are going through them line by line,” and “I prefer [supporting materials] to be online reports.”

Other quotes included: “I would like [supporting materials] to be online resources,” “I think [support materials] should be online,” and “[I would rather] have online resources!”

 Providing tools like talking points or FAQs can be particularly effective. In fact, they address one of the few faults that the 2012 respondents found with communications delivered through direct managers: inconsistency of message.

These tools can be simple. In fact, they should be. No need for tons of paragraphs or pages. Give them a one-pager with the overall key message and a few bullet points. Maybe offer suggested responses to questions employees might ask.

Interested in developing communications tools for your company’s managers? Tribe can help.

 

Steve Baskin

TRIBE TRIVIA: Cascading information to offline employees

Q: True or False: The cascading method of sharing communications with non-desk employees replaces the need for corporate to communicate directly with this hard-to-reach audience.

A: False, according to Tribe’s national research with non-desk employees. 72 percent of respondents said communication from their top management is important to them. 84 percent said the information they get from the top is “not enough,” and 34 percent said they hear from corporate “hardly ever.”

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe. 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Reaching offline employees on the manufacturing line, the retail floor and in other non-desk positions

Do you regularly communicate with your employees working on the frontline or out in the field? Most companies don’t. In Tribe’s national study with non-desk workers in a wide range of industries, employees reported receiving little to no communication directly from their corporate management.

Direct managers tend to be the  default channel for most communications with this group. However, respondents identified two challenges to this method: timing and accuracy. Not all direct managers will share information simultaneously, so some employees might know about a major change before others. And the message is filtered through the lens of each manager, so inconsistency is an issue.

The downside of corporate management leaving this employee population out of the loop is significant. The Tribe study indicated that production workers and other non-office employees interpret this absence of communication as a lack of respect for them and their role in the company.

Communicating with this group isn’t easy, but it can be done. What’s more, it can provide a competitive advantage in terms of employee engagement. When non-desk employees understand management’s vision for the company, when they understand leadership’s business objectives, and when they feel respected and valued by corporate, they can be more effective and productive employees.

Interested in finding new channels to reach your offline employees? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What frontline employees know that corporate doesn’t

Valuable customer insights go unrecognized in companies across almost every industry. Although large brands may expend considerable budgets on customer research and voice-of-customer initiatives, they may overlook the most direct source of knowledge regarding what customers want.

That source of knowledge is the frontline employee. The customer-facing employee can be a rich resource of ideas for small and large improvements.

In quick service restaurants, staff may notice a trend of customers mixing two packets of different sauces. That observation might lead to a product idea for a new sauce flavor. In the hospitality industry, hotel housekeepers might know that guests often remove a scratchy bedspread and toss it on the floor. That knowledge could influence the choice of fabrics in the next design prototype for room interiors.

The frontline employee also has firsthand knowledge of customer complaints. They see things corporate can’t, which not only stymies customer solutions but also frustrates these employees.

In Tribe’s research with non-desk employees, this frustration was a prevalent theme. They often see corporate as out of touch and ineffective at solving common issues. Respondents reported that corporate often doesn’t understand the realities of the business due to being so removed from customers.

In most companies, this valuable field intelligence is lost. Without a clear channel of communication between the front line and those back in the corporate office, none of this knowledge becomes actionable.

Establishing such a channel takes some doing. Communication to field employees generally flows in one direction only, cascading from managers to the front line. Although individual managers may be aware of these frontline insights, there are rarely established communications processes for sharing up the ladder.

An effective channel will be specific to the physical realities of those frontline employees. What works for hotel housekeepers may not work for garbage truck drivers. A solution appropriate for a high-end jewelry retailer may not suit furniture rental store employees.

Interested in collecting the field intelligence of your frontline? Tribe can help.

 

Steve Baskin

Leadership may know all the words, but don’t assume employees know the song

Leadership is listening all day long to a radio station employees don’t get. Those top layers of company management hear the same songs over and over. They know all the words by heart.

Most often, that station isn’t even on the dial for employees. They’re not in those meetings with C-level and the one or two layers below. They don’t see the same PowerPoints their boss’s boss’s boss sees. They’re not rubbing elbows with other SVPs or bumping into the CEO in the hallway. And the email that gets pushed to all employees describing the company’s new vision and values will rarely capture the nuance behind the new direction.

Tribe’s national research on functional silos indicates that executive management is often detached from employees. Although we generally think of silos as vertical divisions, in many companies the leadership level exists in its own horizontal silo.

This divide can make it difficult for leadership to know what employees don’t know. The vision of the company is clear to leadership because it’s a focus of their work. The business reasons for major disruptive changes in the company are apparent because they’re dealing with those business objectives every day. Employees are often left out of this communication loop.

Vision and change, however, are the two topics employees want to hear directly from the top. In other Tribe research, employees shared that when there’s a major change afoot, they prefer to hear it first from executive leadership. For questions and more details, they’re comfortable following up with their direct managers but that’s not where they want to get the breaking news. And when the discussion turns to where the company is headed, employees want their top management to fill them in on that vision.

Ironically, being isolated from the rest of the company makes it difficult for leadership to recognize their isolation. When we do employee interviews during the discovery phase of our work with clients, it often comes as a surprise to leadership that their employees feel so out of the loop on the vision and the reasons behind change.

That recognition is often the first step to aligning employees with leadership’s plan for the company’s future. When channels are developed to communicate directly from those at the top to the rest of the company; when employees feel in the loop on leadership’s plans; and when they see how their individual roles support leadership’s vision, it can create powerful alignment that streamlines success of the company.

The goal is to teach everybody the words to the songs leadership hums all day long. If you’re not sure where to start, Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Cascading messages: Using managers as a communication channel

Great idea. Except when it doesn’t work. In Tribe’s national research, employees share three reasons cascading communications are not as effective as we’d like to think.

The first issue is consistency of message. Ideally, employees would hear the same message, no matter who’s talking. Yet managers, being human beings like the rest of us, have a natural tendency to filter the message through their own perspective, resulting in small or large differences from the intended message.

The second drawback is timeliness. Employees of managers who are slow to communicate resent the fact that others in the company get news before they do. This is a particularly sensitive point for announcements of change. When employees don’t have the information others have, they feel a lack of control and a higher level of stress regarding the change.

Lastly, there’s no way to know if the message has been delivered. While some managers are great about sharing communications with their teams, others may never get around to it, leaving employees in the dark.

So what’s a company to do? In Tribe’s research, managers asked for two things: communication tools and communication training. If they’re being charged with delivering company communications, they deserve a little help in making that happen.

Interested in better preparing your managers to cascade messaging? Tribe can help.