July 25, 2024

Advancing Corporate Yields

Pioneering Business Success

How HR can help middle managers support employee development

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Middle managers need help.

Just one in three middle managers believe they have the “clarity, organizational support, and resources to succeed and to coach employees effectively on skills and career development,” according to a Betterworks survey of 2,105 leaders in the US and UK.

This may be because many middle managers don’t know how to have regular conversations with employees about their performance, Jamie Aitken, VP of HR transformation at Betterworks, told HR Brew, something that being “sandwiched” between the organization’s demands and employees’ expectations has only exacerbated.

“In HR, we give these middle managers the role, and the responsibility, of being really great coaches, and helping the members of their team succeed,” Aitken said. “[But] we haven’t given them enough support, I don’t think—traditionally, in HR—to really, truly give them the competency and the muscle strength to do that work.”

Encourage enablement. HR pros should encourage managers to have regular conversations with employees about development and performance, Aitken said. And instead of focusing on “performance management”—which tends to be a “backward-looking” reflection on the last six months or year—they should focus on “performance enablement.”

“As opposed to the more traditional performance management, that twice-a-year conversation,” she said, “performance enablement is this idea that, as a manager, you’re enabling performance and you’re enabling development over the course of the year.”

HR pros can establish a quarterly or monthly check-in process, in which managers discuss employees’ progress, current work, and career trajectory.

Don’t just check the box. HR leaders should encourage managers to move away from thinking about yearly and midyear reviews as a “check-the-box” task.

Middle managers, like HR pros, should see themselves as talent managers and people managers, she said. It’s up to HR to make their company’s culture around performance and feedback more “lightweight” and “continuous.”

“I always say, my husband and I don’t have two conversations a year to find out how we’re doing as a team,” she said. “We’re constantly giving each other feedback, and recognition, and helping each other with challenges.”