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Line managers play a crucial role in articulating company communications and providing feedback to senior management. As the workplace changes radically – driven by a range of inter-linking factors such as technological advancements, talent shortages, remote working, and sky-high urban property prices – the role of the line manager in this context is going to become even more critical.
Yet, rightly or wrongly, they are consistently seen as being poor communicators.
This presentation includes some wonderful insight from several IC professionals and covers:
- Capability building
- Capacity building
- Cascade management
- Leadership support
- Process support
- Data to the rescue
We know that every organization faces different communication challenges. Call us now if you’d like to discuss yours with one of our IC experts.
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or visit Poppulo.com
How to Help Line
Managers be Better
A Poppulo Knowledge How-to Guide
By Olga Klimanovich
These days, it’s increasingly hard for internal
communicators to get their message across.
A workforce shaped by remote
workers, part-time staff, and
Global teams with varied schedules
A growing number of
And the shift to a remote, diversified workforce is increasing.
That means it’s harder and harder for internal
communicators to succeed.
In the next decade, we’ll see:
Line managers have an
unmatched ability to
communicate a compelling
meetings can be one
of our most powerful
But do line managers have the support they need to succeed in this role?
Share content that’s relevant
to them and their team?
Understand the messages
they’re supposed to convey?
Do we help them:
… all too often, the answer is “no”
Companies spend enormous budgets on
strategic planning – but overlook the
strategic importance of supporting line
Communication is often not considered
part of a line manager’s core capability –
so they don’t receive training in it.
In fact, “Poor line manager communication skills
(56%) feature at the top of the barriers to internal
communication success … in spite of this,
equipping them with communication skills was
a priority for only a third of respondents.”
ꟷ State of the Sector survey, Volume 10, 2018
But we can help!
Internal communicators can help supercharge
line managers’ communications efforts
you can help line managers become
Here are eight ways
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Don’t just throw content at line managers.
Help explain why your message is important
and why it’s relevant to their team.
Put your content in
Most employees would rather communicate with their immediate manager than any other level of
management. An information cascade caters to this preference by pushing key internal comms
messages to line managers, who are asked to share it with their employees.
Information cascade is an important
We sometimes push
with little context
with little thought to
(what’s in it for me)”
• Consider each group of employees you need to
reach – and provide line managers with content
relevant to them
• Remember that local is always more interesting. If
you work at the global level, start with local
successes (or hitches) and show how they
influence the wider picture
And never neglect local language needs
• Sometimes content prepared in
English ends up not being used
• Spending extra on translation
might appear costly but will help
you connect with line managers
and their teams
Provide clear guidelines on how and when
to distribute content
Along with any
• What the communication
is trying to achieve
• What points are important
• How the information is
relevant to their team
• When it should be shared
Help line managers feel prepared by
sharing questions they might expect to
receive – and appropriate answers.
Quizzes and Rewards
• One communicator gave quizzes to line managers to hand
out to direct reports after a cascade meeting.
• Each person could submit the quiz back to internal comms,
for a chance to win an iPad. People loved it!
• For many of the line managers, it was the first time they had
held team meetings. After the promotion ended, many of
them carried on with the meetings, having seen their
effect on team morale.
Don’t assume that line managers are strong
communicators. Work with training &
development to build the communications
skills you need.
2 Build capacity
Explore different training options for
Identify basic courses in writing,
giving feedback, or other
Set up a job shadowing or mentoring
program that pairs great communicators
in your firm with line managers
Encourage a senior executive who’s
passionate about good communication
to lead or sponsor a training program
Set up coaching circles
• In each session of a coaching circle, a
line manager brings up a communication
issue they’re struggling with.
• Participants ask questions to help them
see the issue from different angles.
• Most of the time, the manager finds a
solution just by looking at their issue
from different perspectives.
• All participants get exposure to a tough
communications issue and learn from it.
• Everyone benefits from practicing the
skills of active listening and asking good
questions, which become invaluable in
An executive in a large international firm believed
strongly in the power of active listening, and wanted
to build this skill in his line managers.
He held a 3-month series of webinars, with calls every two
weeks and “homework” in between. The homework included
discussing different active listening skills and reflecting on
how managers practiced these skills in real life.
