Is the people element of middle management being squeezed out?


Modern managers are under increasing pressure in the workplace to be almost super human; work more hours, ensure clients are beyond satisfied, look for their own next big leap, manage expenses and implement ever changing HR policies. The list is endless and now managers are being expected to understand their colleagues, their diverse needs and drivers, in order to keep them super engaged and increase their productivity even further. Despite increased pressure to be a well rounded manager are managers at the end of the day still being judged mainly on how much revenue they are making for the business and how can we drive a change to ensure the 'people' part of management is not forgotten?

Most organisations use some sort of judgement based system to rate managers, be it score card, colleague engagement level, 360 reviews, OKR's, objectives, etc... The list is endless but the reality is that managers can have a low 'people' score but still be kept on by a business because they are able to bring in clients and increase revenue year on year. For the Ideal Worker manager that situation is sustainable but I really believe that the average manager also wants to be an excellent 'people' manager as well as contributing to a strong revenue stream. This creates a tension for managers who believe in the value and benefit of diversity of thought, how do they realistically carve out time to develop and grow diverse talent in organisations where generally the impact of people focused activities is not always immediately felt in that year's revenue generation, so is often de-prioritized.

One way to ensure that well rounded managers are valued in an organisation is to promote a culture of diversity of thought from the top of the organisation and then ensure all objectives and OKR's flow down to all levels. For example if senior management have an OKR to increase the diversity of new hires by X% over the first half of the year this needs then to be translated into a mid-level manager OKR of specific activities to support this overall ideal. The could be to working with HR to implement at new recruitment policy for the team where only diverse interview panels are used for new hires. This must then be translated into a hiring manager specific activity, such as undertaking unconscious bias training prior to any future interviewing. By ensuring that the action flows through the organisation and is being role modeled as important at all stages a manager is given 'permission' to prioritize people management.

Another mechanism to ensure that the people element of management is valued within an organization is to include an evaluation of this element in any promotion interview process. Colleagues create the culture of an organization not announcements form CEO's or pledges signed. Consequently it is vital that as colleagues move along the talent pipeline their contribution to the company culture increases. If a pillar of an organisation is 'People' then any promotion process should evaluate a managers contribution to this issue, in addition to their overall revenue generation and client engagement. This then gives managers permission to work on their people management alongside other elements of their management activity.

Well rounded managers ensure that organizations are able to reap the benefit of diversity of thought but real organisational change will only embed if these managers are given the chance to prioritize the people element of management.

If you liked this post please check out my post on how to normalize a common culture around flexible working through inclusive agility.


All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

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