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Alarming Performance Gap at Middle Management Level

February 14 2007 - A survey by management consultancy Hay Group has concluded that underperforming middle managers are costing British business £220 billion a year in lost productivity.

Written by Giles Walker, senior consultant at Hay Group, Corporate Soufflé - Is The Middle Giving Way? found that 38 per cent of UK directors believe that their organization is "paralysed" by ineffective middle management and 40 per cent identified this as the single greatest barrier to achieving company objectives. Over half (54 per cent) of senior managers felt that middle managers were uncommitted to strategic goals, and 62 per cent criticized lack of management and leadership skills. While 72 per cent of middle managers felt they could do their boss's job, senior managers identified only 21 per cent with the necessary talent.

Giles Walker said:

"Our research reveals an alarming performance gap at middle management level. British business leaders are struggling to compete in a challenging global economy because middle management lacks the skills to make business strategy happen. Unless UK Plc takes action to address the skills gap, this productivity erosion will only continue."

Senior managers responding to the survey suggested that middle management could increase productivity by up to one-third given appropriate training and development, but 48 per cent complained that middle managers failed to address underperformance in their teams. Middle managers agreed that with better training, frontline teams could improve productivity by the same amount. The survey estimates that 29 per cent increase in middle management and frontline productivity would result in an additional £220 billion annual output in the service sector alone.

Giles Walker commented:

"With the impending retirement of the baby boom generation from UK Plc, developing middle managers into tomorrow's leaders is a business critical challenge for Britain's senior management."

The survey found that both senior and middle managers identified lack of training and development opportunities and ineffective performance management as key causes of underperformance. Some 68 per cent of senior managers admit that junior colleagues have not received adequate training for their current position and 54 per cent of middle managers felt this is preventing effective performance.

Senior managers stated that on average it takes newly recruited or promoted middle managers more than seven months to be effective compared with a target of three months. Only 22 per cent believe training is a high organizational priority. The survey found that on average, British middle managers have not participated in any formal training for 17 months. Almost two thirds (64 per cent) of business leaders, along with 60 per cent of middle managers, described current performance evaluation and feedback systems as inadequate.

Giles Walker said:

"Rather than expressing frustration over middle management capabilities, business leaders must implement effective training and development programmes and performance management tools to enable them to improve skills and enhance performance."

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