What Is Upwards Communication? (Advantages and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are several approaches to enhancing effective communication in an organization. Regardless of your position, consider understanding how the upwards communicative approach can positively impact a company. Learning about upwards communication and its advantages can help increase your work productivity and employee satisfaction. In this article, we explain what upwards communication is, describe how it differs from downwards communication, outline the advantages, and provide examples of it in an organization.

What is upwards communication?

Upwards communication, or upwards vertical communication, is the flow of information from lower-levels to upper management in an organization. Its primary purpose is to allow regular employees to provide suggestions, feedback, or criticism regarding the company's daily operations to managers, supervisors, or directors. It can also inform them on progress towards company goals or challenges in various aspects of organizational functioning. It's prevalent among organizations that encourage an inclusive and participative workplace culture. Companies that foster this communicative approach can make better decisions to impact their employees positively.

How does upwards vertical communication differ from downwards vertical communication?

Here's a list of factors that properly distinguish the two types of vertical communication:

Communication direction

A significant difference between the two terms is in the direction of communication. In upwards movement, the direction is from the bottom to the top. Employees report to superior company management. In downward communication, the direction flow is from top to bottom. It focuses on the transfer of information from management to employees.

Subject matter

The subject matter of the upwards communicative approach entails opinions, suggestions, requests, complaints, or feedback. This is usually from lower to higher-ranked officials in an organization. In contrast, downward communication comprises company rules, regulations, orders, and instructions that people in upper-level position give to employees.

Communicative nature

The upwards movement depicts a participative approach to company situations. This is because it allows and encourages regular employees to share their work-related opinions. In comparison, downward communication shows a directive communicative nature as it lets higher management order and instruct employees on specific company affairs.

Related: Communication in Organizations (With Benefits and Types)

Advantages of upwards vertical communication

Here are six advantages of incorporating the upwards communicative approach in an organization:

Creates an inclusive community in an organization

Incorporating upwards vertical communication into an organization can foster an inclusive community. It can create a sense of meaning, purpose, and inclusion among employees. When employees realize that the company appreciates and encourages them to share their opinions, it naturally increases their work satisfaction and experience. It also makes them feel like a major contributor to the company's growth and success.

For example, company management encourages employees to share ideas for additional features of a new service the company intends to launch. They create an open contest for all employees and declare a reward for the winner. The employee with the best innovative feature that gets the reward can get a sense of work satisfaction by contributing to the company's decision-making process for the new service.

Gives employees a sense of value

Upwards vertical communication allows employees to interact and communicate directly with company management. It makes employees feel like the company values their presence and opinion and gives them the morale and motivation to work even harder for the company. The sense of value intensifies when company management makes changes or adjustments according to employees' suggestions. It also gives them the confidence to share better ideas that can improve overall work productivity in the company.

For example, employees communicate their wish of reducing their work duration by one hour to higher company management. They voice their concerns about not having a proper work-life balance and need more time to increase their productivity levels. The supervisor shares their sentiments at a board meeting, and they decide to address it by having employees work from home for the hour they won't be present at the office. The employee who made the suggestion can feel that the company values their input.

Related: How to Show Recognition for Employees (With Examples)

Increases mutual trust between employees and managers

Upwards vertical communication can instil mutual trust and transparency between employees and higher management. Employees are free to speak because they trust the company management to consider their suggestions. Similarly, company management trusts employees to use this direct communication approach to be positive and proactive. For example, company management gives employees the chance to provide feedback or advice at a general company-wide meeting. They trust the employees to provide honest suggestions and feedback, while the employees trust the higher management to use their inputs for the company's development.

Helps managers recognize areas to improve

Managers can strive to improve the same way they require their employees to do better. Upwards vertical communication provides a constructive mode for employee-employer feedback and evaluation by allowing employees to assess their managers and help them recognize areas to improve. For example, a company executive can send a survey to employees of each department to evaluate the characteristics of their team lead or manager. The department heads can review the evaluation results and recognize the areas they can improve to function as better leaders for their department.

Improves work productivity

Using upwards vertical communication can create opportunities to improve work productivity. Employees can share knowledge, tactics, and strategies to help employees with skill gaps improve faster and work more efficiently. They can also convey innovative ideas to enhance the productivity of the organization. Sharing company information can have a significant positive impact on overall company performance.

For example, an employee notices that a new team member is facing challenges with one of their assigned tasks. The employee requests their manager to collaborate with the new employee on the assigned task. This enables them to complete the job much more quickly and allows the new employee to learn how to complete that task more efficiently, increasing productivity and efficiency in the company.

Enhances organizational alignment

Upwards vertical communication is essential to enhance organizational alignment among employees. Employees that engage in upwards vertical communication can freely request clarification about a company's mission, vision, and goals. This enhances a positive work experience and ensures every employee works towards a common goal.

For example, an employee develops an idea that can potentially achieve one of the company's long-term goals in a shorter duration. They discuss it with their manager, who shares the opinion at a board meeting a few weeks later. The board approves it and requests the employee's department to research the potential risks and benefits of adopting the idea in the company's operations. The employee can feel proud about their contribution to achieving a long-term organizational goal for the company.

Examples of upwards vertical communication in an organization

The following are examples of upwards vertical communication in an organization:

Suggestion boxes

A suggestion box is a tool companies use to obtain comments or suggestions from employees. Companies may use either an actual box where employees can submit written feedback, advice, or complaints, or use an online format. If using an online approach, companies can create an e-mail address specific to the initiative.

Performance reports

A performance report details the evaluation results of a particular work activity or employee's work performance. Using upwards vertical communication in an organization enables employees to review and rate the performance of their direct supervisors or managers and other company officials. They can assess the performance of company managers and employees simultaneously to show the efforts and results of every company official. This communicative approach also requires a performance report of higher company management to demonstrate their efforts and motivate them to improve their productivity at work.

Related: Performance Review Goals (Definition, Types, and Importance)

Company meetings

Having company meetings can enable employees to have direct interactions with company managers. The meeting may be one-on-one between employees and their immediate manager or supervisor. It may also be a general company-wide meeting that requires all employees and executives to address significant changes in an organization's structure or future growth plans, or to celebrate a relevant accomplishment in the company.

Employee satisfaction surveys

Companies can use employee satisfaction surveys to understand the extent or degree of employees' satisfaction with their daily job activities, work ethic, or company culture. Surveys are a good example of an upwards communicative method because they allow employees to rate their work experience with the company. Executives can review the answers and learn about the areas to improve to increase employees' satisfaction and facilitate a better approach to effective organizational management.

Focus groups

A focus group typically comprises employees and a human resource manager or other managerial officers. Here, employees can discuss several company issues with management. Managers, supervisors, or other company officials also use focus groups to ask employees how they may feel about a new company policy, rule, or regulation. Officials record the group sessions for other executives to review, which may help during important decision-making processes in the organization.

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