This approach, however, overlooks the crucial role middle managers play in navigating complex change and fostering a productive, meaningful work environment.
Why Middle Managers Matter
Middle managers are the linchpins of an organization. They’re the glue that holds teams together, fostering inclusion and psychological safety. They’re not just administrators; they’re leaders, coaches, and mentors. They’re the ones who can make work more meaningful and productive, and they’re essential for true organizational transformation.
The Value of Middle Managers
Our research on 1,700 global companies shows that firms with strong human capital metrics, including a robust middle management layer, outperform their peers. They have higher returns on invested capital, superior long-term financial performance, and sustained revenue growth, even during a pandemic.
Middle Managers as Change Agents
Middle managers are uniquely positioned to lead in several critical areas:
- Responding to Automation: As technology reshapes work, middle managers can help reconfigure jobs and tasks, ensuring that human skills are effectively utilized.
- Winning the Talent War: Middle managers can craft individualized working arrangements that attract and retain talent, enhancing recruitment, retention, and diversity.
- Leading Employee Development: Middle managers, who know their team members better than anyone else, can provide continual coaching and address performance issues early on.
- Demonstrating Purpose and Compassion: Middle managers can connect employees to the company’s goals and values, fostering a sense of belonging and satisfaction.
- Making Smart Use of Data: Middle managers can help make data understandable and actionable, ensuring that data-based activities don’t perpetuate bias or impede performance.
Empowering Middle Managers
To fully leverage the potential of middle managers, senior leaders need to:
- Reassess their roles and responsibilities, giving them the autonomy and flexibility they need to excel.
- Evaluate managers not just on revenue and profit, but also on team performance, diversity, attrition, and employee engagement.
- Ensure that the organization has a clear purpose that aligns with the managers’ purpose.
- Encourage managers to share best practices and speak up about systemic problems.
- Show compassion to managers, just as they are expected to show compassion to their reports.
In today’s world, human capital is as important as financial capital. Recognizing the value of middle managers is key to unlocking the full potential of your organization.