4 tips for getting effective performance out of middle managers

By Deb LaMere, Vice President of Employee Engagement at Ceridian.

When you’re not an executive at the top of the C-suite, and you’re not a low-level employee at the bottom of the corporate totem pole either, it can be difficult to figure out your precise role within an organization. “Middle management,” as it’s called, is a tricky pursuit. You’re trying to balance your responsibility to your bosses with your day-to-day needs where human capital management is concerned.

When you’re managing a small team of employees within your department, there’s a constant grind you’re focused on every day. You want to make sure your team is getting its work done on a daily basis – obviously. That’s objective No. 1. But also, in the long run, you want to focus on big-picture initiatives that will foster engagement and retention.

It’s scary. If you get burned out, there’s a good chance your employees will too, and that could be bad news for the entire company. This means that not only do managers need to stay focused and committed to their jobs, but they need to create an environment where employees feel the same way.

Opportunity is a huge part of employee engagement. Employees must have a place to go or feel like their contributions are getting recognized, or they will begin to ‘check out.’ Direct managers in particular hold significant influence when it comes to engaging employees. It’s important for managers to understand what engagement means and have the right tools and resources in their toolbox.

How can middle managers keep people engaged and ensure that burnout doesn’t become an issue? Here are four guidelines that have proven to help.

Prove that employees are valued
Workers are sure to burn out faster if they don’t feel as though anyone cares about the quality of their work. Simply reminding people that their work matters, and that managers respect them for it, can go a long way.

Provide stimulating, challenging work
Along those same lines, it’s worth thinking about the difficulty level of the tasks that people are asked to complete each day. If work is too difficult, employees may become overwhelmed and think about quitting, but they’re also likely to lose motivation if it’s too easy. Finding that happy medium is important.

Balance performance with engagement
As a manager, your daily grind is to make sure everyone else handles their daily grind. But it’s short-sighted to think only about job performance – you also want to have some long-term plans in the works to prop up employee engagement. Try to find time in the day for both.

Manage people with the right touch
No one likes being micro-managed as they complete every little task, but no one likes being ignored, either. This is yet another area where balance is key. Managers should help their employees get their jobs done effectively, but they must be careful not to push it too far.

deb lamereDeb LaMere is Vice President of Employee Engagement at Ceridian.

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