Managing a team of ten or so employees is already a challenge in and of itself — but what if you have hundreds of employees that you need to oversee? Challenges such as instilling company culture and keeping everyone accountable for their work can become even more daunting as the scope of your business increases.
That doesn’t mean successfully handling such responsibilities is impossible, however. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Costas Polycarpou, founder of Polyteck, a construction and facilities management company based out of London. Though Polycarpou himself must oversee a massive team, he uses some key guidelines to keep it from getting overwhelming.
1) Know When to Delegate Authority
“The first thing you must accept is that there is no way for you to personally oversee hundreds of employees by yourself,” Polycarpou advises. “That’s the fastest path to burnout. You simply don’t have enough time for such direct supervision — especially when you have plenty of other important tasks on your plate. This is why delegating authority to managers you can trust is so vital.”
Instead of making every employee directly report to you, limit your workload by ensuring that only a few higher-level managers are required to report to you on a regular basis. Placing these individuals over smaller teams ensures that each employee gets the right level of support and accountability, without overworking anyone in an upper-level position.
2) Adapt the Hierarchy Based On Your Needs
Of course, those managers who manage for you have their limits as well. Because of this, your organizational hierarchy should be adapted based on the unique needs of your business, as well as your industry and even the individual departments different managers work in.
According to research from McKinsey, the average “span of control” — or number of people directly managed by a single person in a business hierarchy — is between 11 and 15 people. This generally allows for the most efficient time allocation for both your own work and managing others you are responsible for.
Try to follow a consistent structure throughout your hierarchy, though keep in mind that the span of control can also be varied based on different management types. Someone who takes on a “coaching” role as a manager will typically have fewer direct reports than someone who operates more as a coordinator.
3) Empower Trusted Team Members
“At the end of the day, you need to place some level of trust in each of your employees — that they’ll do what they are expected to do,” Polycarpou says. “You can’t make every decision for every department. It’s far more efficient to empower them to make day to day decisions themselves. This helps them feel trusted and valued. Your input can guide their work or correct mistakes, but you shouldn’t take away their sense of autonomy.”
Feelings of empowerment can have a direct influence on employee output. In fact, research has found that roughly 70 percent of employees define empowerment as an important part of what keeps them engaged at work.
Giving employees more autonomy reduces your supervisory responsibilities, while ultimately creating a far more productive environment than if you were to try to micromanage everything.
4) Develop a Reporting System
While you may not have every employee reporting to you directly, this doesn’t completely absolve you from responsibility for their actions.
“At the end of the day, you have to hold yourself responsible for the outcomes of your business,” Polycarpou says. “This means you must have a reliable reporting system in place so that you are always aware of what is going on. Scheduling regular check-ins with those who report to you directly is crucial for keeping everything running smoothly. Consistent, quality reporting will ensure that you can step in when necessary, rather than find out about something too late.”
What should be included in these reports? While key metrics should be recorded daily or weekly, “soft data” points — such as progress on department goals, ideas for improved productivity or even noting an upcoming employee anniversary — should all make it onto your desk.
5) Get Away From Your Desk
“You’re a living, breathing human, but your employees may not always be aware of that,” Polycarpou says. “One of the best things you can do is get away from your desk from time to time.
Wander around the office and mingle with employees — especially those you don’t come in contact with very often. Express a genuine interest in them and show that you’re there to support them. Helping them feel valued in this way can improve morale and help you learn things you’d never find out in a report from one of their supervisors.”
When you’re more than just a name and title to your employees — and vice versa — it helps create a more cohesive work environment. New insights from these simple experiences will help you make better strategic decisions that improve conditions for everyone working under you.
Overseeing a team of hundreds may seem overwhelming at first. But with the right setup, you will get better results from your time and spend your time more effectively. Everyone within your organization will have the right level of supervision and freedom to accomplish their work to the best of their abilities — and your business will reap the benefits.
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