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Focus on mid-level managers retention – Business Daily

One often observes a great amount of hassle and concern pertaining to hiring executive management in firms across East Africa. Widely distributed notices of such vacancies flood social media and job boards. Highly visible interview panels, institution-wide barazas, and employee feedback forms heighten the recruitment e efforts.
Then, upon retaining the executive, press releases go out and the industry applauds the firm on their selection.
Business media personalities critique the choice. At the board of directors’ level, as long as competent proven executive leadership exists in the firm, then the board often does not interrogate hiring and promotion tactics for mid-level management. Tragically though, middle managers frequently hold the biggest leadership sway over organisational productivity.
In a surprising new study that quantifies the power of mid-level managers in impacting tangible results even considering the effects of good higher-level executives, Soledad Giardili, Kamalini Ramdas, and Jonathan Williams use 14 years of manufacturing plant data to pinpoint seven percent swings in productivity that can be attributed solely to specific middle managers.
But further, when replacing the lowest performing 25th percentile managers with top performing 75th percentile managers, then production time to manufacture products can reduce by a staggering 30 percent, thus dramatically boosting productivity and efficiency.
These robust findings show that institutions must not idly tolerate mediocre managers and therefore must rigorously incorporate meaningful rather than token management training, manager rotation, coaching, peer mentoring, and employee engagement surveys, all while empowering departmental proactiveness and risk-taking.
Additionally, Soledad Giardili and team find that newer managers perform worse then established supervisors with longer organisational tenure. So, frequently bringing in new outside managers rather than training and promoting from within fails to meet firms’ performance expectations in the short term.
But many intermediary managers get stuck and flounder in their positions. Lawrence Peter and Raymond Hull’s ‘Peter’s Principle’ demonstrates that in workers’ career projections, one obtains promotion after promotion through an organisation’s hierarchy until they finally hit their ceiling of incompetence.
The authors argue that institutions, upon realising a job position is outsized compared to someone’s skill sets, look the other way and hope for improved future performance if that same employee had good results in prior lower positions.
Disappointingly, firms frequently do not investigate whether a current high performer’s skill set would actually fit in a new higher-level position.
Organisations get fooled with a past performance bias whereby previous skills needed in a particular job are not necessarily transferred to a different higher competency position. So, employees keep advancing until they reach a career pinnacle that exists beyond where their occupation should have peaked.
Then in tracking performance, if organisations fail to take mid-level manager leadership into consideration, biases for and against top executives and individual line employees can form that fail to tell the full picture.
As examples, individual line staff may find peering above micromanaging, lack of transactional instruction, inadequate inspiration, and laissez faire decision making, among others too difficult to navigate through and then their performance suffers. Inasmuch, that regular cadre of worker can get overly blamed for performance challenges.
Simultaneously, an executive can be congratulated and extolled on the virtues and value of their leadership when, in reality without looking at the intermediate managers under their command, they sometimes hold little influence over actual outcomes besides promoting the right mid-level supervisor.
In short, let us champion and prioritise the recruitment, retention, capacity building, and promotion of mid-level managers who can hold the often overlooked integral piece of firm performance.



Joseph Muongi

Financial.co.ke was founded by Mr. Joseph Muongi Kamau. He holds a Master of Science in Finance, Bachelors of Science in Actuarial Science and a Certificate of proficiencty in insurance. He's also the lead financial consultant.