Understanding the different levels of management
Organisations come in all sizes and shapes, with many different managers, across multiple titles and levels of management and authority. Different roles and functions are carried out at each level, resulting in a very diverse workforce. The human resources (HR) department is often called upon as a neutral facilitator and an influencer to bridge the communication gap and to resolve conflicts between these various levels of hierarchy.
Generally, there are three levels of management within a typical organisation; top-level management, middle-level management and low-level management. In many organisations, the number of managers at each level resemble a pyramid, with more low-level managers, followed by fewer middle-level managers and finally fewest top-level managers.
Below are some of the characteristics of the three levels of management, their common responsibilities and how HR can help at each level:
1. Top-Level Managers
Who Also known as senior managers, these are individuals who hold titles such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Managing Director, President or Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
What Top-level managers do not direct the day-to-day activities of an organisation but they make decisions and determine the objectives, strategies, policies and business plans of the organisation. Top-level managers are also tasked with the mobilization of external resources therefore they spend a lot of their time planning and organising. Often, they are also required to prepare long-term plans of the organisation’s direction and would generally have 5 to 20 years business plan.
How Top-level managers are the ones with the highest authority and responsibility therefore the success or failure of the organisation depends heavily on their efficiency and decision making. HR can help in reviewing top-level managers’ future business plans and determine if there is a need to train current employees to prepare them for such demands and projection plans.
Top-level managers are sometimes unaware of the appropriate mode of delivery in terms of communication. As they are responsible for the goals of the organisation, their messages often contain important details that need to be conveyed accurately to all employees across all levels. HR can work with top-level managers on their conceptual and communication skills by educating them and provide useful communication templates, scripts or checklists.
2. Middle-Level Managers
Who Middle-level managers are those reporting to top-level managers. These are Departmental Heads (HOD), Branch Managers, Regional Managers or General Managers.
What Generally, middle-level managers are responsible for the execution of goals set by top-level managers. They do so by setting their own goals for respective departments/branches. Middle-level managers are in the position to assist and motivate low-level managers in achieving these business objectives or to provide appropriate suggestions and recommendations to top-level managers. They are also well-equipped to keep top-level managers updated on the day-to-day workings of the organisation.
How Middle-level managers are intermediary between top and lower management and are tasked with coordinating the activities of all departments. Hence, these level of management can potentially have one of the highest strain as they are constantly trying to meet the demands of top-level managers and the requirements of low-level managers, while ignoring their own needs. HR must find time to build strong relationships with middle-level managers and consistently be visible to give them the support and assistance they need.
HR can also help prevent burnout by providing relevant training for skills gaps, facilitate coaching and stress management. In addition, HR can help middle-level managers network internally and build good work relationship across all levels. This can be done in a more relaxed situation by facilitating relationships through breakfast breaks, lunch-and-learn sessions or even happy hours.
3. Low-level Managers
Who Also called as first-line managers, these are managers with job titles such as Shift Supervisor, Operative Officer, Section Officer or Office Manager.
What Low-level managers are responsible for employees who actually produce the products or the services offered by the organisation. In order words, they are in charge of the day-to-day activities of an organisation. They typically do not set goals for the organisation and would usually update their respective employees on decisions and goals directed by both middle and top-level managers. Low-level managers have limited authority and would often report to middle-level managers.
How Although low-level managers possess limited authority compared to the higher level managers, they do have a strong influence as they interact directly with most employees on a daily basis. As such, if they perform poorly or are demotivated in their work in any way, they may also affect and discourage their employees, causing a drop in productivity and retention rates. Any conflict or issues of trust and performance problems faced by low-level managers must be addressed and dealt with immediately.
As a neutral party and a department that is constantly dealing with all levels of employees, HR can be the ideal problem-solver. HR can help to motivate low-level managers further by recognising their hard work or highlighting their achievements to top-level managers to assist in their promotion. HR can also be the ideal party to assist in resolving disputes and conflicts between employees and their managers.
To effectively deal with a diverse workforce and ensure a smooth overall operation, it is helpful for HR to fully understand the various managerial positions in their organisation. It can be difficult at first, however this somewhat idealised view is the key to successfully create a seamless and functional hierarchical workforce that can compete well in today’s tough marketplace.