Long before Jack Welch became CEO of General Electric (GE), he almost quit the company. Back in 1961, despite his hard work, Welch only received the same pay raise as everyone else. With a new job already lined up, Welch had one foot out the door. However, his manager, Reuben Gutoff, convinced him that remaining with the business was the best move. Using his people management skills, Gutoff promised Welch that greater opportunities awaited, and he would do his best to make sure nothing stood in the way of Welch showcasing his talents. That included providing Welch with the resources and support to develop his skills and grow within the company.
Jack Welch would go on to become the youngest CEO in GE’s history, lead the business to impressive success, and create one of the best company cultures in America. And it’s all because a manager with the right people management skills stepped in to ensure he realized his full potential.
Managers play a significant role in an employee’s happiness and professional direction. However, far too many people suffer under poor managers and frustrating bosses. According to a Gallup survey, more than half of workers in the U.S. said they left a job to improve their lives because of their manager. This survey shows managers have much to work on when it comes to people management.
When a manager doesn’t have effective people management skills, they can contribute to poor morale, a lack of job satisfaction, low employee retention, increased absenteeism, and even job abandonment. As turnover and low engagement increases, the results are low productivity, poor work quality, and a dip in profitability.
To put it bluntly, a group of bad managers has the power to close the doors to your business. Instilling great people management skills into your team can help you avoid this.
In this article, you will learn the following:
- What people management is
- What the best managers do right
- Which people management skills you need to guide your team effectively
What is People Management?
People management consists of the leadership styles and skills that help managers work with others to develop their own skills and ensure they’re happy in their jobs. The important aspect that separates people management from performance management is how it deals with employee satisfaction. People management accounts for an employee’s well-being, building up a comfortable work culture and environment where all can perform at their best. Leaders with people management skills will also need to show conflict resolution skills and handle disagreements with a diplomatic touch. All of these skills are put to use in order to achieve broader goals and move closer toward the organization’s grand vision.
Benefits of Great People Management
- Increase in productivity: The managers who practice the best people management skills create a work environment where employees feel motivated and inspired to be more creative, bold, and innovative. Yet, they also balance this out by providing plenty of breaks so employees can recharge and do their best work. As such, their engagement levels will increase, which results in an uptick in productivity.
- Downturn in absenteeism and job abandonment: Practicing people management skills leads to more engagement from workers, which leads to less turnover and absenteeism. Studies have found that in organizations experiencing high turnover rates, improvements in employee engagement resulted in 24 percent less turnover. Even among businesses with low turnover, there was still 59 percent less turnover than normal. Those businesses also found a 41 percent decrease in absenteeism.
- Better results: When an employee is more engaged, they have a higher degree of investment in the business. In other words, they’re more interested in seeing the company succeed. That means they’re more willing to put in the work to get better results. This clearly benefits the company as a whole.
- Higher quality recruits: Top-notch talent takes note when a company has a reputation for great people management. Those skilled employees want to become part of that organization. Effective management practices then get the most out of workers, leading to even more talent coming on board.
- Low turnover: As mentioned above, a leader who knows the best ways of managing people leads to lower turnover for companies. Managers play key roles in keeping people on the job. According to a Gallup survey, 52 percent of workers who left their jobs say that the manager or company could have done something more to keep them. Companies do just that when good people management skills become part of the equation.
- Great team spirit and camaraderie: With more employees engaged, cooperation increases as well. Improved team spirit leads to less conflict among staff and a greater effort made to collaborate with each other. The whole organization starts to feel more like a close-knit team, willing to support one another at any moment.
- Increase in profitability: In addition to greater productivity, a happy employee will perform better customer service. Collaborative teams that work well together will eliminate silos across the organization. All of these aspects result in increased innovation, more demand, better products and services, and an overall competitive edge that make for a bump in profits.
How to Manage People: People Management Skills You Can’t Overlook
1. Discuss Expectations
“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of highly Effective People
Effectively managing people requires seeing their potential and treating them as such. All of that starts with setting the right expectations.
