Using Tuition Assistance to Elevate Middle Management

The term “middle management” has acquired a pejorative connotation in recent years. It conjures a faceless image of an employee between the executives and the teams of workers who are building a company’s products and services from the bottom up. It’s a role that is neither responsible for glamorous strategic growth and development nor the essential tasks essential to the incremental implementation of a company’s vision.

In the corporate upheavals of the 90’s and early 2000’s, middle management was seen as an easy target for structural thinning. Their elevated salaries were ripe for pruning in a corporate environment that saw reducing operational costs as an easy road to better profit margins. However, this restructuring came at a price. Due to the reduction in oversight and guidance, line managers and operational staff saw huge declines in productivity.

As a result, the middle manager is making a come-back. And companies are finding success with drawing in great talent with opportunities to develop and grow in the ranks through educational benefits and training incentives.

The Change-Makers

So what is the role of the middle manager? As the title implies, they play the part of the intermediary between executive management and team or “line” managers. Middle management has three primary functions: operational oversight, strategic planning, and human resource management. This means not only are they seeing to it that the day-to-day work being done furthers their department’s mission, but they also act as the nexus for employees to feel heard, empowered, and led by a common cause. 

It comes as no surprise that the middle manager is at the center of one of the most fundamental goals of all organizations: growth and change. Line managers are concerned with more detail-oriented tasks that teams have to achieve and don’t have the time or bandwidth to spend implementing broad changes. The middle manager is crucial to seeing a company grow and change, which is directly related to its overall success.

Middle Managers Affect Your Bottom Line

In the age of reinstating the middle manager as an essential position, it’s important to realize the value of investing in them through incentives like tuition assistance. In a study by the Wharton School of Business, professor Ethan Mollick evaluated that up to 22.3% of the variation in revenue of individual projects could be attributed to middle management. Compare this to the 7% of variation contributed by innovators or 21.3% by organization strategy and it is quickly apparent that middle managers contribute a great deal to a company’s finances.

With the numbers clearly indicating the position’s value, it should go without saying that investing in an organization’s middle management team can pay huge dividends. And what better way to invest in this class of professionals than to give them learning opportunities with tuition assistance programs? The proposition is clear: the more equipped a manager is to deal with their various responsibilities, the more productive and resilient the teams that they manage will be.

Good Skills Increase Impact

Having a middle manager with a narrow skill set, who is siloed in their department, creates a damper on the value they have the potential to provide. Attracting them to further their education and acquire new skills that will broaden their prowess has a lasting effect. A well-developed manager will not only improve employee morale and productivity, but also bleeds over in how they operate in concert with other managers and departments. 

A company that offers tuition reimbursement to their middle managers will see greater organizational flow. Being able to know and trust that managers can run their departments effectively has the added benefit of reducing the burden on executive leadership giving them more time and energy to spend on their organizational strategy. Through education benefits, a company can reap the rewards of recruiting top talent, retaining their best people, and ensuring that middle managers act as the glue that keeps a business operating and growing strong.