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9 Strategies for Effective People Management in Your Business

People management is the practice of motivating employees to be more productive and engaged. Discover the top 9 strategies for effective people management.


By ActivTrak

A groups of block to represent employees and effective people management.

Effective people management doesn’t happen by chance. It takes a lot of work — but it’s worth it.

More than half of surveyed employees say they’d turn down a 10% raise to stay with a great boss. And according to the Pew Research Center, 55% rate their managers as "very good" or "excellent." These leaders know how to set clear expectations, support work-life balance and inspire people to take an active role in moving the business forward.

So how can you know if they’re leading your teams? 

If you and your managers already use the strategies outlined in this article, you’re well on your way to building a strong leadership culture. And if not? Study, share and implement them today.

What is people management?

People management is the practice of leading, developing and motivating employees to be as productive and engaged as possible. It involves creating an environment that promotes learning, supports innovation and makes employees feel comfortable taking calculated risks. 

Good people managers focus on every aspect of the employee lifecycle, from onboarding to day-to-day work to long-term career growth. They not only address current needs and challenges but also anticipate future trends to develop strategies for long-term success.

The importance of people management

The importance of people management can’t be overstated. Employees value a positive culture 10 times more than pay and are most likely to quit because of toxic environments, poor leadership, a lack of work-life balance and burnout.

But develop a strong people management strategy, and the opposite occurs. According to Gallup, top-performing organizations average a 70% employee engagement rate at a time when most companies are lucky to reach 30%. They also have 14 engaged employees for every actively disengaged one, more than seven times the U.S. average.

Those metrics don’t happen by chance. They’re the result of inspiring workplace cultures defined by great managers — ones who know how to set clear expectations, provide concrete support and strike a balance between accountability and autonomy. They don’t just improve team performance. They significantly impact your organization's growth and profitability.

Essential strategies for effective people management

People management skills are critical to running a successful business. But it involves a lot more than just overseeing employees. Effective managers build trust, make employees feel valued and empower people to contribute their best work. Specific leadership styles may vary based on team dynamics, but the overall results are the same — more productivity, better problem solving and faster results.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, these key people management strategies are a great place to start.

1. Gather insights using workforce analytics

In the past, developing people management skills meant relying on a mix of employee feedback, surveys and trial and error. But that all changed with people analytics.

According to Deloitte, high-performing organizations are two times more likely to use specialized people analytics software. These platforms collect and analyze employee activity data to report on everything from workloads to productivity levels to work-life balance. They equip managers to make more data-driven decisions about what’s best for each team and individual. 

Empowering managers with workforce insights is one of the best ways to improve people management. Businesses that use workforce analytics report higher retention rates, more satisfaction and a better understanding of talent needs.

2. Redistribute unbalanced workloads

One of the biggest enemies of team productivity? Unbalanced workloads. Assign too much and employees burn out, but give people too little and you’ll fail to reach your goals. And overworking some team members while others don’t have enough to do is a recipe for resentment.

That’s why workload balance is critical. Ensuring each team member has the right amount of work is one of the fastest, and most effective ways to restore harmony. But don’t rely on employees to tell you when it’s time to redistribute tasks. This issue will fly under the radar for weeks or months if they fail to speak up. Instead, regularly monitor workloads to see when team members are overwhelmed and need support.

3. Set clear goals and expectations

Accountability is another crucial step to managing people effectively and improving team performance — one that starts with clear expectations. Before you can hold people accountable for their work, you need to set the stage for success.

Start with role alignment to ensure each team member’s skills and strengths match their responsibilities. Then openly discuss any goals, plans, deadlines and standards you expect them to meet. And finally, schedule one-on-one meetings to regularly discuss roadblocks and remove barriers. 

4. Support disengaged or struggling employees

It’s easy to manage employees when everything’s going smoothly. But how you handle the rough patches is even more important. When engagement is low, your risk of burnout and turnover runs high. And the more disengaged employees are, the more likely they are to drag down morale and productivity for your entire team.

To prevent this from happening, take action the moment you suspect engagement is waning. It means watching closely for signs of overwhelm, and promoting work-life balance by encouraging people to rest and pursue personal interests outside work. In addition to helping employees struggling with workloads, watch for underutilized team members who need new challenges and opportunities to grow.

5. Promote growth opportunities

Did you know 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn? If training and development isn’t part of your people management strategy, add it to the top of your list. By providing opportunities to learn and grow, you tell employees you value their career goals and want to invest in their future.

Better yet, identify growth opportunities that translate into new skills and knowledge for your organization. Cover the cost of workshops and seminars. Offer in-house programs. Ensure everyone’s well-versed in your technology and apps. The key is to make your training meaningful and worth the time — investing in your people motivates them to invest in your organization’s success. 

6. Promote high-performance behaviors

Top-performing employees don’t just show up and work hard. They also take direction well, collaborate with others and consistently deliver high-quality work. They make strong teams even stronger and influence those around them. 

Start by evaluating the characteristics of your high performers to identify common traits. Then look for opportunities to help other team members emulate them. In addition, pay attention to how your employees communicate, collaborate and engage with one another. This empowers you to not only praise productive behaviors but also use them as a guide when coaching and providing constructive feedback.

7. Celebrate wins and achievements

Recognizing employees for jobs well done is a huge motivator. And thankfully, you don’t need a big budget to foster a culture of appreciation. While some achievements warrant raises and promotions, simple praise goes a long way in increasing job satisfaction and boosting engagement. 

Regularly celebrate wins with your team by praising people on Slack or Microsoft Teams channels, updating leadership on goal achievements and sending thank yous to employees as they hit milestones. These activities make people feel seen and are especially important for team members who aren’t in high-visibility positions.

8. Provide constructive criticism with care

To truly thrive, employees need to do more than celebrate achievements. By discussing opportunities for improvement, you open the door to even more growth. Providing constructive criticism may be uncomfortable, but it’s a must for effective people managers.

The best way to balance praise with criticism? For decades, managers were advised to use the “sandwich” approach: Deliver each piece of criticism between two positive observations to make it more palatable. However, according to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, most people either focus on the criticism and forget about the praise or remember the praise and overlook suggestions for improvement. 

Instead, use a straightforward approach. One of Grant’s favorite studies found people were more likely to implement changes accompanied by the phrase: I have high expectations and I know you can reach them.

9. Embrace employee coaching

Does your organization encourage managers to coach employees? If not, you should. Employees who feel like they have a coaching manager are eight times more likely to be highly engaged than those who don’t. Productivity coaching is also linked to higher performance at both the individual and organizational levels. Plus, as teams become more distributed, coaching is a top concern.  

Not sure where to start? Virtual coaching assistants help. These tools analyze employee activity data to provide recommendations for balancing workloads, boosting efficiency and building healthy work-life balance habits.

Improve people management across your organization with ActivTrak 

Remember, the strategies above are just the start. Effective people management is an ongoing process, and different cultures require different approaches. The key is to be intentional about nurturing growth, engagement and productivity across your workforce.

One of the simplest, most effective ways to do this is with ActivTrak’s workforce analytics software. We equip you with deep insights into employee productivity and well-being to make informed decisions on everything from workload balance to constructive feedback. Get started today with a free account and request a demo for a behind-the-scenes look at dashboards designed especially for people managers. 

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