How to help middle managers engage their teams

How can you help middle management play their part in employee engagement?

We recommend that business-wide employee engagement messaging should come from the top. But middle management also has a big role to play in getting those key messages to individuals across your organisation. Line managers and middle managers are the ones who are responsible for cascading information to individual employees throughout the business, whether those employees are on the factory floor, operating the check-outs or working remotely from their home office.

A Gallup study found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. This tells us that the direct contact that line managers have with employees has a real impact on levels of engagement. However, an Interact study also found that 69% of managers in the US are uncomfortable communicating with employees. Often promoted for their technical abilities and knowledge of the job, line managers aren’t necessarily communications experts.

With such a key role to play in employee engagement, it’s important that middle managers are on board with key initiatives and understand their role in communicating organisational messages successfully. It’s also good for them to know that, as employee engagement professionals, they can turn to you for guidance and support.

We’ve put together some advice that you can use to help line managers communicate to their teams in a way that is engaging, authentic and effective.

Utilise their own experience

Managers will often have more communications experience than they think. Almost every role has some level of necessary communication that can be developed upon, and they will certainly have been on the receiving end of messaging from their own managers in the past.

Encourage middle managers to imagine how they would like to be communicated to and reassure them that they don’t need to be an expert to be successful.

A level of confidence in their own abilities will help line managers nurture an authentic voice that suits their own personality and leadership style.

Different messages need different delivery

Before firing off another email, it’s important that middle managers take a moment to consider whether it’s the best way to deliver a message. Different messaging may call for different types of delivery and you can advise on the best channels to use.

Business-critical messages may need to be communicated quickly to those that need to know. More sensitive messaging may be best delivered face-to-face or in a one-to-one situation. Any business wins should be shared with the whole team as a chance to celebrate success and boost morale.

Let managers know that it’s not just the messaging that counts – how it’s delivered can also influence employee engagement.

Share the facts, don’t sugar coat them

Well-meaning line managers often want to protect their team and water down messaging that comes from leadership. Although they may have good intentions, this filtering can be seen as patronising and may cause issues later down the line.

It’s helpful to remind managers that their employees are all adults and that they will appreciate knowing what’s really going on and where they stand in the bigger picture. Sharing the facts means that team members can have a chance to speak up about issues that directly affect them.

These are just a few helpful tips that you can use to improve management communication and boost employee engagement. If you’d like more support in implementing employee engagement communications right across the business, then talk to us about how we can help.