Will artificial intelligence make middle management redundant?

21st November 2017 by Fiona Hotston Moore

According to a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute, half of employees’ daily jobs could soon be replaced by robots. So will artificial intelligence make the middle management tier redundant? 

In my view quite the opposite. 

I believe automation and artificial intelligence makes the role of the human manager more important than ever. However it also, I think, will raise the bar in terms of the quality of middle management needed in growing organisations and their ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence. 

No business or organisation is immune today from the need for constant change in order to keep pace with changing business and economic markets, technological advances, competition from global businesses and regulatory and compliance obligations. Delivering change effectively requires the emotional engagement of middle managers who interact directly with both the employees and customers. If the workforce are not engaged by the middle management in the process of change they will resist change or pay lip service to the process.  

Establishing an effective tier of middle management is key to growing a business and it is the reason external investors will often invest in a business if the existing management team is changed or enhanced.

Unfortunately few middle managers receive formal management training despite the fact that the key attributes to effective management are remarkably simple. 

Firstly, managers must do exactly that. Poor managers hide behind the idea that they can empower their team and then leave them to get on with it. Under management is far more prevalent than micro management. Effective managers give clear goals and deadlines and check-in regularly giving feedback and encouragement. Any issues or concerns of the manager or employee are discussed as they arise. Typically managers avoid conflict and issues are left festering and constructive feedback is sugar coated to the point that it is lost in translation. There really is no way to avoid having those difficult conversations. 

Effective management also needs to become a daily habit. Every day the manager needs to invest time to manage both themselves and then every member of their team. Unfortunately, if you lose that regular connection it becomes hard to get back into the groove and the only way back is to acknowledge your mistake, apologise to your team and get back in there and talk to them.

All too often weak managers will blame their lack of time for a failure to delegate. In fact the only way to get out of the spiral of too much work is to stop, plan, delegate and then manage. 

Finally, don’t forget, not all people are equal. Fairness is not about treating everyone the same. Effective feedback means rewarding good performance with positive feedback and giving timely honest feedback to those who do not perform as you expected.


Fiona Hotston Moore

Fiona Hotston Moore

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