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Organizations with engaged and empowered middle management:
Middle managers are often viewed as cogs in the machine or just another layer in the org chart. But, in truth, managers do a lot more than just keep the trains running on time. They are real people, with their own unique needs, and who serve as a vital force in ensuring employers offer employees a compelling value proposition and achieve key talent management goals.
Consider the unique position of middle managers in translating organizational purpose and values into the everyday work environment. And the key role they play in meeting the needs of diverse employees and in creating healthy cultures in line with organizational commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
But despite being frequently overlooked, middle managers are typically overworked, a situation made worse by the addition of new challenges and complexities during the last few years. MetLife’s 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Study 2022 highlights the increased stress levels managers face today. It also demonstrates the value of empowered middle managers and their positive influence on employee satisfaction, talent retention and key cultural outcomes.
The bottom line: organizations must provide robust support if they are to help managers address the challenges of our more complex working world and engage an increasingly heterogeneous employee base.
New challenges and important responsibilities for middle managers
Remote and hybrid working have made culture-building even more difficult and middle managers’ jobs more challenging, as reflected in their higher stress levels
Employers that believe their work culture is more divided than before the pandemic
Mid-level managers who report being stressed more than half the time at work
Mid-level managers who report balancing work and home life as a source of anxiety
Middle managers are essential in building strong cultures and supporting diverse workforces, an important objective given that employers think their cultures are more inclusive than employees do. This suggests that some organizations aren’t fully embedding DEI principles into everyday operations and work environments. Middle managers certainly recognize how difficult a job this is, which helps explain their desire for a greater focus on DEI.
With more variety in working arrangements (when, where and how people work) and diverging worker needs and preferences, engaged mid-level management is the glue that binds the organization. Managers’ preference for flexibility and caregiver benefits confirms that they are looking for all the support organizations can give.
Recommended actions: What middle managers need to do their best work
Given that managers already have full plates, employers must offer support in multiple forms, without adding to their workload. Organizations must also ensure that middle management mirrors the workforce and, if not, be transparent about hiring and representation targets. While the following actions are not easy, our research suggests that employees recognize and appreciate when their employers take these steps, as many have done during the last two years.
Employees who want to learn about or enroll in benefits via discussion with their manager:
32%: employers that use managers as a benefits communication channel
The value of engaged management
When middle management is engaged and empathetic, organizations benefit from a more loyal and resilient workforce. And employers that train managers to be empathetic and supportive see the biggest benefits in terms of employee satisfaction, engagement and well-being. Organizations that train managers to be empathetic and supportive also report an edge in financial performance.
Visit metlife.com/ebts2022 to learn more about how middle managers can help improve talent management outcomes and build stronger cultures at your organization.