Engaging & Empowering Mid-Level Managers in a Changing Workforce



Need insights and best practices on how to engage with your mid-level workforce talent? Check out the latest article from Liam Ackland, President of North America for NGA.NET, in the October 2014 edition of HR News by IPMA-HR.

Engaging & Empowering Mid-Level Managers in a Changing Workforce

A key to ongoing agency success is to not only be aware of current organizational conditions, but also to be prepared for any potential future developments. Additionally, a thorough succession planning strategy should involve everyone in the organization, from entry-level staff to those at the highest level.

Currently, one of the most significant factors that could influence the potential for growth is the vast number of senior team members and leadership planning to retire in the coming years.

Preparing for the Baby Boomer exodus

There are approximately 76 million Baby Boomers living in the United States alone. Around 70 percent of these individuals were still in the workforce as of 2012, according to the American Community Survey, which means there are more than 53 million individuals facing retirement in the near future.

With millions of senior leaders and managers preparing to leave the workforce for good, organizations need to start considering how best to manage the replacement of around one-third of the labor force.

The Government, in particular, is facing a serious demographic change over the coming years, as some 30 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire in the next three years, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

While there is much discussion around the exodus of the Baby Boomers from the federal government, equal attention needs to be given to the mid-level managers who will be charged with overseeing the loss of senior team members, while coping with the training and growing pains of entry-level workers.

Serious considerations need to be made in order to engage middle managers and smooth the transition between a Baby Boomer Boardroom and the next generation.

How is your organization coping now?

The first step in ensuring your organization can continue to operate through the changing workforce landscape is to evaluate your current middle management plans.

As the Baby Boomers exit and younger generations step up to take their place, mid-level managers will be required to oversee both sides of this journey. Managing the loss of senior staff’s experience and knowledge, while also making vital decisions regarding the employment of new workers will mean middle managers have their work cut out for them over the coming years.

With the added responsibility of managing up and down, the mid-level needs the tools and training necessary to ensure both short- and long-term success. Agencies need to evaluate what they are currently doing and what can be done to improve this process.

Succession planning, professional development and employee retention strategies are crucial considerations for managing both the baby boomer exodus and the entry-level influx. Ensuring these processes are working correctly will go a long way toward bridging any potential workforce gaps.

To evaluate how your agency is coping and will cope with the changing workforce, consider these valuable indicators:

  • How much are you spending on recruitment?
  • How long are positions left vacant when employees leave unexpectedly?
  • Is staff turnover high?
  • Are retention strategies applied at all levels within the organization?’
  • Do you have a clear succession plan and are employees aware of it?

5 steps to bridging the Baby Boomer gap

Once you know how your talent management strategies are panning out, it can be easier for the middle management team to take action. In particular, when responding to the impending Baby Boomer exodus, there are a number of best practice policies that can help bridge the potential gaps.

1. Attract better quality talent

How much is your organization spending on bad hires? When gaps open up in internal workforces, it can be tempting to fill the positions as soon as possible.

However, making the wrong decision can cost an organization up to $25,000 in lost productivity, employee engagement and performance, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Last year, the department estimated the average cost of a poor hire could reach up to one-third of an individual’s wages.

Hiring the right candidate is crucial for supporting future business plans, as engaged and suitable employees are more likely to stick around and make positive contributions. Overall, mid-level managers need to consider making strategic rather than tactical hires – with the future in mind to ensure individuals being taken on now can provide you with management options for the future.

2. Speed up talent acquisition

Of course, leaving positions open for too long will lead to significant business interruptions. It is therefore vital that talent acquisition strategies are as efficient as possible.

For instance, organizations are less likely to spend significant time and resources on redundant recruitment processes if succession planning processes are in place.

This strategy will ensure middle managers are prepared for hiring demands, and can put effective and efficient policies in place to attract the best candidates in the shortest possible time.

3. Get visibility into the workforce

Increased visibility in the workforce will help mid-level managers streamline the talent attraction and retention processes. This step involves increasing your brand image in relevant talent pools to ensure the right candidates are aware of your company and what you expect from potential hires.

Additionally, visibility and control is vital when liaising with decision makers to understand the direction of the organization. This will enable the HR department and mid-level managers to identify what skill sets will be necessary for the future of the agency.

Any gaps in the workforce can therefore be identified early, and tailored performance management initiatives can be introduced to ensure those gaps are filled in a timely manner.

4. Communicate with your team

To make professional development and acquisition as efficient as possible, communication is key at all levels. This includes making sure your team understands the organizational goals and their place within the future of the organization.

By increasing internal visibility and communication, you can ensure the organizational strategies are aligned with individual goals and staff are not surprised when called upon to meet changing workforce demands.

Furthermore, mid-level managers need to consider training requirements for entry- and junior-level staff to make sure that when the time comes, they are able to step forward and take on the additional duties required of them.

5. Understand where your critical talent is

Knowing who will be the most challenging to replace will help improve your succession planning and bridge the workforce gaps. This is why it is vital to communicate with agency heads and senior team members to identify those whose retirement will be the most disruptive.

Alternatively, your critical talent management strategies should also be in reference to the individuals in lower level roles or alternative departments who can be expected to step up when the time comes.

Identification of high-potential employees, including those within your own department or in other teams, helps mid-level managers determine and groom future leaders. Performance management allows you to identify how existing employees can be used to fill critical workforce gaps.


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