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Communicating with your line managers

Line managers can be a vital asset when it comes to delivering effective internal communication. They have direct access to employees across your organisation and have a responsibility to support and manage their teams. But they are also extremely busy people, often pulled between addressing the needs of their direct reports and other, more senior, leaders across the council. So how do you engage with them effectively?

Our top tips

Explain what you need

Line managers regularly receive emails instructing them to deliver a piece of work to their teams, often with little or no notice. If you want to make the line managers across your council your allies it’s important to explain clearly what you need from them and give sufficient notice for people to deliver it. It is also important to articulate why their involvement will make a difference. Get to know the people in those roles, help them to understand the benefits of good communication and make sure you are clear about what is expected from them. Don’t just task them with another requirement.

Make communicating easier

Once you have got the support of line managers across your organisation it is advisable to support them in their communications role as much as possible. This could include developing a regular line manager briefing pack with the information you need them to share with their teams, or by making sure your communications pages on your intranet are up-to-date so they can direct staff questions to them. Providing assistance doesn’t mean doing everything for people, it is about putting practical channels and processes in place that make internal communication smoother for everyone. Supporting them to be more effective communicators will also strengthen their skills and encourage the wider organisation to take more responsibility for communications.

Give them something extra

With so much information to cascade down or refer up, line managers can sometimes find themselves burdened with communicating everything an organisation needs to say with little thanks or benefit. Lessen the burden and show them they are valued by offering them something extra for their efforts. Perhaps an early briefing on your change programme, or training and development opportunities to help enhance their communications skills. Line managers are still employees and need to feel that their contribution is valued and recognised, just as much as frontline staff.

Offer them direct support

Make sure line managers know where they can go to get support with delivering their internal communications role. This could be done through better access to the communications team or your communications champions, or by identifying senior leaders with strategic responsibility for internal communications in the case of change programme or council-wide projects. Make sure there are facilities for people to ask questions and seek help.

Involve them in discussions

As with all effective internal communication it is important to create dialogue rather than broadcast your messages. Ask your line managers what they need to deliver their internal communications remit more effectively and where possible, use them to test out your key messages or campaign plans, or seek their input into crafting them. You may just uncover a hidden communications talent elsewhere in the organisation.

Coordinate what you’re asking

To prevent line managers being bombarded by messages, it is important to coordinate your communications with other departments as much as possible. Talk to colleagues in HR, Finance, IT, Strategy and your executive teams to make sure you have oversight of what other messages might be competing with yours and prioritise accordingly. Ideally you should all be working together to make sure there’s a strategic approach to when and how messages across the organisation are coordinated and delivered.

Forward plan

The more notice you can give people of what is on the horizon the better. Keep line managers informed of when you are releasing internal campaigns, or need content for your internal channels so they can fit that work into their other commitments. The more notice people have to get things right the better.