A lack of expectations is the first step toward employees becoming disengaged with their work. People want to know what a win is. They also want to know if they’re on the right track. If they’re unsure about expectations, it doesn’t mean they won’t work hard. However, it will mean they have no clear direction, leading to wasted effort and growing frustration.
How to set expectations:
- Explain the why to them: The management of people often means explaining the why so they understand their purpose. Tie their jobs to the overall goal and vision of the company. Let them know what role they are playing that drives the success of the whole organization.
- Repeat expectations in-person and in writing: Part of setting expectations is stating them plainly to the employee. Make sure you do this repeatedly in different ways. You can simply tell them, but you should also have it down in writing so they can refer to it whenever they want.
- Stay consistent: Employees will only get confused and irritated if expectations constantly change. Stay consistent with your expectations, and if something has to change, explain why it is changing.
- Set timelines: When setting expectations, create timelines that others can follow. This provides them with goals to shoot for and eliminates vague language.
- Get vocal buy-in: Just because you’ve communicated expectations doesn’t mean employees have agreed to them. Make sure employees give their approval so you can hold them to that standard.
2. Develop Challenging, Yet Achievable KPIs and OKRs
“When everything is important, nothing is important.”Gino Wickman, traction
In Traction, author Gino Wickman uses the example of putting rocks and sand in a glass cylinder as a metaphor for thinking strategically about productivity and goal achievement. Think of the glass cylinder representing the time in your day, while rocks, gravel, sand, and water represent tasks. If you put the smaller objects in first, you won’t be able to fit in the gravel or rocks. Wickman explains: “The bottom line is that you need to work on the biggest priorities—your Rocks—first. Everything else will fall into place.”
This analogy helps to show the importance of prioritizing the right things. Every employee needs goals they can reach for. This helps them prioritize what they should be doing during the workday. When you develop KPIs and OKRs for your team members, they’ll then know what matters and what doesn’t. This will help them stretch to respond to the challenges they face. As they do so, you’ll be in a position to support them and push them just like a great coach.
To do this:
- Break down each employee’s goals both quarterly and yearly.
- Make sure you’re clear on what they should be achieving with their time.
- Provide them with the type of KPIs and OKRs that will challenge them but not be too overbearing. Once they know this information, they can better plan how to tackle their tasks.
3. Create Strong Systems in the Company
When Cargill Inc., a food producer and distributor based in Minnesota, found that its employees had become disengaged from their work, executives knew a change had to happen. So company leaders initiated a new system to help with performance and people management. This system helped to facilitate daily feedback and encouragement during conversations. The idea was to introduce constructive feedback with an eye on the future instead of dwelling on the past. With this combination of leadership and management, the company’s workforce became more engaged.
Creating systems such as these is all about setting an operating rhythm by which people can work. This rhythm creates stability, provides a framework for making decisions, reinforces habits that get results, and leads to successful systems. As people work with a rhythm, they’ll have something they can rely on in the twists and turns of their jobs.
How to create effective systems:
- Identify what activities your company regularly engages in.
- Look at each activity to pinpoint what resources, people, and strategies are used to do them.
- Think of some improvements to refine your processes.
- Experiment with new ideas and track how well those ideas perform.
- Make a final evaluation on if you should implement the new system. If not, repeat the experiment until you find a system that works.
4. Act as a Catalyst for Goal Achievement
“In most cases, no matter what it is, if you measure it and reward it, people will try to excel at it.”Marcus Buckingham, First break all the rules
At GE, the company once had a system where they ranked employees at the end of the year and let go of those in the bottom 10 percent. The new system GE adopted took a more constructive approach geared toward goal-setting. Now, managers meet with employees and coach them on how to meet their individual goals. Not only is this more effective in the management of people, but it is also an excellent way to deliver feedback and work as a team.
