Developing Middle Level Managers to take Higher Responsibilities

Professional companies are adopting succession management to retain the talent and also fill up the top slots when the vacancy arises. Here I am giving the case of MNCs and how they plan to develop the middle level managers.

When a marketing manager at Procter & Gamble (P&G) was enrolled in the company’s first middle-management training programme last year, she didn’t reckon she would soon become adept at walking the tight rope fit for a higher functional role. The manager was in mid 30s who joined P&G 7 or 8 years back. The big win was how the programme allowed functional managers like her to step into the shoes of a general manager.

Middle management employees across the organizations aspire for higher posts and even leadership roles. But, what confuses them is whether they would be capable of handling the challenges that come along. To deal with such issues, P&G has initiated a middle management training programme to build our future or the BOF which develops and trains them for their next big career leap. P&G is not the only one. To address the complex issue of leadership building and even succession planning, several others such as HUL and Godrej are also adopting programmes to sharpen their talent pipeline.

The emphasis on middle management is a thought even management experts now propagate vigorously. They believe that a one shot approach to educating managers is going to be inadequate. A process of refreshing, unlearning and re-learning at regular intervals is what they recommend for the corporate world to target the issue of leadership building. One of the biggest bottlenecks to growth in India is going to be the availability of high quality human capital at all skill levels. Indian companies have to take proactive steps before the bottleneck becomes a real hindrance.

P&G India’s human resources head, feels most companies don’t focus on it. At P&G they are built from within and realize the importance of developing the leadership pipeline not just at the senior level but at the middle management level as well.

The maker of Tide detergent and Pantene shampoo designed the BOF programme around 4-5 unique capabilities for its entire middle management which consisted of 150 odd people. It involved a week long process where people were executed not only internally from within the organization in India but also those based outside. To bring in thought leadership, some of the best minds within the P&G world also have a session with the employees.

It is an intensive training programme which ends with an experiential one day session for business simulation where managers get to understand what business can look like. It’s like a case study but on a much larger life like scale.

P&G realized that since the organization was growing at a fast pace (the business has grown 10 times over the last 8 years) it needed to keep the talent  pipeline running. With an attrition of 5% and other P&G regions looking at India for sourcing talent, BOF gave P&G a much broader pool to choose from to meet any future requirement.

Arch rival Hindustan Unilever (HUL) does it differently. The FMCG   major, with a 900 strong middle management pool, has a mentoring programme called Alchemy, for all high potential middle management employees wherein they are assigned a senior manager who guides and supports them through their leadership journey in the organization.

Middle management talent serves as a robust talent pipeline for senior leadership. We strongly believe in leadership development and in the philosophy of leaders developing leaders. In a market of acute talent shortage it is important to nurture and develop home grown leaders.

HUL, however, prefers to have learning intervention at all levels. It follows the 70:20:10 principle under which 70% of the learning is expected to come from experiences in the current job and business projects, 20% from relationships and 10% through formal programmes like classroom training and e-learning. It also measures the effectiveness and business returns from such programmes.

Similarly, Godrej Industries has put in place a leadership development programme for select middle management employees based on their performance and potential. They select 25% of middle management employees and invest disproportionately on their learning so as to help them become successful future leaders.

Organizations are beginning to recognize the value of mid-career development and training. These managers are the stepping stone to senior leadership.








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