Middle managers are vital cogs in your business. Rolling up their sleeves and chipping in to complete the tasks at hand, while also activating engagement and providing leadership and guidance to those they manage. 

In recent years, businesses have started to acknowledge and understand the significant impact middle managers have, especially as important connectors: bridging gaps and connecting employees to their company, leadership team, purpose and strategy. 

Yet, despite their efforts being increasingly recognised, middle managers are exhausted. They’re required to spin many different plates and are often conflicted about the various demands on their time, which can include non managerial work, organisational process and internal communication. Previous research from McKinsey draws attention to this, highlighting a gap between leaders and middle managers over where their time should be spent, and where their value lies. 

At ENGAGE we’ve delved deeper into the huge value of middle managers and outlined the steps you can take to keep this important employee segment engaged.

So, why exactly are middle managers critical for your business?

1. They foster your talent

The ability of your middle managers to build relationships with employees and support them in their roles and careers is vital for employee engagement. When employees have a positive interpersonal relationship with their line manager, and feel supported and listened to, job satisfaction increases – along with overall life satisfaction.

2. They get things done

Middle managers are skilled at integrating tasks and organising people and projects. Additionally, their closeness to the workforce means they can spot development needs and ensure employees are trained and fully equipped to carry out their roles.

3. They create a positive culture

Middle managers play an important role in creating meaningful, everyday experiences, including giving feedback and recognition, and celebrating wins. Often, they also provide ‘bigger’ storytelling experiences to help employees connect to their work, each other and wider business goals.

4. They connect people across teams

As we mentioned earlier, your middle managers are skilled ‘connectors’, acting as an important link between teams. They help employees to connect with others across the business, and align skill sets and interests while fuelling development.

5. They enhance organisational performance

By supporting employee development and contributing significantly to overall engagement, middle managers play an important role in improving business performance and increasing productivity.

Tackling shifting opinions before it’s too late

It’s therefore clear that this employee group must be nurtured and engaged to ensure retention.

However, recent ENGAGE research with a global technology firm found that middle managers are less likely to view their organisations as innovative (with results showing a 10% difference compared to non-managers). They were also 7% less likely to perceive their organisation as receptive towards challenge.

Middle managers are often responsible for sharing the organisational narrative through their teams. This is a highly trusted group, and if their perception of the business is increasingly negative, this view will quickly trickle through to the rest of the workforce – with disastrous consequences.

How can you engage the hearts and minds of middle managers and realise their value? 

By meeting the unique needs of this group, you can harness their huge potential and ensure they remain fully engaged with your business. As part of your engagement strategy for this employee segment, make sure you consider

1. Empowerment

Limit the barriers middle managers have in terms of meetings, red tape and process navigation, and allow them more autonomy and decision-making. This will help ensure middle managers’ time is used effectively, and also enhance their perceptions of their own value.

2. Communication

Avoid putting middle managers in difficult situations with employees by asking them to relay poor or opaque communications. Share the rationale behind your decision-making with middle managers to ensure they are informed enough to communicate news and answer questions about key decisions.

3. Unlearning

Many middle managers are promoted on the basis of their individual contributions, but it’s important to make sure they don’t attempt to perform their original role on top of their new one. Give them the time and tools they need to focus on developing people in order to avoid burnout.

It’s easy to take your middle managers for granted, and see them only as a reliable, trusted pair of hands within your business. However, their importance cannot be overstated. So if it’s not already a priority within your business, looking after your middle managers needs to become a key component of your employee engagement strategy.

For help and advice on building tailored engagement strategies for different employee segments within your business, be sure to get in touch with the ENGAGE team.