Middle managers: give them back their power!

by Apr 15, 2021News

As the keystone of a company's business, middle managers have a direct influence on customer satisfaction and company performance. And yet, according to a Boston Consulting Group study conducted in partnership with Sciences Po Alumni's Human Resources Group and involving some 100 HR managers, these managers remain a largely unrecognized group.



A key role in company organization

Middle managers supervise 50 to 80% of a company’s employees and are in direct contact with customers. They are an essential link in the chain, responsible for ensuring consistency between decisions taken at the top of the hierarchy and their implementation.

Non-quality” is costly in terms of profits and customer loyalty: according to BCG estimates, it leads to a drop in profitability of between 16% and 22%; but non-quality also undermines employee commitment.


A poorly defined and little recognized role

66% of respondents felt that the role and responsibilities of middle managers were poorly understood. What’s more, only 32% of the latter feel that their training is adapted to the new challenges of the job.

Unfortunately, the role of these managers does not seem to be recognized as strategic. Indeed, their decision-making power remains limited: only 40% of respondents believe that middle management has the decision-making power to be effective, even within its own scope. This function needs to be redefined and better supported.


Managers mired in complexity

Despite their pivotal position with employees and customers, middle managers all too often find themselves trapped in complex organizations where they are diverted from their primary mission: to manage and lead their teams. This is what Fanny Potier, senior expert at the Boston Consulting Group and author of the study, deplores: “Middle managers are at the heart of corporate performance. All the leaders say so! Yet they fail to play their role to the full. This population is bogged down in the complexity of day-to-day internal processes and does not deliver the expected value. “.

Indeed, a significant proportion of their time (between 30% and 70%) is wasted on tasks with no added value (inconclusive meetings that distance them from strategic decisions, reporting); the company’s productivity and profitability suffer from this waste of energy. According to the BCG study, three-quarters of these managers have an executive role.

“Let’s give them back their autonomy by simplifying the hierarchical lines. Let’s separate the career paths of experts and managers, and value both types of role in their own right. Finally, let’s equip them to support their teams in agile mode, which requires very different managerial skills “says Fanny Potier.

It is also necessary to enable these managers to work on the right subjects, namely transformation and local supervision.

In conclusion, as Frédéric Gautier, President People EMEAR at Dassault Systèmes and co-chairman of the Sciences Po Alumni HR group, points out: “. While executives and human resources directors are convinced of the key role played by middle managers, they still need support if they are to play their role to the full. To achieve this, they need to be involved in the decision-making process, and their managerial role needs to be given greater recognition. In the current context of organizational transformation, accelerated by the digital and technological revolution, companies need to act quickly to ensure that this population really plays its role.

And when it comes to taking action, think Skillspotting: with our manager courses, you can offer your team leaders top-quality training. Would you like to take stock of your middle managers’ skills and help them progress? Opt for our assessments and development centers, and build personalized action plans.


Sources :

– The Middle Manager, Integrator of Complexity, Boston Consulting Group in partnership with Sciences Po Alumni, December 2017: https//www.bcg.com/Images/Etude%20BCG%20Sciences%20Po%20Alumni_tcm96-179327.pdf

– Keys to middle management, Manager Go ! https://www.manager-go.com/management/manager-intermediaire.htm