How Can ‘People Management’ Principles Get The Best Out Of Your Workforce?


To get people management right, you need to do one thing: Manage your workforce well. But, how do you optimise your people management processes and what does amazing people management look like? In this article, we offer how 10 key traits can help set your people management apart from the competition.

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What Is People Management?

People management is the concept and underlying process of getting the absolute most out of your workforce. After all, people are critical to the success of your company, so the ways in which you attract, develop, and retain them will have a direct impact on your bottom line. Simply put, people management is planning and acting with your people in mind.

If we think about people management as part of a journey, we might want to think about it in three key buckets:

  • Acquisition – Things like your employer brand, recruitment processes, and compensation models.

  • Development – Onboarding processes and performance management cycles play a role here.

  • Retention – Things like your corporate culture, organisational development, and core values.

When you manage your people effectively, and across each of the three key stages and through concentrated resources or initiatives, your business thrives. At its core, the human element of people management is what matters the most — the effect your processes have on your people.

Why Is People Management Important for HR Leaders?

People management has to be one of the most complex and rewarding parts of management, and it's also one that every HR leader has to deal with on a daily basis.People management is propelled by the soft skills that HR leaders need to use, in order to get the best out of employees.

What makes someone a good people manager? Firstly, a good people manager ensures their team gets things done and delivers results: one of the fundamental tenets of management. According to Hellriegel & Slocum, who wrote one of the quintessential management texts, management is about "planning, organising, leading, and controlling the people working in an organisation and the ongoing set of tasks and activities they perform."

That said, HR leaders know that getting work done is only the beginning. Creating workplaces that encourage people, motivate them, and help them bring their best selves to work goes far beyond mere task allocation.

Ask any employee who has worked for a bad manager and they will tell you, unequivocally: successful people management works best when a team is able to pull together in a way that allows them to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. In short, teamwork makes the dream work.

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The 10 Key Competencies That Drive People Management

As we wrote about in this blog post on 10 People Management Skills that Lead to Organisational Success, “Happy employees are more productive. And, productive companies are more successful.”

Successful people management skills include:

  • Having a vision/goal

  • Being able to communicate effectively

  • Trusting your employees, and being trustworthy

  • Showing empathy

  • Connecting with others and being approachable

  • Being decisive

  • Being able to motivate your employees

  • Showing accountability

  • Demonstrating problem-solving skills

  • Enabling professional growth (for more on professional development, click here)

You can read more about each, and why they matter, by clicking this link.

Are People Management Skills Truly Necessary?

The answer lies in the fundamentals of people management. When you understand why people work (it’s far broader than simply earning a salary), how you can help them do their best work and what happens when things go wrong good people management allows anyone to get the best out of their people.

In fact, that’s the key difference between functioning and thriving organisations…

Why Do People Work?

In today’s society work serves a much greater purpose. While research by HRD Connect revealed that:

  • 72% of those surveyed do, indeed, work to live.

  • 50% say they work to support their family (50% also say they work to pay their mortgage).

  • 16% of people go to work each day solely for their fondness of their job.

  • 21% of people are in their job to build their career and knowledge.

People work for a variety of reasons. As we covered in this article on work-life balance, some people even go to work to avoid being at home!

Bearing this in mind, how can people management help people meet broader, deeper goals? The answer may lie in leveraging the skills of your employees and ensuring they are optimally motivated.

How Can You Help Them Do Their Best Work?

In truth, employees are only likely to want to strive to make positive change happen when they are motivated.

Employees are generally either:

  • Extrinsically motivated – externally-focused or related to rewards

  • Intrinsically motivation – self-motivated

However, regardless of whether employees are inherently self-motivated or not, it is possible to improve employee motivation by treating them well. This is something every HR leader should know well.

Building effective performance management cycles can ensure that you are always getting the best from your employees, and that they’re getting the best from you. Click here to read more about this crucial process.

One of the fundamentals of good people management lies in boosting morale. Here are 12 measures for boosting employee motivation which we covered in more detail in this blog post on employee engagement.

  • Praise

  • Clear and open communication

  • Responsibility and trust

  • Meaningful work

  • Leadership

  • Having personal goals

  • Creating a ‘freedom to fail culture’

  • Earning a reasonable salary

  • Celebrating success

  • Providing flexible working hours

  • Enabling and promoting staff development and

  • Providing food, drinks, and exercise

An astute reader will notice the overlap between these two lists – specifically, communication, trust, and goals.

After all, those who excel at people management are excellent communicators who are able to articulate their company’s mission (and their team’s goals within the context of that mission) clearly and who build trust with their team through clarity, honesty, and fairness.

People Management and Performance

Effective people management also requires the very important administration and record-keeping that comes with ensuring an employee meets the standards your company sets and can be appropriately rewarded for delivering results. Let’s not forget the critical role that performance reviews, appraisals, and 360-degree feedback play.

It is, of course, important to track how well an employee is doing overtime and keep records of everything related to their performance. Software like Personio can help companies store this critical information securely on the cloud using digital employee files.

With the right tools, everyone involved in people management, goal setting, rewards, and retention has access to the information they need at their fingertips.

Getting The Best Out of Your Employees with People Management

There is, in fact, a 5-step framework you can use for improving happiness at work. (Or, if you want more than 5 steps – take a look at this checklist of 31 things you can do to motivate employees). In essence, employees are likely to thrive if they are given autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Daniel Pink describes these three elements in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us which has sold more than two million copies worldwide.

To summarise them briefly: Autonomy is the ability to have control over the tasks we do. Having mastery over an area of interest is about learning to be the master of an art. Purpose is about having a reason to do what you do and this is, arguably, the biggest missing ingredient in many modern companies.

That’s partly why being able to identify and communicate core company values is so critical because, when people know what work to do and more importantly why they do it, working becomes meaningful, jobs become less of a chore and more of a pleasure, and people management unlocks the key to driving team success.

And that is, essentially, the secret to getting the best out of your people.

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