Unlocking Middle Manager Success: Five Steps to Enhance Organisational Performance

“Creating the right atmosphere for middle managers to be the “force multipliers” they are meant to be is not a trivial endeavour.” 

According to a study by Gallup, companies that effectively develop their middle managers achieve 96% higher levels of employee engagement compared to those that don’t. Higher employee engagement leads to increased productivity, lower turnover rates, and better overall organisational performance.  

In the corporate world, leaders at the top and employees on the frontlines often receive significant attention and recognition. However, there is a crucial layer of management that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated – the middle managers. These individuals play a vital role in bridging the gap between senior leadership and employees, and their significance should not be underestimated. McKinsey & Company presents a set of five steps aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of middle managers within organisations: 

  1. Streamline organisational structure: Organisations should evaluate their setup to ensure that managers are responsible for an optimal number of employees. Having too many subordinates can overwhelm managers, while too few may burden capable individuals with unwanted managerial duties. By optimising the number of employees under each manager, organisations can improve efficiency without reducing staff numbers.
  2. Redefine managerial roles: Middle managers often find themselves caught up in bureaucratic tasks, even though they are not the cause of bureaucracy. To address this issue, organisations should review and categorise managerial responsibilities, identifying areas where automation or the elimination of unnecessary work can free up managers’ time for more valuable activities. Technologies such as generative AI can be utilised to streamline tasks.
  3. Focus on capability development: Organisations should define the desired behaviours that link to improved financial performance and align them with their business strategy and values. By prioritising specific behaviours and offering opportunities for skill development, organisations can bridge any gaps in manager proficiency. Tailored learning paths can be designed for different managerial levels.
  4. Address manager experience: Middle managers often experience burnout and a lack of purpose in their roles. To combat this, organisations should enhance the sense of purpose associated with the managerial position. They can promote the inclusion of underrepresented groups, provide development opportunities that keep managers engaged, and prioritise the protection of positive workplace experiences.
  5. Establish accountability measures: Organisations should implement mechanisms that reinforce desired behaviours and provide ongoing progress updates for middle managers. Performance management systems, goal setting, feedback frameworks, and performance reviews can be utilised for this purpose. Transparent communication of survey results and fostering a sense of competition among managers can further drive improvement.

Investing in the development of middle managers is crucial for both the overall health of an organisation and its financial performance. Companies that prioritise middle management development demonstrate their commitment to creating a well-rounded and successful organisation that thrives at every level.  

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