Mastering Upward Communication: Empower Your Team for Success

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on April 25, 2023, 7 min read
Upward Communication

The old adage that communication is not a one-way street is as true now as it has ever been, and today, many teams are attempting to improve communication and collaboration to achieve greater success. But when it comes to business hierarchies, communication is often sent definitively downwards — from CEOs to managers through supervisors to employees — with very little thought given to upward communication where employees get to speak up and share their ideas.


However, mastering the art of upward communication can bring real benefits to tasks, projects, and teams as a whole. In fact, upward communication can empower teams to achieve greater success, improve working environments, and contribute to the overall success of any organization.


So, to help you and your team develop two-way communication within your company and promote the principles that make it possible (however aloof your CEO may be!) we’ve detailed everything you need to know about mastering the art of upward communication.



The Benefits of Upward Communication


The benefits of upward communication as part of a communication workflow also go both ways. That’s to say that not only will employees feel more involved in decision-making processes, leading to feelings of greater empowerment and engagement, but also supervisors, managers, and business leaders will also gain greater insights into what is working and what isn’t. It’s a positive feedback loop that improves over time, with those who master the art enjoying the greatest benefits, such as:

  • Improved decision-making

    When employees feel comfortable communicating their ideas and concerns to their managers, it can lead to better decision-making. Managers can gather more information and perspectives from employees, which can help them make more informed decisions.

  • Increased employee engagement

    Upward communication can help employees feel more engaged and connected to their work. Employees who feel their opinions are valued and heard are more likely to feel invested in the organization’s success.

  • Enhanced problem-solving

    Effective upward communication can help teams identify and address problems more quickly and efficiently. When employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns and feedback, they can work together to develop solutions and improve processes.

  • Fostering a positive work environment

    When employees feel they can communicate openly and honestly with their managers, it can create a more positive work environment. Employees are more likely to feel satisfied and motivated when they feel that their voices are heard and their concerns are taken seriously.


How to Promote Upward Communication

While the benefits are clear, promoting upward communication requires a concerted effort on the part of managers and organization leaders, and it is not without its challenges. However, there are several simple and effective methods to foster upward communication regardless of the size of your business, and introducing some or all of the following is a great place to start.



Open-Door Policy

Perhaps the first and most important point to remember when encouraging upward communication is to ensure that supervisors and managers are available and happy to share their time with employees. Being friendly and approachable and implementing open-door policies are key to developing upward communication.


In addition, managers should facilitate open conversations by asking open-ended questions and actively listening to employees. This means that employees will not feel scared to share their thoughts and ideas, giving voice to those making your projects happen and gaining insights into how they happen.



Regular Feedback Sessions

Regular feedback sessions and one-on-one meetings can allow employees to share their ideas, thoughts, and concerns. This allows managers to gather information and perspectives from employees, which can help them make better decisions. It can also help managers to identify strengths and weaknesses in individual skill sets and implement training sessions to improve them.


Group sessions can be equally rewarding but in a slightly different way. Getting together groups, whether project teams or departments, can help you create safe spaces for brainstorming sessions. This, in turn, leads to greater engagement and collaboration between individuals and teams.



Employee Suggestion Programs

Employee suggestion programs can be an effective way to encourage employees to share their ideas and suggestions with their managers. These programs can be either anonymous, where employees share their concerns, or they can be part of a broader effort to tap into the collective knowledge and creativity of the workforce.


Employee suggestion programs can also help to recognize and reward employees for their contributions. By acknowledging and rewarding individuals for their valuable input, organizations can reinforce a culture of open communication and collaboration, boosting employee morale, engagement, and retention.



Digital Communication Tools

Naturally, upward communication is improved by opening all channels to two-way communication, including instant messaging platforms and collaboration tools. This means managers should be actively involved in both spaces while fostering a productive yet informal place to collaborate.


