Workvivo’s Guide To Supporting Line Manager Communications

Caitlin Kirwan

Internal Comms & Engagement Expert

25 Jun 2023

Wondering how you can help line managers across your organization deliver effective internal comms? Workvivo’s Guide To Supporting Line Manager Communications is here to help!   

Line managers have the single biggest impact on team performance and account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Sitting at the heart of their success is consistent and effective communication, which Gallup found was directly connected to higher engagement.   

As critical enablers of successful internal communication across an organization, employees often see line managers as their ‘channel of choice’ for receiving internal content and information. And employees with managers who communicate well are almost three times as likely to be engaged than those with managers who do not. 

So what can we do to ensure our line managers are best equipped to communicate with their teams? How can we ensure consistent and aligned messaging, right across the organization? And what should the scope of a line manager’s responsibility be when it comes to internal communications? 

This guide answers all of those questions, and more. Grab yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and let’s get stuck in!

What communication tasks are line managers responsible for? 

An organization’s line managers provide a direct link between senior management and the wider workforce. Their role in articulating company communications, tailoring central messaging for their teams, and providing upward feedback is vitally important. 

A report from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Inside found that internal communications and HR professionals expect line managers to carry out the following communication-related tasks: 

  • Forward updates and cascades to their teams 
  • Reinforce organization values and behaviors 
  • Initiative conversations within their teams
  • Listen to employees 

Effective line manager communication is a precursor for increasing employee engagement, improving motivation boosting productivity. So, after years of conversation and discussion, why are line manager communications still a hot topic amongst IC and employee experience professionals?  

Why are line manager communications still in the spotlight? 

Time and time again, research highlights line manager ineffectiveness as one of the most significant blockers of successful internal communications.  

“Rightly or wrongly, line managers are consistently seen as being poor communicators and a barrier to the success of internal comms” – Tim Vaughan, Poppulo 

While the expectations placed on line managers are high, the structured support provided to them from a communication perspective is often low. Some would even go as far as to say that they are being set up to fail through a lack of time, training, and adequate resources.

It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect line managers to automatically be internal comms pros without investing in their communication skills and providing them with the right resources. It’s a two-way street, and as internal communications professionals, it’s our job to enable and empower people managers to communicate effectively.

“Businesses invest in their channels such as intranets and social enterprise platforms, but aren’t making the same investment in their line managers” – Dan Holden, CIPR Inside 

Thankfully, the tides are beginning to turn. Around a third of internal comms professionals said that enhancing people manager communication would be a priority for them in 2023, and an increasing amount of guidance is now available for employee experience professionals to support and enable their line managers.  

So on that note, here are our top tips for supporting line manager communications within your organization! 

Supporting line manager communications

  • Produce high-quality content
  • Provide communication training
  • Prioritize ease and convenience
  • Partner, don’t preach 

We’ve grouped our guidance into four clear areas, designed to help you equip and enable your line managers.  

1) Produce high-quality content 

Let’s cut to the case – line managers are busy people. Yet one survey found that nearly half of line managers are having to rewrite the content they receive from their central comms team, and over 90% said the messaging they were getting was inconsistent. Eek! 

The quality of the content we ask line managers to cascade to their teams needs to be top-notch. For line managers to share company messaging effectively, we need to ensure they are receiving a compelling narrative that is well-structured and adds clear value to their teams. 

The content itself must be engaging and consistent. It should be short and punchy, leaving room for team discussion and input. We also suggest including a few lines on the purpose and objective of the communication so that line managers can see how the content adds value and why it is important for their team members to receive it.  

2) Provide communication training

CIPR Inside report found that despite 73% of line managers agreeing that communication is a valued leadership skill, only 15% received mandatory training on the topic. 

Ultimately, we need to invest in the communication capability of line managers if we expect them to play a key role in bringing company-wide communication and engagement strategies to life. 

“It’s important that we support line managers to improve communication by understanding their communication style, how it impacts others, and how it can improve workplace relationships” – Jenni Field, Redefining Communications 

In addition to more standardized formal communication training being added to the people manager learning path, employee experience professionals can provide support by delivering briefings on specific campaigns, comms Q&A leader drop-in sessions, and opt-in CPD courses via the intranet. 

3) Prioritize ease and convenience

Remember that line managers are being bombarded with messages and requests from all over the place, so it’s important to be strategic with your requests and messaging. They are certainly not going to use 15 minutes of their weekly team meeting to read out a long-form, disengaging company update from their laptop screen. 

Providing training and delivering quality content is a great start, but the content must also be packaged and formatted in a way that is easy and convenient for managers to disseminate to their teams. 

This might mean creating weekly briefing packs that summarize important updates and news to be shared, including discussion prompts and the opportunity for leaders to communicate employee feedback and comments upwards. Or it might mean taking the time to build a functional ‘Leader Hub’ on your intranet where team leaders can easily access and download helpful resources, templates, and updates. 

Putting practical channels and processes in place makes the internal communication process smoother for everyone and ensures employees across different teams and departments receive consistent and aligned messaging.   

A platform like Workvivo can be an incredibly useful resource for managers to direct employees to more detailed information on a particular topic and follow-up updates. 

4) Partner, don’t preach

Line managers are our communication allies. Our champions. Our comms heroes. They are not barriers, burdens, or blockers. They are regularly overloaded with information and are working hard to filter messaging in a way that they feel is best for their team members. So let’s move away from preaching what and how they should be communicating, and move towards a partnership. 

Line managers know our internal audience better than anyone and are an incredibly valuable asset. We can better support them by listening to their feedback, collating suggestions, and adjusting our approaches in response. They should be involved in discussions to test key messaging and invite early feedback. 

Running manager workshops or pre-briefings on things like change programs and new benefit launches is also a great way to turn leaders into advocates who feel more involved and are more inclined to own their part in the communications plan.   

Workvivo’s here to help line managers communicate

The rewards for more effectively supporting line manager communications are endless. 

Happier managers who feel valued and respected, a more engaged workforce, better involvement with comms campaigns… the list goes on. We hope this guide has provided you with the inspiration and insights to boost your line manager communication effectiveness! 

Book a demo to find out how Workvivo can support you on your employee experience journey. We’re a sociable bunch, and we’d love to connect! 


By Caitlin Kirwan

Caitlin Kirwan is a communication and engagement professional with over 10 years of experience leading internal communications. Since launching her career with BMW in 2012, she has managed national and global internal comms and engagement programs across multiple sectors for organizations including Deloitte, PayPal, and DAS.