Then, the group reconvened via webinar and the senior
executive himself asked questions and listened.
Remind line managers that communication
skill doesn’t just help IC. It will help
them succeed in their careers –
now and in the future.
Reinforce the value of
Encourage line managers to communicate
regularly with their teams
• Emphasize that building time
to communicate into their
day-to-day routines will help
them grow in
• Remind senior managers to
recognize and reward
communication skills in their
This book explains the importance
of leaders communicating with their
teams. The higher they advance in
the “pipeline,” the more critical that
Encourage a talent model that recognizes and
rewards good communication
Build comms into the
fabric of your org
Help infuse communication skills into
your talent management process
Find out whether communication skills are part of line
managers’ core capabilities
If not, engage with Talent & Development to introduce it
Encourage HR to evaluate communications skills as part of
the hiring process
• Offer to develop an assessment exercise for applicants
Encourage HR to add communications skills to 360-degree
Recommend hiring and
promoting for communications
Encourage colleagues to create development plans for line managers
that prioritize communications skills
• Where appropriate, make communications skills a KPI and a
standing agenda item in personal development discussions
Encourage colleagues to reward and promote those who excel at
Revisit promotion announcements to highlight the communication
accomplishments that contributed to a manager’s promotion
Develop standard processes for
Create standard methods for pushing out information cascades
Encourage senior managers to support them
Evaluate IC professionals on their ability to develop strong,
relevant content – making it easier for line managers to execute
There’s a wealth of research that correlates
line managers’ communication skills to
employee engagement – and employee
engagement levels to an organization’s
productivity. Let’s get the word out.
5 Leverage data
Promote data that
shows the value of
• Share it with senior stakeholders
when you ask for budget, support
and sponsorship, and participation
in mentoring programs.
Develop your own data
Examine how their
departments compare to
the average on
Identify line managers
who are excellent
Use these comparisons in
conversations with senior
leaders and colleagues from
Talent and Development to
support your argument for
introducing some of the
initiatives suggested here
Are line managers complaining about being
treated as “animated notice boards”? Take a
moment to see things from their view.
6 Step into their shoes
How well are you really supporting
your line managers? Have you …
Explained what their job is in relation to
Chapter 7 of Internal
Manual for Practitioners
elaborates on these
Helped them translate high-level
messages into terms that matter to
Helped them answer their employees’
Organized any communication-
Show them that you’re listening?
Line managers are a critical link in the
communication chain within organizations.
Equip them with the tools to effectively and
efficiently communicate with your employees.
Enable your line managers to
communicate effectively with Poppulo
With best practice email templates designed specifically
for your line managers, you can filter information to them
in a concise and clear way so they quickly know what
they need to understand, action – and especially what
information they need to pass on the colleagues they
Poppulo Cascade with
Target your articles and emails to your line managers and
the employees who work for them.
Targeting allows you to send relevant information only
to those who require it.
Use Poppulo's Cascade functionality to help line
managers communicate relevant information to their
Poppulo's Event Module can be used to run communication skills
training sessions with line managers to help improve their
communications with employees.
Poppulo Mobile allows you to instantly reach all line managers
and provide them with the relevant content and attachments for
them to share with colleagues. Additionally, Poppulo Mobile can
be used to reach your front line workers directly with the
information that is relevant and important to them.
Measure and track how line managers and/or employees are
engaging/not engaging with content in different areas of your
business. Then you can further target those employees to
improve understanding, drive engagement and increase retention
within the organization.
Line managers sometimes get a bad rap for
their communications skills. But their voices
represent our most powerful channels for
8 In conclusion
If we provide line managers the support and
information they need to become great
communicators, we’ll all be superheroes.
Olga Klimanovich has 20+ years of corporate
experience. She has served as Account Director,
Heads of HR and Talent and Leadership
Development, Change Manager IC and
Engagement leader, Head of Corporate Affairs
and Communications at companies such as:
Soros Foundation, US Information Agency,
Saatchi & Saatchi, XL Catlin, British American
Tobacco PLC, Eurasia Natural Resources
Corporation PLC and Balkan Energy Company.
Download the Poppulo Guide
How to Help Line Managers be