overhead view of a running race on a city street with a clear leader in front of the pack - people manager communications

Helping People Managers Communicate with Messages That Resonate

July 2, 2024

Great leadership and great communication aren’t quite synonymous — but they should be. In fact, “communication” is listed as number one in LinkedIn’s global ranking of 2024’s most in-demand skills for professionals, ranking two slots above “leadership” itself.

Leadership, of course, covers a wide range of roles and levels. Many leaders, particularly those more senior, have support from dedicated professionals when it comes to their broad communications. After all, a CEO overseeing a 10,000-person company can hardly be expected to have face time with each employee.

But if we take a closer look at employees’ everyday experiences, we can see the importance of the communications from leaders they interact with most frequently: people managers. While C-suite executives set a company’s overall messaging and communications teams disseminate it, it is the people managers who ensure employees understand and engage with the messaging. According to USC Annenberg, 54% of employees who strongly agree that their manager is “approachable” feel engaged, compared to only 2% of those who strongly disagree.

This relationship is only more pronounced for frontline employees. In the latest ROI Benchmark, communicators report that team leaders are the number one source of information for offline workers — more than 20 percentage points higher than the next most used channel.

With their direct line and strong influence with employees, managers would seem to be the leaders best positioned to amplify and support enterprise communications. And yet, the ROI Benchmark found that only 49% of participating companies reported having a dedicated strategy for communicating with people managers and despite the impact their communication has on employee engagement, managers rarely receive direct support from communicators.

So how can communicators help managers understand the best way to bring important enterprise information to their teams?

One approach is provided by the Leader’s Communication Model, created more than 30 years ago by Roger D’Aprix, a highly influential communications leader, thinker and writer who worked with several iconic corporations during his storied career before joining ROI.

Though it’s depicted here as a positive reinforcement loop, you can also think of the Leader’s Communication Model as a model akin to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Employees won’t begin to consider a given question until they’re satisfied with the answer to the previous one. A person needs to know what their job is before they can ask how they’re doing, and they generally need to know how they’re doing before they can question how others are (or aren’t) reacting. Only when these individual needs are fulfilled is an employee likely to begin thinking about the company’s overall picture and how they can contribute.

Additionally, rather than approaching communication strictly from a top-down perspective — with a primary focus on the messages and opportunities dictated by senior leaders — this model allows the manager to step into an employee’s shoes and ask what’s of concern to the employee. In other words, the Leader’s Communication Model tells managers to ask: How can I tailor this message to my employees’ concerns, motivate them to ask more questions, and help them better receive the company’s communications?

Fortunately, managers aren’t in this alone. Internal communicators can support managers by helping them understand employees needs and their unique role in fulfilling them. By providing excellent content, easy to access processes and clear expectations, managers can help employees achieve higher levels of success for themselves and the organization.

The Leader’s Communication Model is just one element of ROI’s deep experience developing strategies to help leaders and managers communicate more effectively. If you’re interested in learning more, a great place to start is our interactive workshop “Developing managers and leaders into effective communicators.” This workshop and others can be delivered through an online session or onsite at your organization.

Visit our workshops page for details and reach out for further discussion!

Contributors

Jeff Lewonczyk ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Jeff Lewonczyk

Director, Specialist

Jeff is a strategist and award-winning illustrator with a background in theater, music and arts advocacy. A resident of Brooklyn, he directs musical comedies and helps clients connect with their audiences through compelling stories and messaging.

Sheryl Lewis ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Sheryl Lewis

President

As a founding member of ROI, Sheryl has played a crucial role in the company's success. With over 30 years of experience, she has spearheaded a wide range of initiatives, including strategy development, change management, leadership alignment, and organizational design. Sheryl has served in numerous leadership positions at ROI, including Executive Vice President, Account Manager, Managing Director, Head of Sales and Marketing, and Strategic Advisor. She holds a B.A. in Economics from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard University.

Roger D'Aprix ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Roger D’Aprix

Vice President, Strategist

Roger is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers on workplace communications. A renowned lecturer, strategist and the author of several formative books in the field of internal communications, Roger has been with ROI since 2005. He is an IABC Fellow, a prestigious designation reserved to just over 100 communication professionals, as well as a recipient of the 2014 President’s Award from the Communication Leadership Exchange for his impact on the evolution of organizational communication.