• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Businesses need to invest in frontline, middle managers – Onalaja, StreSERT Integrated boss

Businesses need to invest in frontline, middle managers – Onalaja, StreSERT Integrated boss

Roselyn Onalaja, managing consultant at StreSERT Integrated Limited, a management consulting firm, speaks with BUNMI BAILEY on what organisations operating in Nigeria need to do to navigate the current economic uncertainties.

Given the current volatile and complex economic environment that has caused several local firms to shut down and global brands to leave Nigeria, what do you think should be the key imperatives for businesses?

In Nigeria and indeed globally, we are seeing a level of disruption that arguably, we have not seen in a generation. It is unfortunately a fact that some companies will fail, as we are seeing, while some others will survive and thrive.

While several interlinked factors set successful companies apart – a winning strategy, organisational resilience, innovation DNA, and great culture – perhaps the single most dominant factor is leadership.

And by leadership, I do not only mean business leaders or leaders in the C-Suite but the leadership team of a firm including frontline managers and so-called middle managers who we believe are the unheralded heroes of many a successful business. I believe businesses need to begin to focus more on developing these frontline and middle managers.

Shouldn’t the focus be on CEOs and other top executives?

While the CEO can play an outsized role in the success of any organisation, what great CEOs and business leaders realise, and this is a position we hold and promote, is that they can only be as effective as their management team which includes these frontline and middle managers I mentioned.

What we have seen in our work is that most organisations in Nigeria do not realise the importance of their managers and when they do attach some importance, are not deliberate in upskilling and empowering them and in providing the organisational environment for them to thrive.

And we have also seen how this has placed a ceiling on their productivity and corporate performance. So, while it might seem counterintuitive, what I think organisations should be focusing on now is building out their management cadre.

Could you share more on why you think organisations should be investing in their middle management now and how it is a pathway to their survival and success?

Not just their middle management, but their frontline managers too. But, let me be clear. I believe that for organisations to survive and succeed now and beyond this period of uncertainty, they will need to turbocharge their performance which will require harmonising their strategy, management practices, and investments as part of a larger, dynamic system.

However, to succeed at this, they need a strong management team. Several studies have shown a strong correlation between organisational health and performance and having strong managers.

Having a strong cadre of frontline and middle managers is not just nice to have, it is a business imperative because these managers are vital to the success of any change or transformation effort.

They are the ones who translate the strategy into work streams and projects and help bring the strategic goals to reality. They do the real work interacting with customers in the real world and interfacing with staff at the frontlines.

Are there other roles that middle management staff play to drive organisational growth?

They also play a key part in talent management. We know that managers are the biggest determinant of employees’ experiences, satisfaction, and performance at work. It is the relationships that they build that enhance team dynamics and improve productivity and performance.

They have an outsized impact on the way employees work, their productivity, their unit performance, and consequently the organisational performance.

This is particularly critical for businesses operating in Nigeria as their managers will be the ones who have to create a workspace that does not worsen already tense personal circumstances (given the increasing cost of living) and one that employees want to come to. Thus, creating psychological safety and reducing attrition.

Given how much impact these managers have on the success of an organisation, local organisations need to begin viewing managers as “value multipliers” and acknowledging that investing in developing strong managers will deliver substantial economic returns.

So, what should organisations do to build up their management capacity?

First, the goal should be to create a critical mass of top-performing managers. What you do not want are toxic, poor-performing managers that sow discord and reduce productivity across the organisation. Just like top-performing managers can have an exponential influence for good, so also can toxic managers create disproportionate negative outcomes.

Second, organisations will need to redesign their organisational structure, the job roles of these managers and the reward system to ensure that they are set up for success. Then they will need to provide robust capacity development programmes.

So, they are going to need to redesign the job roles so that managers can better focus on the things that really matter – coaching, communicating strategic priorities, guiding work and performance management. While redesigning the reward system and organisation structure is necessary to provide a flexible career pathway for managers, it does not necessarily require them to be promoted out of their current roles even though they will still see their rewards increase.

Are there other things that organisations should do to ensure their workforce achieves maximum productivity and organisational growth?

Organisations will need to create a management development program that will equip potential and emerging managers with the skillset required to be effective managers. Too often, employees are given managerial roles without any prior preparation for the role and they are expected to learn on the job. This hardly ever works and is one of the reasons you see a lot of poor-performing, disgruntled, or burnout managers.

Why do you think investing in middle management is a profitable venture for organisations?

We know investing in middle management eventually yields an exponential return because of the several success stories we have been a part of. We have seen remarkable results in organisations that we have supported with revamping their management development journey and targeted training for their managers.

Most of them have successfully built a strong management bench and leadership pipeline that has given them a competitive advantage and a deep resilience to surmount the current challenges. We have also helped provide individual managers with a sense of personal development via our globally recognised management accreditation and diploma.

To reiterate, investing in frontline and middle managers is an investment in the future of any organisation. By providing them with the skills, tools, and knowledge they need to succeed, organisations can create a culture of continuous improvement that can drive innovation and growth. This can lead to a self-reinforcing system of growth and development that can sustain the organisation over the long term.

Could you tell us about StreSERT Integrated and the values the company brings to clients’ businesses?

The company is an African-focused management consulting firm that partners with clients and stakeholders to create solutions that deliver significant impact and ultimately real and measurable success.

We work with African top businesses to generate great outcomes in both favourable and negative market circumstances and to ensure exceptional customer service practices

To achieve the kind of growth and impact required to turbocharge Africa’s people, organisations, and society into and beyond the fourth industrial revolution, we believe that local solutions to our peculiar thorny challenges are necessary. At SIL, we eschew the expected, delivering client solutions that are aspirational and real.

We understand that exponential-sized impacts are required to bridge the gap between Africa’s potential and the gains of the fourth industrial revolution and we know that to create exponential change we need to move beyond regular ideas to accelerating solutions. In addition to all these, we support our clients through genuine partnerships that prioritise fact-based decision-making and collaborations.

We undertake systematic diagnosis of specific challenges as a basis for developing solutions. Our solutions are delivered via a holistic approach, integrating our competencies in learning, consulting and insight generation to design and implement best-fit strategies.

What is the most interesting experience you have had as the managing consultant of the company, and what advice do you have for other chief executives in running successful businesses?

I have had many interesting experiences on this journey of building a successful business, both positive and negative.

As challenging as it has been building from scratch, the process has been that of growth; learning and development in all forms. The process of resolving the myriad of issues that confront businesses in our environment has been a mixed bag of intrigue, complexity and sometimes interesting developments.

If any of these experiences are noteworthy of mention, I have particularly found interesting and rewarding the opportunity to source and build talents from scratch and see them develop and exhibit quality leadership skills that are in turn being transferred to the younger ones. All of these resulted in the successes we have seen over the years.

My advice for others looking at running a successful business will be to, in the first instance, maintain focus and develop the competencies required for the business of choice.

Develop a strong foundation upon which the business will grow and be successful – a foundation that clearly defines the business objectives, vision, mission and values that will drive the business; all communicated in a simple way to everyone in the business.

Quality talents are an integral element for business growth and the framework for successful maximisation of their potential must be present; systems, structures and processes. No business grows and becomes sustainable without these elements.