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An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Direct Reports

What Are Direct Reports?

Direct reports are employees who, as the term implies, report directly to someone who is above them in the organizational hierarchy, often a manager, supervisor, or team leader. Another term for direct reports is subordinates. The person in charge of direct reports is responsible for assigning them work and monitoring performance. 

Direct reports may themselves have direct reports. For example, a sales manager may report directly to a director of sales and also be in charge of a team of sales representatives.

How Many Direct Reports Should a Manager Have?

The more direct reports, the more employees a manager or supervisor has to monitor, motivate, and mentor. The span of control, or number of direct reports someone has, will depend on several factors, including:

  • How difficult or complex the work is: If the work is repetitive and low-skill, then one manager can more easily be in charge of a large group.

  • How much experience and skill employees have: More experienced employees don’t need as much monitoring or help.

  • How much experience the manager has: Newer managers may not have sufficient training or experience to deal with dozens of direct reports and would benefit from supervising a smaller team.

  • How demanding or heavy the workload is: If the work schedule is constantly changing or busy, it’s better to not have as many direct reports.

  • How the organization is structured: A company with a flat organizational structure likely won’t have very many employees who are direct reports by design. However, a business with a more traditional hierarchical structure will emphasize a managerial system.

In a 2016 report by Deloitte, the average number of direct reports at U.S. companies was 9.7; this number is slightly higher at large companies, where supervisors have an average of 11.4 direct reports. 

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