Managing & Engaging Your People: 5 People Management Skills Every Manager Needs To Succeed

From communication to building trust, discover five essential skills to be a successful people manager. 


No matter where you work, the chances are that your job involves working with other people – and if you’ve worked your way up the career ladder, it might mean that you oversee a project or team. In either scenario, understanding what makes people – and more importantly each individual – tick can be crucial to success.

Few of us are born with an instinctive talent to manage other people - in fact, Gallup estimated that only about one in 10 people possess the inherent talent to manage. The good news is that with a bit of patience, you can hone your people management skills to become the manager you want to be.

What is people management?
People management is the process of developing, organising and motivating employees to boost performance and promote their professional growth. People management skills are typically termed ‘soft skills’ – which include interpersonal skills, time management and listening skills.

Why are people management skills so important?
Almost half of UK workers have quit a job due to a poor relationship with their manager. According to Brigitte Hyacinth, author of Leading the Workforce of the Future, a large part of an employee’s commitment to their company’s success depends on their relationship with their manager, with Gallup research indicating that 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by their manager. Disengaged staff can impact an organisation’s bottom line, through lower productivity and increased rehiring and training costs to replace leavers, as well as affecting morale and job satisfaction across the wider team.

Managers with great people management skills can keep employees engaged, creating motivated teams that push the company forward in alignment with its goals. We look at five top skills and attributes that all great people managers should have.

1. Trust
Just like every good relationship, a successful manager-employee relationship is built on trust. Ensuring that you trust your employees and they trust you in return can make a significant contribution to the overall happiness and success of your team.

One way to show your employees that you trust them is to let them take ownership of their work. Resisting the urge to micromanage can be tough, but assigning your employees a task and simply outlining what you would like them to achieve may help your employees grow in confidence along with giving them the motivation to excel at their work. It’s also important to let your staff know that they can come to you for advice and direction if needed.

Trust can be affected when working remotely, and the small things like moving meetings at the last minute or joining late can sometimes be more frustrating in a remote working situation. When you’re in the office together, you can see when someone is caught up or stuck in a meeting that is over-running, but when we're apart this can leave your team feeling left in the dark when meetings are delayed or cancelled at the last minute. So, as managers we have to work a bit harder to build and maintain trust when working apart.

2. Communication
Developing your communication skills can help you build those trusting relationships, and to be a great people manager you’ll want to hone your communication skills. You may find that a large part of communication involves actively listening to what your employees are saying – verbally and non-verbally. Body language can let you know whether someone is engaged with what you are saying or is bored, angry, or defensive. Remember, it goes both ways though. Making eye contact, smiling, leaning in slightly and using your hands while you talk are all examples of positive body language that show your interest in what others are saying.

Communication is more challenging in a remote setting, as we miss out on social cues and body language. You can’t read a room like you would in the office, where someone’s slumped shoulders or fidgeting would give you clues as to how they’re feeling, and you could adapt your tone to re-engage them. When it comes to managing remote teams, make a more conscious effort to check in and make sure your team knows you’re there to support them - having regular video calls can keep everyone connected.
Listening to understand instead of listening to respond is vital for effective communication. The best managers take the time to really understand what their employees are saying without assuming they already know what the problem is.

3. Ability to motivate
No matter what the job, there will always be some aspects that are less thrilling than others. A good way to motivate your employees to get some of the more mundane tasks done is to make them fun. Simple things like turning tasks everyone dreads into a friendly competition or encouraging colleagues to collaborate on certain tasks can help energise and motivate your team, while offering encouragement, constructive feedback and meaningful praise goes a long way too.

Learn to recognise when someone is losing motivation, and work with them to help them re-focus. Be prepared to make changes in order to help improve their job satisfaction and happiness at work and encourage them to share ideas and solutions of their own. Don’t assume that every employee will be motivated by the same thing, so learn what works for them and adapt your approach accordingly. 

4. Making time
Having one-on-one meetings with your employees on a regular basis plays an important role in successful people management. It gives you the chance to deal with issues early on, whether an employee is struggling with a customer-related issue, experiencing conflict with a colleague, or something outside of work is a source of stress or anxiety. Likewise, making the time for one-on-ones with each member of your team helps you to keep them motivated towards achieving their goals and is a great opportunity to provide feedback and praise.

You could block out time for drop-in sessions as well as scheduling regular one-to-ones with each member of your team. Having a blend of structured time set aside for each employee and an ‘open door’ policy to encourage team members to come to you when they need some informal advice or support can work wonders for keeping communication channels open and building trust. Setting time aside for your team also communicates that you are invested in their wellbeing and development, and that you value their input.

5. Recognition
A lack of recognition is one of the top reasons for employees leaving their jobs. The words ‘great job’ or ‘well done’ aren’t hard to say - surprisingly though, Harvard Business Review reports that over one-third (37%) of managers avoid giving praise. You can make sure that your employees know how much you appreciate their hard work by telling them. There are plenty of low-cost and simple to implement forms of recognition, from eCards and thank you notes, to praise given in team meetings, to a whiteboard ‘wall of fame’ for a fun and informal way to recognise employees’ contributions. Recognition can also come in the form of incentives and perks, such as gift vouchers or a celebratory team lunch. When it comes to recognition, say it like you mean it, be specific, and make it a habit – praise and appreciation should not be treated like a scarce resource that you can run out of.

Adecco can help put the right people on your team and give you the support and resources you need to keep them there. To learn more, contact us today.

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