India Inc. Faces the Middle Manager Hiring Challenge

November 9, 20158:00 am618 views

Amid studies indicating that middle manager positions could be heading for extinction in the organizational structure. The latest TJinsite study from shows that this perception is misplaced, at least in India Inc.

Nearly 80% of the 600 employers surveyed by pan-India for this study state middle managers continue to be critical drivers of their business growth.

This criticality makes filling positions in this cadre the most challenging in the organization. Further, internal skill gaps compel 64% of employers to look for external hires.

“Hiring middle managers is difficult since employers need a candidate with job-specific skills, domain expertise, experience, leadership quality and adaptability to get along with professionals at the two ends of the organizational hierarchy. Achieving a competence and cultural fit is crucial for ensuring high performance at this level,” says Vivek Madhukar, COO,

Not finding the right skills is the biggest challenge

While for 21% of companies, deciding whether to go for an internal or external hire remains a top concern while filling mid-management positions.

The majority (48%) of organizations state the most challenging task is to get the right managerial and leadership skills while hiring middle managers. Another 26% say getting relevant domain skills is the most difficult aspect of filling these positions.

Mid-Manager performance needs improvement

Currently, the vast majority (84%) of organizations feel the overall quality of their middle management is below average. Of these, 53% say their middle managers’ leadership skills are poor.

Nearly 30% organizations say their middle managers have poor people management skills while 10% point towards poor communication skills. Around 7% rate domain skills of their middle managers as poor.

See: 13% Rise in Talent Demand for HR Professionals in India

To meet these skill and performance gaps at the middle level, over 55% organizations are actively searching externally (but within their industry) to hire for mid-level positions.

“The dilemma for employers about whether to go for an internal or external hire needs strategic and long-term attention. Since the talent pool is limited and the demand is high, it is wiser to focus on training, grooming and developing managers and leaders from within the organization.” says Madhukar.

“Moreover, training & development is an integral part of the larger empowerment process that must be undertaken to strengthen this crucial level.”

On the road to empowerment

Engagement and retention of the current rung of middle managers remains core to efforts to empower this valued management cadre. Currently, almost 30% of organizations offer challenging work assignments and profiles to engage their mid-level managers.

26% offer enhanced compensation packages, 24% motivate them with non-monetary rewards & recognition and 21% enhance roles by providing greater authority to middle managers in order to engage and retain them, finds the study.

However, experts state that engagement is unlikely to take employers anywhere closer to the ultimate aims of strengthening the middle level and improving performance. 40% organizations conceded that unless they empower their middle managers, they would not be able to hold on to them for long.

Another 40% of them are focusing on job rotations, as they say it helps create new opportunities for middle managers by offering them an opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding to take up bigger roles.

About 20 % of companies offer training, re-skilling and learning opportunities to their middle managers to help them acquire new skills – the primary reason for which organizations tend to look externally to fill mid-manager positions.

“Being rare (and therefore expensive) resources, externally hired middle managers have to hit the ground running, organizations expect them to show results almost as soon as they are put in charge of the team. Besides, there is usually no hand-over from the previous incumbent to the new joinee.”

“Challenges such as rapport and team building, expectation management and work culture adjustments are expected to be overcome within the first 100 days of joining. In order to avoid such challenges, it makes good sense for companies to have a robust internal talent pipeline fortified by comprehensive training and mentorship programs.” concludes Madhukar.

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