Delayering is the process of removing layers of hierarchy between the highest and lowest levels in order to boost operational efficiency, decrease the wage bill and remove red tape. Delayering typically removes middle managers, providing senior managers easier reach over the organisation as a whole.
Commonly cited advantages of delayering include increases in engagement and motivation as more responsibility is afforded to ‘on the ground’ workers to make decisions, instead of being told what to do by middle managers. Communication may also increase as there are fewer levels of information to become lost in translation and bottom-up feedback may also increase as employees’ feel their views have more chance of being heard by decision-makers.
Despite the value of delayering, there are disadvantages. Senior leaders tend to gain more control over decision-making with reduced oversight, which means the effects of poor individual decision-making may be felt more acutely. The flatter organisational structures created by delayering may work in particular industries but may be unsuitable for others, and the redundancies associated with delayering may affect worker morale.
Delayering on its own doesn’t tend to achieve the types of efficiencies leaders are looking for. Combining the initiative with other progressive measures, such as engagement programmes or cross-divisional working, can maximise its effect.