What is delayering?

Delayering is a process of simplifying organizational structures by reducing the number of management levels between top executives and frontline staff. It includes removing layers of hierarchy and allows senior managers to have a clearer overview of the entire organization. 

Delayering is a conventional method to create a more streamlined and horizontally structured organization. The removal of middle managers enhances transparency and communication within the company.


Furthermore, this process enhances decision-making and cost-efficiency. It also boosts organizational agility, enabling quicker responses to external changes.

This strategy has a lot of benefits that will be discussed further in this article. The process and the steps involved in delayering shall also be mentioned here, along with its advantages, disadvantages, and future trends.

Why should a company use delayering?

Companies use delayering as a solution to address common issues like high operational costs and slow responsiveness. Delayering streamlines the organization, making it more efficient, cost-effective, and responsive to changes.

Common issues that delayering can target are:

  • Inadequate spending control, weak policies, and lack of cost-conscious culture
  • Ineffective organization design, with duplications and overlapping responsibilities
  • Limited career development opportunities, primarily through layering
  • Skill gaps in essential positions
  • Flawed decision-making and governance structure

What is the process of delayering?

steps of delayering process

Here are the key steps that are involved in the process of delayering:

Identify the Need

Determine the reasons for restructuring, such as improving effectiveness, adapting to changes in the environment, or increasing competitiveness. Pinpoint organizational issues that can be targeted with delayering.

Assess the Current Structure

Evaluate the existing management hierarchy, identifying redundancies and overlaps in roles and responsibilities.

Involve Employees

Engage employees in the process. The commitment and involvement of employees are crucial for successful delayering.

Establish Performance Indicators

Define clear performance indicators beforehand (for example, KPI and OKRs). Monitor progress through pilots and prototype structures, adjusting as necessary.

Redesign Management Roles

Redefine managerial roles, emphasizing new skills and responsibilities. Encourage a shift from micromanagement to empowering team members and fellow employees.

Implement Changes Gradually

Delayering can be gradual or immediate. The pace of change depends on the organization’s specific circumstances. Changes are best implemented gradually so as not to shock employees who have been using traditional methods for a long time.

Evaluate and Adjust

Regularly assess the impact of the new structure. Use feedback and data to make necessary adjustments, ensuring the changes align with organizational goals.

What are the advantages of delayering?

The benefits of delayering include a variety of reasons ranging from improving organizational structure to enhancing communication. The benefits, however, are not mutually exclusive. Here are the major advantages of delayering:

It promotes cost-effectiveness

Managerial salaries are usually high compared to regular employees and team members. Since the process of delayering reduces the number of mid-level managers from the company’s structure, there is an opportunity to reduce overhead compensation.

This provides more profitability for employers and company stakeholders and saves organizational costs by reducing the redundancy of managerial duties.

It enhances organizational restructuring

Delayering is a by-product of the fundamental restructuring of an organization. It changes how managerial duties and tasks are performed and authorities are held responsible.

Delayering causes organizations to become ‘flatter’ where the number of reporting levels decreases. Flatter organizations reduce unnecessary bureaucracy among employees and hone the way for more effective communication and transparency.

It improves flexibility and client relationships

Flatter organizations pave the way for incorporating changes in the organization. This makes adjusting to changing customer demands easier. This is further helped by delayering as it enhances team-building, multi-tasking, and skill-enhancement opportunities.

A major issue of non-flat organizations is ideas getting blocked at the mid-management levels, resulting in the demotivation of employees. Employees enjoy greater flexibility and flow of creative ideas when there is no support from mid-level managers.

It supports a progressive nature

Delayering promotes a progressive organization by enhancing agility, fostering faster decision-making, improving communication, and creating a flatter, more responsive structure.

It transforms the way several activities are performed in an organization. It avoids formal and restrictive methods that employees were previously experiencing.

What are the disadvantages of delayering?

Delayering is not suitable for all kinds of organizations. Furthermore, if not done correctly, it can cause employees to get demotivated and lose their managerial roles or jobs.

Since the traditional methods of hierarchy have been so long practices, changes like these can often backfire. Here are the four major disadvantages of delayering:

It may cause work overload for managers

Delayering often results in fewer managers handling more responsibilities, leading to an increased workload. This overload can impact their efficiency and well-being.

It could reduce the sense of security

Employees might feel less secure about their positions due to the restructuring. Uncertainty about job stability can affect morale and productivity.

It may lead to job losses

Delayering can lead to job cuts as redundant positions are eliminated. This directly affects employees, causing unemployment and financial instability.

It can cause redundancy payments

Companies might have to make redundancy payments to laid-off employees. This incurs additional costs and impacts the organization’s financial resources.

Future Trends in Delayering

In the evolving business landscape, delayering, or reducing hierarchical levels, is becoming increasingly prominent. This trend is not only reshaping organizational structures but also shaping the future of work.

The key trends shaping the future of delayering and how they impact the way businesses operate and innovate are mentioned below.

Delayering will continue to be driven by technology

Rapid technological advancements enable automation and seamless communication. Delayering can leverage these technologies, removing unnecessary management tiers. This ensures that decisions are made promptly, processes are optimized, and the organization remains adaptable in a fast-paced digital landscape.

Delayering will be more common in knowledge-based industries

Industries relying on intellectual capital, such as IT, research, and consulting, benefit from delayering. Direct communication among knowledgeable employees fosters collaborative problem-solving. In these environments, delayering is pivotal, as it ensures that expertise is accessible, leading to innovative solutions and efficient knowledge sharing.

Delayering will be used to create more agile and responsive organizations

Delayering transforms hierarchical structures into flatter organizations. By reducing the number of management levels, decision-making becomes decentralized and responsive. Agile organizations can swiftly adapt to market shifts, customer demands, and emerging trends. This adaptability enhances the company’s competitive edge and ensures relevance in evolving industries.

Delayering will be used to reduce costs.

Delayering optimizes operational efficiency by removing redundant managerial positions. This reduction in administrative layers streamlines communication channels, minimizes bureaucracy, and eliminates unnecessary expenses.

As a result, the organization can allocate resources more effectively, investing in areas that directly contribute to growth and innovation. Cost savings achieved through delayering enhance financial stability and competitiveness in the marketplace.

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