Spike’s Conversational Email is the perfect platform to promote upward communication, giving all users a balance between instant chat and email, ensuring synchronous communication when time is of the essence, and asynchronous communication when it’s time to take a break! Group chat is also built-in, so you don’t need to keep switching between apps to keep the conversation moving.


In addition, tools such as Tasks and To-Dos can help teams collaborate more effectively, while shared online Notes can act as a brainstorming board for all users to input their ideas. Finally, a shared Calendar can help you all stay on the same page and indicate when the door is open for a quick chat!


Enable your team to share data and information by using a complete communication software


Training and Development for Upward Communication

As previously mentioned, upward communication poses a number of challenges for companies used to a more strictly hierarchical structure. However, through proper training and development, these barriers can soften, leading to better communication throughout the organization.


Communication skills workshops are a good place to start, helping employees improve their communication skills, including active listening, effective questioning, and clear expression of ideas. This gives employees the tools and confidence to approach management with new and effective ideas or plans.


Furthermore, leadership management programs can help managers understand the importance of upward communication and how to create an environment that encourages it. Extend these programs to your employees, who will also feel the benefits.


Finally, employee empowerment programs can give employees more control over their work and decision-making, which can increase their willingness to share their thoughts and ideas with their managers. Employee empowerment is key to upward communication and should be among any organization’s training schedule.



Overcoming Barriers to Enable Upward Communication

Other ways to overcome these barriers to upward communication can be found in addressing the behavioral status quo found in many organizations. Power distance, lack of trust, and poor listening skills are evident in many organizations today, and while heavy workloads and stress often contribute to these issues, taking the time to address them can have profound benefits.


For example, organizations can reduce power distance by flattening organizational structures, creating more opportunities for collaboration and open communication. This means less “chain of command” and more “open floor,” where everyone’s ideas are valued, and employees can approach more senior staff with ideas and concerns.


To achieve this, however, organizations must foster a culture of trust through transparency, recognizing employee contributions, and giving regular feedback to all staff members. Additionally, encouraging active listening by providing training on effective listening skills can help overcome many barriers associated with upward communication in more traditional hierarchical structures.



Monitoring and Evaluating Upward Communication

Evaluations communications


Monitoring and evaluating upward communication is crucial to ensuring that it effectively and positively impacts your organization. This is not as complicated as it may sound, and by implementing a few simple strategies, you can easily monitor the efficacy of upward communication in your business.

  • Regular assessments of communication channels

    Regularly assessing and monitoring communication channels, such as surveys or focus groups, can help organizations understand how effectively information is being shared and received among employees. This enables managers and higher-ups to identify areas for improvement and ensure that channels effectively promote upward communication.

  • Gather Feedback from employees on communication

    Gathering feedback from employees on the effectiveness of the channel you regularly use can help organizations understand how they can better promote upward communication. Employee feedback can also provide valuable insights into any barriers to effective communication and help organizations develop targeted strategies to address these barriers.

  • Adjust strategies as needed

    Based on feedback and assessment, organizations should be willing to adjust their communication strategies to ensure they effectively promote upward communication. This may involve implementing new communication channels like a team communication app, improving existing channels, or providing additional training to employees and managers.


Upward Communication – The Final Word

Nurturing upward communication in teams can be a critical element in the long-term success of both organizations and their employees. While hierarchical structures may be difficult to break down, the most successful companies in the world are now working with “open floor” methodologies. By introducing upward communication and creating a culture of trust and transparency, organizations can benefit from improved decision-making, increased employee engagement, enhanced problem-solving, and a more positive work environment.


However, at least to begin with, this means investing in training and development initiatives, implementing effective communication channels, and regularly monitoring and evaluating upward communication can help organizations create an environment that promotes open communication and values the contributions of all employees. Ultimately, however, this means organizations can harness their employees’ collective knowledge and expertise, leading to greater innovation, creativity, and overall success.


For more information on how Spike can help you foster upward communication in your business, check out our features here and explore the blog for insights into productivity.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

Gain Communication Clarity with Spike

You may also like