People Management 101: Managing Employee Relations

One of the most crucial skills for a healthy work environment is also one of the hardest to recruit for: people management.

people management skills

People management is the cornerstone of a successful business, and even good managers can improve. Want to know how to improve employee relations? Here are the best practices of people management, which you can implement right away.

The 3 Necessary Skills of a People Manager

According to social psychologist Robert Katz, great managers have the same qualities: interpersonal skills, conceptual skills, and technical skills.

Great managers have the same qualities: interpersonal skills, conceptual skills, and technical skills.

Interpersonal skills are arguably the most important. Managers must be able to foster a sense of community— after all, successful teams produce the biggest results. People management ability, however, mean nothing if a manager cracks under pressure. Managers with need keen conceptual awareness to think on their feet and find creative solutions to unforeseen problems.

Though soft skills are critical, they’re not the end-all-be-all of good people management. Managers can’t excel in their role unless they’re comfortable with its technical demands. Proficiency with any important technology and software is non-negotiable. A good manager should also act as a professional mentor to his or her direct reports; this means that managers should have proficient technical knowledge of their roles in order to foster the education and growth of their employees.

How Can I Improve the People Management at My Company?

Feel like your company’s people management could use a boost? Make a list of which managerial skills are the most vital to the success of your company. Be as specific as you can. Which do you feel are lacking? Remember to start small— narrow down the list to 3-5 traits.

Once you’ve honed in on the most important skills, decide how you’d like to measure your manager’s success. Will you gauge their team’s overall performance? Will you send out employee surveys to measure behavioral traits? The system you choose is up to you. Establish a baseline and track their progress over time. Improving people management is a marathon, not a sprint.

How Do I Look for Good People Management Skills in the Interview Process?

It’s tough to gauge people management skills in a controlled environment. You won’t be able to see them in action, but asking the right questions will give you the best possible insight.

Anyone can succeed when things are going smoothly— only great managers succeed when things get rough. Ask the candidate how they’d handle ambiguous, uncomfortable situations like disciplining underperforming employees and mediating interpersonal conflict. If they provide strong, thorough answers, they’ll handle these situations well when they present themselves.

How Do I Address a Manager Who Has Behaved Inappropriately?

Don’t let things simmer. Waiting to solve the problem sends a message that it isn’t important. Instead, address the situation as soon as it’s brought to your attention. Meet with your misbehaving manager in person and explain what behaviors he or she is exhibiting must be changed. Ensure they know that it won’t be tolerated and clearly state the consequences if they act in this way again. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may need to take formal disciplinary action.

After explaining the situation, give your manager the floor. Give them the opportunity to explain their side and tell their story. The key is an open dialogue— there may be factors that you’re unaware of, which created the misunderstanding. You can’t handle the problem properly until you’ve evaluated all sides.

What about If Employees Have Complained about Another Employee’s Inappropriate Behavior?

Leave it to your manager. The best way for them to develop people management skills is by putting them to the test. Take a back seat and let your manager decide how to proceed. Keep an eye on things and don’t intervene unless absolutely necessary. Step in if the problem isn’t successfully resolved, especially for serious offenses, such as sexual or verbal harassment. 

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