People management: 5 must know techniques
HR Leaders, if you want to spearhead the growth of your company, you need to point your employees in the right direction first. Here’s how people management can be the difference between bossing it and, well, flopping it.
What is people management?
People management, also widely known as human resource management (HRM), encompasses a wide range of responsibilities from recruitment, ongoing support, task delegation and the direction of employees within an organisation.
Out of all the qualities that make up a good manager, people management is up there at the top.
People management isn’t just about directing the people on a team, but bringing out the best in them too. Through good people management, a manager can unlock an employee’s true potential by channelling their talents and ambitions.
Why is it important to get right?
If a manager doesn’t know how to manage people, they will a negatively impact the company culture and productivity. Everything from the company ethos to resource management to annual turnover is directly impacted by people management.
Good staff are developed by good management and in turn, good staff produce good results. Simple. Proper people management is so important to get right as it boosts morale, improves careers, increases productivity and helps to grow the business.
Why does people management sometimes go pear-shaped?
When you’re a people manager, you’ll likely come across some tricky situations from time to time for two main reasons: one, you’re only human and two your staff are only human too. Things are bound to get in a pickle from time to time.
With good managerial skills, though, most hiccups can be avoided. The most common errors or issues that arise from poor people management are sour group dynamics, disorganisation and lack of productivity.
Poor group dynamics
If you don’t foster respect and kindness among your employees, the company culture is going to go sour. If managers fail to understand how their staff interact with one another, they’re going struggle to manage the team.
Poor group dynamics lead to interrupted or broken communication between staff, free-riding – where an employee sits on their laurels all day, contributing very little because they don’t really care about the impact their work has on their colleagues – and disengagement.
Bad people management is often related to an inability to handle periods of transition, uncertainty or change. People management is crucial for guiding staff through the ups and the downs of company life.
If the manager fails to adapt their management depending on the situation, and fails to direct their team based on these changes, they’re going to encounter a problem.
A bad manager is frequently behind a poorly coordinated project. Tasks are wrongly distributed, deadlines aren’t met, responsibilities and schedules begin to clash and so on and so forth. Bad people management of this kind can be the death of a good company.
With bad people management comes poor productivity. Little input inevitably will lead to little output.
If tasks are badly distributed, the staff will lack coordination and direction. And, if nobody gets on in the first place because the manager failed to support and boost team morale… well, it’s all just a recipe for disaster really, isn’t it? Nothing will get done so production levels will fall.
5 top tips to tackle your people management
Unfortunately, you can’t just wave a magic managerial wand and suddenly your team are in line. You need to hone in on some particular leadership skills and traits to master people management.
Here, we’ve got five easy-to-remember guidelines on how to be a good people manager.
Don’t be self-centred
Good managers are very self-aware but never self-centred. They know what they bring to the table and have confidence in their approach to the job and in their agenda. Managers should be aware of the impact that they have on people around them.
Poor self-awareness becomes self-centred when managers are insensitive to their actions. For example, by having favourites, using inappropriate language when talking to staff, or delegating roles and responsibilities with no concern for the career or personal development of their employees.
This is also important when things go wrong. A bad manager will refuse to acknowledge they are wrong when something goes amiss. The best leaders are able to openly admit defeat, and then rather than dwelling in their defeat, go back to the drawing board.
Excessive self-righteousness wastes time and is a sign of unreliability. Staff need to be able to rely on their managers to adapt and compromise, rather than arguing relentlessly to prove themselves.
Giving effective and regular feedback is a sign of exceptional people management. It’s your responsibility as a manager to let your staff know if you don’t think they’re doing something right, or you think that more could be done.
If you are aware of what is going on but neither praise nor offer suggestions for improvement, then it can't come as a surprise if employees start underperforming. You are accountable for the performance of your team.
Things don’t always run smoothly, there’s always some cracks in the plan or bumps along the road. What’s important, though, is how you handle these situations.
Acknowledging that something didn’t work out is not a weakness but a strength – it’s an opportunity to learn and improve future performances.
Take time to properly communicate with your employees. If you take the first step, they’re more likely to be forthcoming in the future if they’re unsure about something, or if they have valuable ideas they want to share.
That said, don’t micromanage. Nobody likes someone breathing down their neck. Also, make sure you share your time equally among employees. Nothing is more demoralising for members of staff than being confronted with favouritism, especially when they’re not the favourite…
As a manager, you should know your employees well – you should be able to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Having this understanding will help you to develop your team by either appointing tasks to the appropriate member of staff with the necessary skillset, or assigning it to someone who needs more experience in running that sort of project.
With your feedback, you can establish the ambitions and goals of your staff. Then, when it comes to handing out tasks, you can do so in a way that supports them achieving their targets.
Likewise, be cautious of over-delegating to certain individuals and then complaining when things aren’t done on time. Know what your staff are doing, catch-up regularly to find out how they’re getting on, and be consistently aware of who can and can’t take on more work.
Build strong relationships
Get to know your staff through team building activities or regular outings. Organise whole team training sessions and development days so everyone is on the same page and working at the same pace.
You don’t have to be everyone’s best bud, but it does work in your favour to have a strong relationship with your employees.
Strong people management is about finding a balance between being friendly and retaining a certain level of respect and headship. It’s great to be a big joker, but you need your staff to take you seriously. Likewise, if you’re too nice, your employees might walk all over you.
Often, poor productivity and flaky company culture comes down to a lack of support. Make it clear that you’re not just there to boss them about, but to help them make the most out of their time at the company.
Encourage your team to work hard for themselves and the benefit of the team with promotions, incentives and reward and recognition schemes. Something as simple as an ‘Employee of the Month’ poster pinned to the staffroom fridge could help employees feel appreciated.
Clearly outline your goals and agendas, as well as what you expect from your team. Don’t hide anything from your employees. No grey areas allowed.
As already touched on, sound communication is the best way to build honest relationships with your employees, and thereby creating a sense of trust between you and your employees.
Good managers are just as passionate about what they do as they are compassionate towards those they’re working with. To be transparent, try and be open when giving feedback. That said, avoid coming across as abrasive or arrogant when giving out tasks or asking for an update.
Good people management is the key to success
Hopefully, now you understand why people management is so important and how you can improve your people management skills. As a manager, if you fail in this area, you’re headed for a business breakdown.
As a final point, people managers should always maintain a positive attitude towards every project and be fair when managing the business. Positivity breeds productivity, and fairness leads to respect.