Alternative people management skills worth having

What is people management?

People management is a term that essentially refers to human resource management. I spans the tasks of recruiting, managing and supporting employees within an organisation. This can include responsibility for staffing, goal-setting, training, administration, delegation and policy enforcement. But, more important than this list of tasks, is the human aspect of people management: it is the process of motivating, inspiring and supporting your employees.

Why are people management skills important?

People management is crucial to ensure that you are getting the most out of your employees. No matter how good the team members are individually, effective management makes the difference between a slick, effective team or a dysfunctional group of individuals incapable of working together.

Countless research has shown the importance that managers play in the success or failure of a business, and the productivity and welfare of its workforce.

Victor Lipman’s book on successful management strategies dedicated an entire chapter to the fact that “people leave management not companies” and further research shows that employees who feel they are working for an effective manager score up to 400% higher on engagement assessments.

A 2017 report on business management practices in over 25,000 business from across the UK found that an increase in management score of 0.1 on a 0-12 scale led to a 9.6% increase in productivity, which highlights the importance of effective management for the overall success of your company.

What skills do managers need?

Management is a fuzzy concept because it is constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the workforce, in order to stay ahead of the changing workplace environment, managers must constantly hone and redevelop their people-management skills.

When seeking advice for people-management strategies the same old skills get talked about again and again: “good communication”, “organisation”, “problem solving”, “flexibility” etc. All of these are relatively generic skills, applicable for any position.

Read on to learn about four essential people management skills you don’t normally hear about, but which you’ll need in order to succeed in a management position.

Negotiation

In his 2017 White Paper Professor Barney Jordaan defined negotiation as “a decision-making process.” Research has shown that employees who feel invested in decisions and understand the reasoning behind them are more motivated to work hard to achieve them. Jeremy Kingsley noted that knowledge of the bigger picture makes employees feel valued and thus boosts productivity.

As a manager, you can achieve this by ensuring that communication is a two-way street, and that employees know you are really listening when they approach you with problems or suggestions. Make sure to talk through any issues your employees have, rather than brushing them off or simply dictating a solution to them—by taking the time to show them that their input is valued, you reassure them that they are a key part of your company, not merely a resource to exploited.

Negotiation within a management context is about building and maintaining relationships between individuals, something which is crucial for creating a harmonious and productive workplace environment. Master this skill, and your effectiveness as a people-manager will rocket.

Appreciation

A global study by O.C Tanner Learning Group showed that 79% of people who have quit their jobs cite ‘lack of appreciation’ as their main reason for leaving. Managers can avoid this situation by ensuring that employees feel their work is being appreciated and applauded.

In an article from last year, Forbes report that the number one thing that employees say their manager can give them to inspire them to work harder, is recognition. Employees who are treated as a valued member of the team, who can see their efforts being acknowledged, will find their work more rewarding and exciting, and therefore work harder.

Showing appreciation can be as simple as a quick email acknowledging good work or a special mention made in a meeting; but the other option is a reward and recognition scheme such as employee of the month, which codifies a culture of appreciation within the workplace. Remember to also reward employees who are improving quickly or working to the best of their ability, not just the top performers statistically speaking.

A willingness to empower

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day – teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

This age-old proverb can be amended to mean “give an employee a solution and you help him for a day – teach them the skills to solve their problem and you help them (and yourself) for a lifetime”. Okay, so it’s not as catchy, but you catch the drift. Empowering employees with the confidence and skills they need to progress is perhaps the most crucial job for a manager.

Empowering someone can be defined as making them stronger and more confident; giving them the power to do something. This can seem a terrifying prospect for a manager, whose instinct is to clutch the reigns tighter, but managing people doesn’t mean controlling them – it means making sure they are in a position to work to the best of their ability, as productively and effectively as possible.

And in order to do that, you need to empower them with the training, environment and supportive relationship they need to thrive. This can range from sending them on training courses, to simply taking the time to explain the process behind something rather than just the outcome.

Invest time in training and encouraging your employees, and the investment will pay off tenfold. Remember that empowering employees by equipping them with problem-solving skills not only makes them more efficient – it also gives you more time and energy to focus elsewhere, as you are not having to micromanage their every move.

Accountability

And finally, the skill which may be the hardest to practise and perfect. As all excellent people-managers know: the ultimate responsibility for your team lies with you. When things don’t quite go to plan it can be tempting to pass the blame downwards in the hierarchy, sometimes without reason. Employees will notice any such unfairness treatment, and it will lead to resentment which will fester and destroy any hope at a good working relationship.

Managers are in a position of trust and responsibility – acknowledge this and take responsibility for your team and your team’s performance, and they will both trust and respect you. As any self-help book will tell you, trust is a crucial component of any relationship, and work relationships are no different. If your employees know that you have their back, they will have the confidence to suggest original ideas, to come at things from a fresh angle and suggest new solutions for old issues. This can inject your company with the sort of innovation you need to be on the cutting edge and create a culture of growth and creativity within your workforce.

Keep these skills in mind, work on them, and reap the rewards - good luck!

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.