Managing people requires working closely together and cultivating tight-knit relationships. For example, build people up in their positions, recognize and reward them for their achievements, and provide them with the support they need. With the right resources, employees will feel confident they’ll meet their goals.
5. Provide Ample Praise and Recognition
An employee who does good work but doesn’t receive recognition will quickly grow detached. Recognition is a key component in managing people, one which leaders need to address if they want to keep employees happy. According to a study from Deloitte, recognizing employees when they do well increases productivity, performance, and engagement by 14 percent.
Other research has shown similar findings. According to the Harvard Business Review, 40 percent of workers indicate that they would put more energy into what they do if they received more recognition.
It’s clear recognition is tied to performance. After all, who wouldn’t work harder if they knew the higher-ups would appreciate their work openly? Just make sure recognition goes hand-in-hand with performance since research has found too much recognition is tied to tenure.
How to properly give employee recognition:
- Show your gratitude for their work commending a worker in front of their team.
- Give rewards such as pay bonuses or extra time off.
- Make rewards personalized to the employee, such as a gift card to one of their favorite restaurants.
- Tell them you appreciate their work in one-on-one settings.
- Create a culture that allows team members to recognize each other.
6. Develop an Increased Level of Emotional Intelligence
One of the most often overlooked leadership qualities connected to people management is emotional intelligence (EI). As explained in The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Stephen R. Covey breaks down emotional intelligence into five components: self-awareness, personal motivation, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. By developing these areas, you can increase your emotional intelligence and people management skills.
With these components, you better track how well you recognize your own emotions and regulate them. You also improve your empathy as you learn more about other people’s feelings, growing a greater understanding and sensitivity for those around you. The result is more people feel comfortable around you and have the confidence to speak their minds.
How to improve emotional intelligence:
- Practice active listening.
- Seek mutual respect between yourself and others.
- Gain an understanding of what triggers specific emotions from you.
- Practice public speaking to gain improved social skills.
- Focus on being positive and optimistic.
- Get acquainted with your employees.
- Work to relieve stress for yourself and others.
7. Practice Radical Candor
“If you can build a trusting relationship with people so that they feel free at work, then they’re much more likely to do the best work of their lives. But you’re not “getting it out of them”; you’re creating the conditions for them to bring it out of themselves.”Kim Scott, Radical Candor
People management is about helping people grow. If workers stay at the same level they’ve always been at, their managers have failed. One way to help others grow is to practice radical candor. Kim Scott coined the phrase in her book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, which teaches that you need to be direct and challenge others directly if you want them to grow.
What radical candor amounts to is being honest and transparent with those around you. By doing so, you develop leaders at every level of an organization. The result is an environment that values open communication whenever giving feedback. Direct challenges should happen with respect, where all feel comfortable voicing their opinion.
How to practice radical candor:
- Eliminate a perfectionist mentality.
- Stay humble when delivering and receiving criticism.
- Adopt an attitude of constant improvement.
- Create a culture where anyone can talk about anything (as long as it remains professional and respectful).
- Make any changes needed as quickly as possible.
- Support others as they improve.
- Deliver feedback with an eye to the future.
Grow a Real Relationship with Employees
People management isn’t just about driving people to work or knowing about employment law—it’s about helping others. As Simon Sinek says, “The leaders who get the most out of their people are the leaders who care most about their people.” That means showing up in the small moments. It’s about checking in with them and knowing when they’re going through a difficult time.
Look at it a bit like a parent-child relationship. Good parents don’t discipline their children when they’re hurt or force them to work harder when they’re sick. They show kindness and a nurturing attitude. The same should hold true for employers, provided you’re not condescending. By doing so, you end up building a trusting relationship that shows you genuinely care about them.
Start by developing those relationships today. Here are just a few tips you can put into practice right away:
- Schedule time in your day to work one-on-one with others.
- Offer assistance on projects.
- Be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it.
- Hold to your promises.
- Be there for your employees with they need it most.
Learn more about some of the top leadership traits that help you develop people management skills by checking out the following articles: