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Performance management: do you need to develop your middle managers?


Middle managers are often overlooked when it comes to training, but in order to keep a business running smoothly this should be an essential part of your strategy. 

Are your middle managers performing as they should? We know that middle managers are an important part of corporate strategy – their knowledge of processes and networking make them powerful leaders. So why is their ongoing development and training not a priority for many businesses? In this article, we offer 15 tips to help make middle manager training a priority in your business.

Choose the right personalities

Middle managers make up 58% of LinkedIn’s 380 million worldwide members.

In today’s modern business world, middle managers’ roles and responsibilities have changed. They now need to be able to bridge the growing gap that lies between the organisation’s senior leaders, and those responsible for its daily operations.

In order to do this successfully, their skills need to reach further than just technical expertise in the areas they supervise, and they need to be able to communicate and listen when needed.

  • Tip 1: A good middle manager is a ‘people person’ who can communicate with all staff
  • Tip 2: Identify individuals who have an analytical mind and can problem solve in different situations
  • Tip 3: Encourage middle managers to lead by influence and build credibility

Create a culture that encourages training

It's been reported that 41% of HR professionals believe a culture that supports learning and development is vital to build talent for the future.

By focusing on the training of your middle managers, you’ll be able to guide the way they train staff that report to them.

A culture that supports learning and development is also cited as essential for leadership success - do your staff feel they can ask you for training?

It’s a lot easier to develop the workforce you already have than to continually rebuild it,

By opening up a discussion about training and promoting the idea within your organisation, your staff will feel more comfortable identifying areas they could improve in.

  • Tip 4: Make it clear that your business supports ongoing training, and values the improvements it can bring
  • Tip 5: Encourage middle managers to speak up if they’ve identified an area they need training in
  • Tip 6: Increase your training budget - 51% of HR professionals say theirs will increase over the next three years

Build people up from inside the business

One study found that 67% of companies recognise that they need to revamp their middle manager development programmes.

It’s a lot easier to develop the workforce you already have than to continually rebuild it, and internal training will help to preserve institutional memory and knowledge within your company.

With a recent survey revealing 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year, it’s clear that opportunities for personal development and career progression are vital.

  • Tip 7: Increase staff retention by promoting career progression and personal development opportunities
  • Tip 8: Focus on developing the staff you already have in order to preserve institutional memory
  • Tip 9: Encourage existing staff to apply when a vacancy arises, and promote internally where possible

Provide feedback and support

41% of employees expect more feedback than they currently receive.

Feedback is an important part of any successful training programme.

Middle managers often feel they aren’t valued or appreciated, and a lack of feedback may make them feel lost because they’re unsure of how they’re progressing and developing.

The often overlooked and sometimes-maligned middle managers matter. They are not interchangeable parts in an organisation.

Due to their position in the business, they will benefit from feedback given by both the executive level and the frontline workers they support.

  • Tip 10: Provide feedback and support so middle managers are fully informed about their performance
  • Tip 11: Conduct regular personal development discussions to discuss any concerns or questions they may have
  • Tip 12: Communicate with frontline workers as well as executive managers to build a complete picture

Reach the C-suite through middle managers

75% of the workforce reports to a middle manager rather than an executive.

For many companies, the bulk of training and development resources are invested in strengthening senior managers, and it’s undoubtedly important that the C-suite consists of capable, engaging leaders.

However, 75% of people report to a middle manager rather than an executive, and as a result they set the tone for the vast majority of employees within the organisation.

  • Tip 13: Focus on training middle management just as much as the C-suite
  • Tip 14: Encourage collaboration between staff on different levels - 86% of employees learn best collaborating
  • Tip 15: Implement a mentoring programme, where middle managers are supported by senior executives


The often overlooked and sometimes-maligned middle managers matter. They are not interchangeable parts in an organisation.

It’s clear that middle management training is the key to future business success.

Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, it’s understandable that businesses may not always have the time, money or available resources in-house to carry out the high calibre of training required for this development.

In this situation, there are opportunities to outsource through focused leadership programmes or bespoke executive education. 

Want to learn more about this topic? Read Unfreezing the middle: how to unleash your middle management potential.


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