Are middle managers your secret weapon for effective talent development?

4th December by Lee Robertson

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A new report published by talent management platform Beamery has discovered that middle managers are going unrecognised in addressing talent challenges. It found that they have a bigger role to play in tackling retention and skills gaps within organisations, but that those at the top were failing to realise how their managers could be better used to turn the workforce into a competitive advantage.

These are the findings in Beamery’s latest report the Era of Connectors: Transforming Middle Management In A Skills-First World. Beamery surveyed members of the C-suite and people managers of large businesses in the UK and United States to understand their view of workplace challenges, thoughts on addressing them and the role of middle management in the equation.

The report concludes that over half (58%) of the C-suite believe that HR is primarily responsible for retaining talent. Only nine per cent pointed to frontline managers as playing a crucial role, yet the C-suite also identified helping workers find their next career opportunity and connecting teams to upskilling opportunities as being the most important parts of a middle manager’s role.

In addition, around a third of the C-level executives believed that the managers in their organisations needed additional training in some of the most important aspects of managing teams: strategic thinking, decision-making, emotional intelligence and relationship management.

Karen Smart, head of the AoEC’s coaching for companies’ service noted: “From working with our own client base we know how vital managers are in the ongoing war for talent. A good manager needs to be able to have conversations with their direct reports where they can ask team members to identify both how they can contribute and what they would like to learn.”

She added: “Those starting their professional lives now crave development opportunities but it can be common for managers to be overstretched with administrative tasks so they can’t give it their focus. If employers can invest in better development and training programmes like coaching skills for their managers, then they will make far better inroads into having a successful talent attraction, retention and engagement strategy.”

For their part, the majority of managers (80%) stated that they have skills gaps on their teams, but over a quarter (27%) reported not having a full understanding of what strengths and skills their team members have. Moreover, they reported that they were unable to focus on people-management tasks as 36% of their time is used to complete HR activities.

It also revealed that managers say they are having career-related conversations with their team weekly (31%) or monthly (26%). While acknowledging that relationship management and communication are top skills needed by people managers, these managers are not necessarily having the most open chats.

Just 48% of the managers polled agreed “My team members feel comfortable talking to me about their career aspirations” and only around half of managers said they “provide regular coaching to my team members to enable their development”.

The report calls for organisations to see the bigger picture and recognise that managers are essential for understanding and developing talent.

As it outlines, it is essential in today’s workplace that all employees can be retained, reskilled and redeployed in an agile way. So it falls on employers to ensure that their management level staff are given the right tools, training, tech and rewards to help an organisation overcome some of its biggest talent challenges.

Its authors argue that it means managers need to be equipped with the ability and capability to help build and grow great teams, engage and develop team members, plan better and retain the organisation’s high performers. As it states, developing and empowering managers can save the organisation money while increasing productivity and output and helps to deliver on skills-based transformation.