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The Unpopular Truth: Middle Managers Are Critical to Your Business

70% of a team’s engagement depends on the manager

Gallup

Middle management – it’s become something of a dirty word. Once held in high regard, all too often those who have the tall task of encouraging, supporting and motivating are reduced to mere meme fodder. Yet they are there – a key connection between the boardroom and the shop floor. Undervalued? Certainly. Under-invested? Most definitely. All of which hasn’t been helped by the focus on leadership – a focus that seems to have come at the cost of middle managers who go overlooked.

The allure of leadership is outshining the reality of middle management

“89% of executives surveyed believe strengthening organizational leadership is a top priority”.

“More money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate learning”

Noticing a theme here? Leaders are being championed, debated, analysed. Companies are investing heavily in primping and priming their leaders – who are ‘in vogue’ and under focus. And it’s logical, commercially-savvy even, for them to do so. After all, few other factors influence every layer of an organisation as leadership can and do. That said, there’s no escaping the fact that this focus on developing leadership is in stark contrast to middle management, who are increasingly being seen as expendable and un-necessary – only adding to the bloated levels of a company. Yet it is middle management who are connected to those ‘out on the ground’ – the staff who form the largest percentage of workers. 

“70% of a team’s engagement depends on the manager” – Gallup

It’s time to take another look at middle managers – those who are there making their staff happy (or woefully discontent), motivating their team (or simply frustrating them), driving productivity (or hindering it).

The ‘Boss Effect’, as coined by Gallup, argues that there are three factors that influence which of these impacts a middle manager makes:

  • Employee perceptions of the manager
  • The manager’s level of engagement
  • The manager’s talents

People leave managers, not companies”

All in all, if you want to drive productivity, then it’s time to put the spotlight back onto the middle manager. It’s time to:

1 . Shake-up your hiring to pick people with an innate talent for people management (when companies systematically pick candidates with high management talent, they can achieve 27% higher revenue per employee than average).

2 . Focus on management engagement – the knock-on effect is clear, engaged managers make for engaged employees.

“Employees who work for highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged”

To drive engagement, the common gripes of middle managers must be understood and addressed. Which, according to Harvard research, includes:

  • Their distinctiveness being undervalued
  • Their organisation being inefficient and ineffective
  • Being overworked
  • Having work that lacks meaning and purpose
  • No career or promotion opportunities
  • Poor leadership
  • Feeling as though the issues they raise aren’t addressed

3 . Train your managers to become coaches – Few managers are born with the skills demanded by their role. Most only become the managers they are because of training and development – central to which is receiving and listening to feedback on a regular basis – we’re talking weekly or daily, not monthly, quarterly or annually.

Middle management, meet Weekly10

Quick, simple, effective middle management empowerment Weekly10 was made to empower all-important middle managers who are long overdue a tool to support them in their role. Packed into the four corners of a smartphone or tablet screen are features that deliver several critical functions…

Feedback – Employees provide feedback in just 10 minutes, answering simple but insightful questions about their work, achievements and issues – in return, managers read, review, respond and take action (all in 5 minutes).

“58% of people say they trust strangers more than their own boss”

Employee exposure – Weekly10 moves beyond the one-to-one relationship between manager and employee, to enable positive feedback that is delivered between fellow employees (peer-to-peer feedback is especially essential given that team members have the fullest understanding of day-to-day happenings).

“Peer feedback can have a strong impact, boosting employee performance by as much as 14%”

Recognition – Weekly10 leads managers to being able to easily and instantly recognise and celebrate the success of their team members. Yet equally, it can also assist them in their continual effort to uncover risk. Through their team member’s own words managers can almost immediately know of team disharmony, employees who are unhappy with elements of their job, or other issues that would otherwise fester and ultimately lead to employee churn.

“69% of employees say that they would work harder if their efforts were recognised”

Consistency is key – managers and employees alike must have access to the same tools, streamlining employee feedback and doing away with clunky systems that create needless administrative tasks.

“69% of managers report feeling uncomfortable communicating with employees in general”


HR, we have a problem. Middle management often feels challenged in talking openly with their team members and delivering constructive feedback. This shouldn’t be seen as a weakness. There’s a lot to be said for the manager who cares about the feelings of others. Yet they equally must also be able to provide honest and open feedback, being candid in their communication. Weekly10 removes the sometimes-intimidating nature of face-to-face formal feedback, providing a collaborative, constructive environment in which to communicate instead.

“Studies show that more regular feedback leads to a 14.9% reduction in employee turnover rates”

The communication continues to flow, regardless of the day-to-day firefighting and pressing ever-changing priorities. This also sidesteps the need for often detested (infective) quarterly or annual employee reviews (96% of employees said that receiving feedback regularly is a good thing), and when we say regular, we don’t mean every other month. We mean weekly.

Leadership has rightly become a hot topic in HR circles. But while the power of leadership is not to be underestimated, being blinded by this alone could cost businesses big if they forget their middle management. Weekly10 tackles some of the most common sticking issues of streamlining communication between teams and their managers, empowering both in their roles. 

Ready to champion your middle managers?

Book your Weekly10 demo today