The Importance of Top-Down Communication with Frontline Workers
Last updated on June 6, 2022 at 06:09 pm
Why Top-Down Communication Matters
Top-down communication is where most organizations need to focus. Right now, many companies with frontline workers rely on the cascade of information. For example, the COO tells their executive leaders in the field a message, and they tell their direct reports, who tell their direct reports, all the way down to the hourly, frontline employee.
But we’ve all played the game of telephone. A lot can get lost in translation.
What is Top-Down Employee Communication?
Top-down comms is also sometimes called the cascade of communication. Picture your org chart. Top-down communication is when messages from the top of your company are strategically communicated down each level in the chain of command.
When I did internal comms at Chipotle, it looked like this:
- A member of the C-Suite, often the CEO or COO, shared a message with the top level of restaurant leadership: Executive Team Directors.
- The Executive Team Directors then had a call with their direct reports—Team Directors—where they conveyed the message, its importance, and the next steps.
- The Team Directors then share that message with their direct reports: Field Leaders.
- Field Leaders then conveyed the message to all the General Managers of the restaurants they managed.
- Then GMs had the task of sharing the message with their teams.
While this may seem inefficient, this cascade model of communication is actually really important for large or complex changes/updates. Often, it’s best to give managers a heads-up on what’s happening with specific talking points and action items before the message is shared with everyone. We want managers at all levels of the organization to be well-versed and on board with whatever the change is.
The biggest issues with this way of communicating are:
- Messages can get lost in translation along the chain.
- Some managers are worse at communicating and sharing all the details.
- You rely on individuals not spreading misinformation.
These challenges are why we do recommend using targeted comms through an app and email to directly target the key messages to each group in the chain, rather than rely on them sharing the message and hoping it makes it to hourly employees intact.
Watch this video to learn more about what top-down communication is and why it’s critical to get right.
How to Improve Top-Down Comms
The biggest challenge with communication that has to trickle from the top of the organization to the bottom is that not everyone along the chain has been trained in communication.
One of my favorite moments from PRSA Connect 2022 was when speaker Joni Kirk said, “You can’t expect a [fill in the blank] to be a communicator.” What she means is that, although most roles may require communication to be successful, most people who aren’t professional communicators don’t necessarily have the skills. And it’s up to us to teach them.
Joni’s presentation focused on the group that can be the weakest link in the chain of communication: managers.
So, we need to strengthen the resources we give to our frontline managers. We need to give them tools that will help them communicate and be successful in their roles. And then we need to get the high-level, organization-wide messages to everyone at the same time.
You might think you’re doing this right now, but if you rely heavily on email, intranet, and in-person meetings, you’re likely leaving out a big chunk of employees. This only becomes more complicated at companies that have multiple facilities, brands, or geographic locations.
But with theEMPLOYEEapp, we allow you to easily communicate from the top down to every employee and, through profiles—allowing you to have multiple content publishers across your organization and build that message chain that eliminates the uncertainty in your message, all while retaining control over who has posting permissions, where they can post, and who they can share information with.
What About Middle-Out and Bottom-Up Communication?
Over the last few years, the conversation around corporate comms has evolved. It’s not enough to just have a strong top-down communication strategy. Now, we need to consider bottom-up comms and middle-out.
Bottom-Up Communication is exactly what it sounds like. This is when companies tap into the employee voice and get feedback, suggestions, and stories from employees throughout the organization.
Middle-Out Communication is where you empower more of your mid-level managers to communicate regularly. Our clients do this by giving their middle managers access to post content on their employee app to select users. This helps them take charge of formal recognition comms, day-to-day operations (they know best!), and other areas of expertise. And by enabling them to use a channel rather than just face-to-face, you can track how they’re doing and provide tips, training, and advice to continue improving their communication skills.
Interested in Learning More About theEMPLOYEEapp?
Are you ready to see how theEMPLOYEEapp can help you with your top-down, middle-out, and bottom-up communication strategies? Request a demo today and see it in action!
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