The Gatehouse Blog

Line managers: the dismissed powerhouses of internal communication

Now in its eighth year, Gatehouse’s State of the Sector report offers a snapshot of the internal communication profession, capturing the activities, objectives and challenges faced by practitioners across the industry. This year, nearly 400 internal communicators from over seventy countries participated, and the results offer some surprising insight into one of the biggest obstacles they face – line manager communication skills (or lack thereof).

As any internal communicator knows, a good message cannot singlehandedly make employees integrate new information – the channel holds the utmost importance when it comes to engaging employees. Line managers, who are considered to be visible to their teams by 93% of respondents to this year’s survey, should be one of the most powerful internal communication channels within organisations. Yet only one in five respondents believes line managers in their organisation are good communicators. What’s more, nearly a third of the IC professionals surveyed view team meetings as ineffective.

A barrier to successful IC that is seldom addressed


It comes as no surprise, then, that 59% of respondents cited the lack of line manager communication skills as the biggest barrier to successful internal communication. However, in spite of this perceived lack of skills, less than a third of the practitioners surveyed will be prioritising improving line manager communication ability over the next 12 months. Three quarters of respondents admitted to not being involved in providing communication training.

Overdependence on one-way, electronic channels


An overwhelming majority of respondents had implemented some sort of manager communications, with only 10% saying they don’t have any specific channels for this audience. However, when asked how they communicate with line managers, respondents named channels that are mostly one-way, focused on cascading information rather than stimulating a conversation. Two thirds of respondents said they use ad hoc email announcements, while ad hoc toolkits and cascade packs are the second most popular channel, named by 43%. The third most popular channel is e-newsletters, used by 36%. Meanwhile, two-way channels such as one-to-one coaching sessions and face-to-face briefings are used by only 8% and 31% respectively.


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