Why 'middle managers' are an employer's most important leaders
If an employer wants to get a workforce on board by using employee engagement programs and platforms, a simple, smart place to start is finding and supporting the right managers, according to new research from TINYpulse.
While the term “middle manager” often gets a bad rap within HR and business in general, it turns out that high-quality middle managers are the keys to success for a majority, if not all, employers, says Ketti Salemme, employee engagement researcher at TINYpulse, which offers an employee engagement platform for pulse surveys, peer recognition and performance reviews.
Salemme says TINYpulse’s recent research demonstrates that those middle managers — the non-HR and non-C-suite leaders — often are the cornerstones of employee engagement efforts and hold considerable decision-making power and influence with employees.
“Good managers are crucial for recruiting and retaining talented employees, and creating a positive workplace culture in general,” Salemme says. And when C-suite executives dream up big visions, she adds, managers are the ones responsible for making those ideas a reality. They’re involved in an employer’s day-to-day operations more than any other leaders.
“Bottom line, HR ignores middle managers at their peril,” Salemme says.
What TINYpulse found out
In its report, The Middle Revolution, TINYpulse discovered that managers have significant power when it comes to employee engagement. For example, one out of five TINYpulse accounts was opened by a manager. These mid-level leaders are administrating pulse surveys to get valuable, instant feedback from employees every week. And in a survey of 500 employees, TINYpulse found that 70% said their manager had utilized employee engagement strategies. Of the remaining 30%, a majority said that they would welcome manager-led employee engagement.
Clearly, managers have an overall positive impact on employee satisfaction. Middle manager-led employees were more likely to say that they’d stay at their companies even if another company offered them a 10% raise. These same employees were also more likely to report that their supervisors were responsive to feedback and willing to support professional growth efforts.
Across the board retention
Once managers implement employee engagement efforts, the benefits are clear — higher workplace satisfaction and less attrition, Salemme explains. And it’s logical that managers take employee engagement seriously. After all, if a talented employee leaves, it’s their direct manager who will feel that loss the most.
Limeade, a corporate wellness technology company, found that manager support was actually more important than executive support when it came to employee well-being. When given the right tools, managers positively and directly influence retention efforts.
Bringing in quality managers and employees who are a good match is also mission-critical. Managers have a consistent, day-to-day impact on employees. Consider this: the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 58% of employees say that their relationship with their manager is very important. Yet only 40% of employees report having a good relationship with their manager. It turns out that the old adage, “People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses, has more than a little truth to it,” Salemme says. Finding employees and managers who are a good fit for each other might be challenging, but it’s important for the long-term retention of both.
The impact of a good middle manager goes beyond employee engagement. The role they play in maintaining productivity also is at the top of the list. While C-suite executives create big-picture plans, managers are responsible for putting those plans into action and securing employee buy-in on the company’s strategies. Salemme says the work they do is often unglamorous — like ensuring their people meet deadlines and onboarding new employees — but it’s essential for businesses to run well. In fact, a Wharton School study of video game companies found that managers were the most critical factor for success.
“HR leaders can help support manager satisfaction by using data from surveys and focus groups,” she says. Most of all, managers need to be fully included in the company’s big picture, and be given the tools to implement any grand ideas floating down from the C-Suite.
“When the company shows managers that they’re valued and sets realistic expectations for success, managers will become your company’s superheroes,” Salemme concludes. "These are the folks who represent the true interface between management and the workforce. So it pretty clear why they'd be invested."