Mid-Managers – Engagements Final Frontier!
In a Harvard Business School study, mid-level managers emerged as the most disengaged of all workers. This is not a big surprise. Mid-managers are overworked, undervalued, and the most at-risk employees during lay-offs. Academics and business authors routinely suggest that we get rid of them as a first step to becoming more lean and improving organizational performance. It’s practically mindless at this point. It also protects the executive ranks from the impact of necessary downsizing.
Organizations have a history of adding more and more work to mid-managers. We frequently select many mid-managers because they get the job done quickly and accurately. We then promote them to manage others or to use that core strength to finish an important project. However, many do not receive management skills training, so instead of elevating to a level of management performance, they generally continue doing the work the way that led to their success. Thus, their workload goes up until they break or leave. Ongoing restructuring, the elimination of career ladders, and persistent insecurity have diluted mid-managers’ loyalty. Many become demoralized and disenfranchised. Why don’t we manage this group better?
In 2012, Harvard Business Review indicated that almost half of the Gen-Xs, which represents the largest segment of mid-managers, planned to leave their jobs within two years. A year before, Bersin & Associates released the findings of their research and indicated that: “Middle managers have fewer resources, manage more people, and are less engaged than all other employee groups.” This is backwards! If we think so little of them, why do we let mid-managers lead and motivate the organization’s largest number of workers, often the ones that directly touch our customers?
Take a moment to consider all of the managers in customer service call centers, grocery stores, department stores, service centers, specialty retailers, schools, insurance agencies, healthcare, and government. Now imagine that stressed, overworked, and disengaged professionals are managing the very individuals that engage with our prospective or dedicated customers. Yet we wonder why we complain about the poor customer service we experience and why it so pervasive. The problem has grown to the point that many companies routinely do nothing because the competition is exactly the same. Why change if the public hates everyone in the category? This organizational behavior has become normalized in airline travel, big-box retail, cable TV providers, call centers, and more.
When a CEO or business owner commits to full employee engagement, mid-managers are no longer given the short shrift in development. The business purpose of employee engagement is customer participation and loyalty. True accountability to engagement requires a democratic approach. Mid-managers simply must be given the kind of development that:
- Teaches them how to change, reflect, sell, network, influence, and actively learn
- Shows them how to elevate the use of their time from frenzy to value
- Holds them just as accountable to engagement as senior executives
- Moves them from taskmasters to strategic leaders
If there is any doubt about the value of this quest, start adding up the times you encounter a brand ambassador that you remember as a positive stand-out, a look you in the eye and do whatever it takes to make you a satisfied customer.
There’s our profit opportunity!
(C) Copyright, 2017, David Harder – (All Rights Reserved)
Buy a copy of David’s new book The Workplace Engagement Solution here.