Nothing is more disheartening to a person than to be told they are less important than someone else. And yet, organizations all over the globe are using a communications tactic that does just that. At the same time, these same organizations probably have “employee engagement” as one of their top priorities. What I’m talking about is the communication cascade.
This is what it looks like. An organization has information to share. Maybe they’ve hired a new executive, maybe they’ve achieved a new goal, or maybe they’re announcing a new partnership. The announcement goes to all VPs. A day later it goes to directors and then to managers. Several days later it finally goes to all employees – YAY!? Not so much.
No surprise – the “all employees” who were included in the final email? They already knew. Word spread as soon as the cascade started (likely before). And now, not only are your team members not excited about the great news, the organization has confirmed what they already felt – they are less important than dryer lint.
By doling out information by role and level, you’re reinforcing hierarchical thinking that puts a huge segment of your organization at the bottom. This is not the way to inspire, appreciate and recognize team members.
Is there ever a time when a cascade is appropriate? Absolutely. Here’s when you should share information in phases:
· There are truly some people who need to know first. Did they participate in the interview process? Is the news going to have different implications to how they do their work than it will for the broader organization?
· Managers will be expected to play a key role in the communications. Are you equipping managers with additional information like talking points or a toolkit so that they can play a part in helping front line staff understand the information?
Even in these situations, make the timeline as tight as it can be. The longer you take from beginning communication until everyone is notified the greater your risk of disengaging a segment in the process.
And in these cases, it should be very clear as to why this group is getting information in advance of the rest of the organization. If this can’t be articulated or the answer is “because they are in a leadership role” or (cringe) “because we’ve always done it this way” then you don’t need the cascade.
By communicating to everyone at the same time, team members feel like they are on equal footing as everyone else. It is a simple way of showing respect. So help promote employees, and kill the cascade.