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The IC 2023 Index – Leaders and Internal Comms

Leaders and internal comms

This month, we are dedicating three blogs to the recent IC 2023 Index report. For this final instalment, we are looking at what the report said about leaders and internal comms – something that is surely relevant to almost every business in the country.

You can find part one of this trilogy here, and part two is here.

We closed the last blog with some stats from the report that show a few things about comms from leaders:

  • Trust in comms from direct managers is higher than trust in comms from CEOs. (An average of 65% of employees trust what their direct manager tells them, versus 54% for CEOs.)

  • Trust in both direct managers and CEOs is higher in organisations with dedicated comms teams

  • The larger the organisation, the lower the trust in the CEO’s comms (dropping from 59% for employers with 500-999 employees to 47% for those with 10,000 or more).

“It’s human nature to trust people you know more than people you don’t. High-performing organisations expect line managers to prioritise their role as communicator.”

- Claire Grundy (Director, Internal Communication & Engagement)

So, what do our people want to hear about from their leaders? Unsurprisingly, top of the list of “things we want more of” is updates on team priorities and goals, closely followed by updates on how the whole organisation is performing.

Employees want to know how they are doing, how they are contributing, and what their immediate and longer-term priorities are. They also want to know how what they are doing fits into the bigger picture. It’s part of their sense of worth, value, and relevance. When they understand the bigger picture and their role in it, they develop a stronger sense of belonging and purpose, which is key to their loyalty, commitment, and motivation.

We know that regular updates on the organisation's performance, goals, challenges, and successes promote transparency and trust. It can motivate employees by showing them the impact of their work. When they see that their efforts contribute to the company's success, they are more engaged and motivated to perform at their best. Just as when they are aware of the organisation's goals and strategies, they can align their individual efforts with the broader objectives.

People want one-to-one time with their leaders

But, interestingly, the next item on the list of “things we want more of” isn’t a topic or subject, and it’s not something that a comms team can help much with. 30% of respondents said they want “more quality time” with their direct leaders. A further 21% wanted more dedicated 1-2-1 meetings. So, quality time with leaders matters to our people. Organisations need to ensure this time is made available, and that those leaders have the information they are likely to need in advance of that time with their direct reports.

This brings us neatly onto another of the report’s headlines:

“One in three line managers don’t feel equipped to lead team conversations”

- IC Index 2023

This isn’t surprising. Most people who achieve team leader status are promoted there because they’ve proved that they’re good at their job and that they have a good work ethic. They may even have shown good one-to-one, peer-to-peer communication skills whilst in that role. But being a capable and confident communicator in a group setting is a very different skill. It’s one that takes time, training, and support, and it’s not one that comes easily to everyone. Organisations also, therefore, need to ensure that time is devoted to training, upskilling and otherwise supporting leaders.

The problem, it seems, is two-fold. On top of the relative lack of experience and confidence within delivery, is a lack of clarity on what specifically needs to be communicated. A third of team leaders responded to say they want more information, and clearer information, on what to communicate to their teams.

“What’s coming through loud and clear is the need to support leaders and line managers both as a channel and as an audience.”

- Caroline Lagden (Head of IC, Lloyds Banking Group)

One way round the problem is to provide leaders with the content they need to disseminate in user-friendly detail, well in advance of their meetings. One solution that we offer at Comms Guru is Touchpoint, a digital meeting platform that provides leaders with videos and slide decks to support them with delivering key messaging and sparking healthy discussions. This platform offers the bonus of knowing that key messages are delivered verbatim and undiluted. It also facilitates the recording of which meetings have taken place and when, along with collecting leader and audience feedback.

A remote meeting platform to help with internal comms

It does seem from this, that in many cases, organisations are missing a trick. Direct line managers are the most trusted conduit for vital information, but many of them are ill-prepared to deliver this effectively. Some time and effort spent in this arena could pay handsomely when it comes to an informed, motivated, and trusting workforce. It would also, by the sound of it, lead to a happier and less stressed tier of middle-management.

As a closing aside, the report also revealed that our people have preferences in how they hear from their more senior leaders, too. Just under a half of our workers prefer to hear from their senior managers through face-to-face interactions such as meetings, briefings, or town halls. This figure is lower for CEOs, so it seems that those at the very top can get away with email or other remote or digital comms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is our youngest employees who are the most keen demographic in hearing from their CEOs via videos and remote briefings.

If you found the stats in these three blogs interesting, please head over to the Institute of Internal Communication and check out the report. It’s a fantastic insight into the thoughts of UK workers with regards the internal comms they receive. And if we’ve got you thinking that your comms offering could do with a polish or some TLC, please give us a shout. We’d love to chat and help you get your internal comms to the next level.


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