"It's Not My Job!"

Conventional wisdom, mostly garnered through employee surveys, says that employees' preferred source of company information is their immediate supervisor. All well and good, if that supervisor is a good communicator. But what if he/she is not? "Training," you say. "Coach the supervisors in good communication." That makes good sense to almost everyone except the supervisors. Why? Because communication is not their job!

"Blasphemy," you say, "communication is everyone's job." Is it? How is it measured? Most supervisors and middle level managers are most often evaluated using specific yardsticks, like production, sales, efficiency or customer service. Raises, promotions or bonuses are rarely, if ever, based on communication skills.

With no evaluation incentive and barely enough time to meet those other performance expectations, improving communication skills is not high on the "to do" list. And therein lies the difficulty of laying the responsibility for communication at the feet of the supervisor. Some do it well, some don't.

So, if you want "the word" to go out with any consistency at all, give supervisors some tools with which to work. Help them look good (and be more effective in carrying your messages) by preparing talking points for group meetings. Give them a list of questions they may be asked and provide appropriate answers for their department, division or business unit. Keep them well informed about company issues in general, especially if you anticipate any media attention. Give them a "hot line" to call for immediate assistance in clarifying complex issues.

Don't count on them alone to carry your messages. Back them up with aggressive print and electronic communication with regular opportunities for employees to participate in town meeting communication formats so everyone gets the same word in a timely manner.

Berry Associates has over 25 years' experience in helping corporations improve employee communication. We will be happy to talk with you about your needs and how we can help you enlist supervisors and managers as key allies in your employee communication program.