Lean LeadershipLean Culture Building

Who gets your attention, your mentoring and training?

In a June 2023 research study (and you and I already know this) “particular soft skills – such as communication, planning and organization, problem-solving, and motivation of workers – were found to be strongly related to productivity…”

So as PM’s, as “Middle Managers”, who in your organization gets your attention, your mentoring and training? And don’t say “everyone” – you know you have favorites. Favorites may be based on personality, past history, common interests, right? But the above cited study found that Managers often recommend for training, those line supervisors they deem most likely to stay with the organization… and not necessarily their “favorites”.

The study, titled “On The Allocation and Impacts Of Managerial Training”, by lead researcher Achyuta Adhvaryu of the University of California, San Diego, reports “This striking pattern of results is not due to middle managers lacking information about their supervisors’ baseline skills, or about who might benefit most from training. It is also not due to discrimination or favoritism on observable dimensions. We learned from conversations with middle managers as well as senior management that while middle managers are indeed incentivized to achieve high productivity (through performance-based rewards), they also face large personal effort costs from supervisor turnover. In particular, middle managers are charged with the training and onboarding of new supervisors and performing supervisory duties in the interim, all of which involves substantial effort in addition to their other day-to-day responsibilities. “

So, in the study, when middle managers were asked to recommend line supervisors for training, they ranked as highest those mostly likely to remain in the organization. Retention was the key.

BUT! That “retention” group showed little productivity increase from the training they received: Highly recommended supervisors experienced no productivity gains”. Who showed the most? “In contrast, less-recommended supervisors’ productivity increased 12% relative to controls.”

“We find that line supervisors gained substantial knowledge from the training, with test scores of treatment supervisors increasing by 40 to 100% as compared to control supervisors who exhibited no significant gains as expected. Productivity of teams managed by trained supervisors increased substantially and persistently on average compared to controls – by 7.3 percent during training and 5.8 percent over the six months after training completion.”


“Middle managers might indeed recommend supervisors who they know would gain very little in terms of productivity from training, but for whom training would greatly increase the probability of retention,” the researchers found.

Why? Because it’s time-consuming (and a pain in the butt) to train new supervisors.

Download the full study HERE:


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