Why not give your middle managers an early New Year's present? Set up some training, counseling and career goal-setting sessions for them. The result will could be a better bottom line for your company and you could avoid a mass exodus of this valuable employee group when the recession eases.
Middle managers are an endangered species, according to several business research organizations, including IR Information Research. As far back as 2007 they were predicting problems based on situations middle managers were facing in municipalities.
Since then the recession, cost-cutting and downsizing have eliminated many middle management positions nationwide. Those who still have jobs are caught in a catch-22 of demands from leadership, requests from employees, fewer resources, less time and more work for the same pay.
With all these stressors, middle managers may be the first of your employees to head out the door once jobs open up again. With them they'll carry critical intellectual information, strategic expertise and years of experience.
Another issue is the lack of preparation many middle managers were given before being promoted. A person can be a good accountant, engineer, nurse or teacher, but without specific training and support, becoming a manager can present some steep challenges.
Once thought of as merely information transmitters between top management and the line employees, middle managers are capable of much more and often perform at a higher level. Good ones set strategies to implement business directives sent down from above. They keep their organizations running smoothly, manage their employees well, act as innovators and make daily operational and tactical decisions that affect their group's production.
How to retain your middle managers, gain their loyalty
Here are some "gifts" you can bestow on this beleaguered group now. They could pay off big in 2011 and beyond.
Training. Often middle managers are afraid to admit they don't have the skills they need. They think that admitting a need for training equals weakness and may put their position in jeopardy. Take the spotlight off individual managers by offering a workshop for all of them focusing on the main skills middle managers need: listening, goal-setting, constructive criticism, empathy, motivation, self-awareness and time management, to name just a few.
Counseling. Set up individual counseling sessions with your middle managers and their bosses. These may be facilitated by your human resources team. Rather than a list of criticisms, present solid strategies to help each one better manage himself/herself and their team.
Encouragement. Encourage your middle managers to take charge of their own career growth. Give them options on mentor training, workshops, seminars and college classes they can take to improve their style, skills and effectiveness.
Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business trends and employee motivation consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.