Most corporate executives perform the function of middle management: connecting strategic leadership to the operational core and, most importantly, acting as a conduit for communication within a company. They serve as translators, providing feedback in many different directions. During crises, these essential roles are reinforced.
In the current coronavirus crisis, this role has been elevated, especially with middle managers who find themselves more challenged than ever before in offering answers to a broad range of questions on topics such as part-time work policies or factory employees working from home.
Companies invest a great deal toward preparing their senior leaders for their role as communicators. Much less effort, however, goes into readying middle management in this area, in part due to the greater number of middle managers working in numerous locations.
What can be done to support middle management in their strategic and pivotal communications in the midst of this global pandemic?
- Empower managers to act in the role of corporate translator and contact person
The middle managers of a company must be capable of communicating credibly and authentically, both internally and externally. To do so requires preparation and training. Virtual training sessions, such as via webinars or video conferencing, are highly recommended. In this way, middle managers can exchange ideas freely in a safe environment and learn how to address potential questions arising from the staff and how to deal with issues related to the plant.
- Enable direct communication with top management
In a crisis, direct talk with top management does more than just motivate middle managers. A call or videoconference from the CEO builds trust and respect and serves to pass along vital information from the frontlines of the crisis to senior leadership. This is an important means for developing an accurate picture of the facts on the ground and builds team spirit throughout the company.
- Establish a culture of dialogue
The more a company encourages the exchange of ideas, the more effective managers can be in supporting and communicating key messages. In a crisis, dialogue between all employee groups should be further promoted. Consider building a platform on which middle managers from different areas can exchange views (such as on the topic of employee motivation or other pressing issues).
- Select the proper mix of communication tools
It’s best not to overwhelm already-stressed managers with a wealth of multiple communications platforms. Instead, strategically select a mix of communication tools, balancing indirect and direct channels.
Bottom line: Effective communication is a critical weapon in the ongoing battle with the pandemic. Middle management sits at a key vantage point in the ongoing crisis, one that needs to be utilized in communicating internally and externally. How companies are able to take advantage of this rich resource will determine how successfully it is in navigating and emerging from the current crisis.