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Is Remote Work Making The Case For Mid-Level Management?

Employee Wellbeing
February 3, 2022
min read
Empowered managers can transform organizations. Here’s how to structure your teams for long term success.

The Great Resignation is here, but it should probably be called The Great Churn. Since April 2021, more than 19 million US workers have voluntarily left their jobs in search of better opportunities. In order for employers to attract new talent, and more importantly, retain existing talent, they must understand the underlying causes of attrition. Using that knowledge, they must adapt to the evolving needs of their employees during this period of digital and cultural transformation. The only way to have companies match the expectations of their employees is by having a robust layer of mid-level managers. 

The onboarding process — and meetings and other work communications — are foundational to a positive employee experience. In fact, employees who report a positive experience are 16 times more engaged, and eight times more likely to stay, at an organization than those with a negative experience, according to McKinsey. Management plays a huge role in this.

Managers are a business-critical cohort. They set business priorities, lead teams that execute, and are difficult and expensive to replace. If they are happy, engaged, and doing well, this is reflected in the productivity and efficiency of their respective teams.

There are many factors fueling The Great Resignation, which we will explore continuously on the blog. For a more in-depth analysis of this topic, you can download our comprehensive report with exclusive Time is Ltd. data, How Poor Employee Experiences are Driving the Great Resignation.

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Hiring & Retaining Mid-Level Management

Retaining this essential cohort begins with onboarding. As Time is Ltd. data shows, only 63.7 percent* of all companies effectively build out effective collaboration networks for new hires. This costly-yet-crucial process is where employees learn the expectations of their new role, build relationships with colleagues, and navigate internal processes and power structures. A poorly-prepared employee costs more than just diminished productivity or output - it could be the difference between them staying or leaving when a more enticing offer comes along. Having a fully-connected manager makes all the difference in ensuring an employee builds a solid foundation necessary to excel at their role.

To illustrate this process, we will use Janice, a fictitious employee, as an example. She recently accepted an offer for a mid-level management position at a tech company. In her new role, she has 12 direct reports, works with many internal teams and manages multiple external relationships. Janice turned down two other offers and is frequently contacted by headhunters on LinkedIn. Janice’s new company needs to ensure she’s prepared for her job, otherwise they may be looking for someone to replace her within six months. Here’s where they can begin.

Building a Strong Network

Janice’s network is large, but she has yet to meet all her colleagues. Working in a hybrid environment, her opportunities to meet her coworkers are limited. Data from the Time is Ltd. platform shows that since the pandemic, new hires on average only have 57 percent of the optimal network size, down from 90 percent pre-pandemic. This proves that onboarding is becoming less efficient in hybrid and remote settings. So how can Janice’s company help her build a network that sets her up for success?

Comparing the network size of tenured employees to new hires, Time is Ltd. has found that a new employee should have 75% of the network of an employee with at least a year of seniority in the same position*. Building these relationships early will ensure Janice is more productive, engaged, and most importantly, view her job as more than just a paycheck, should she get an offer from another company. 

Every employee needs to establish meaningful relationships with their colleagues. Without this, employees may never grasp internal processes, understand internal power structures, or even understand fundamental expectations. When meaningful relationships aren’t established, employees are more likely to view their employment as purely transactional, and to leave if a new job opportunity surfaces. Establishing a solid network provides an emotional component to work, and an environment conducive to both productivity and engagement.

New employees aren’t the only ones who suffer from decreased network size. Even though a shift to remote work should have commanded a strengthening of collaboration, our data clearly shows diminished network connectivity. As Recode reports in “Remote work isn’t the problem. Work is.”, those network ties are crucial. 

From the Recode piece

[R]emote work isn’t the main reason keeping these interactions from occurring: The problem is there’s not enough time for them to happen. In other words, we’re talking to fewer people not because we’re working from home, but because we’re working too much.

Scheduling Regular 1:1s

The size of the network matters, but the quality of those relationships matters more. 1:1 meetings between managers and their direct reports are a great opportunity for discussing short and long-term goals, project objectives, or even learning and career development. Unfortunately, mid-managers are stretched thin, which has been exacerbated by The Great Resignation. The result is that mid-level managers have increasingly large teams. Overly-stretched managers aren’t able to give adequate attention to all of their direct reports, meaning productivity falters as employees may miss out on important information or feel less connected to the organization.

As Time is Ltd. data reveals, the average time new hires spend in 1:1s is only 36.1 minutes* a month on average. New hires should have at least two 30-minute such meetings a month, as is industry best practice. This dedicated time between Janice and her boss is important for building rapport and getting feedback so she can feel confident in her new role. Once a new hire like Janice is more tenured, practicing better meeting habits will positively affect productivity and company culture. Hiring more people like Janice will also ensure teams have the necessary support and guidance to perform well.

Regaining Focus Time

The need for mid-level managers becomes more obvious when we look at focus time. This is time employees spend on meaningful work, requiring attention and thoughtfulness. Over the last year focus time has declined by almost an hour according to Time is Ltd. data. When combined with previous data on meetings, it’s clear communication is sucking up time that could be spent on our core work. Smaller teams and strong managers can counter this, freeing up more time for meaningful work.

The Takeaway 

The pandemic accelerated digital transformation, causing companies to quickly adapt remote working models, and integrate collaborative tech stacks virtually overnight. This new way of working has created immense challenges across nearly every industry on the planet. One thing has become clear: Organizations that are able to create positive employee experiences are 8x likelier to keep those employees, according to McKinsey.

Employee experience will be everything. How can your business get ahead? 

The solution lies in collaboration analytics — with deeper internal insights, team leaders can make more-informed organizational decisions that reflect their employees' desires. Companies that have a comprehensive understanding of  where time is being spent (crucial for overworked and stretched-thin managers) can leverage these key insights to improve everything from the company culture to the bottom line. 

At Time is Ltd., we help identify inefficiencies across your collaboration landscape, and find solutions to them that will save your employees’ time, improve communication, and drive employee satisfaction. 

It’s never been more possible to create a workplace with more-engaged and satisfied employees — get in touch and we’ll help you get there. 

*Based on a sample of collaboration data from technology, banking and e-commerce companies based in the US and EU.

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Article by
Alex Czaja
Article by
Alex Czaja

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