Guide To People Management: Definition, Tips and Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

April 26, 2022

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

Effective people management is a necessary quality for current and aspiring leaders who aim to improve workplace communication and prepare employees for success. Examining the skills that make up people management can help you discover your strengths and identify areas for improvement.

In this article, we explore what people management is and how to develop the skills that are vital to quality people management in the workplace.

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What is people management?

People management is the process of training, motivating and directing employees to optimize workplace productivity and promote professional growth. Workplace leaders, such as team leads, managers and department heads use people management to oversee workflow and boost employee performance every day.

People management is useful in many workplace situations, such as for:

Handling interpersonal conflicts

Managers and employees in leadership positions have an important role in resolving conflicts. Effective people management can help you mediate conflicts between employees in a way that promotes collaboration and respect.

Leading employee training

As a workplace leader, you may be responsible for onboarding new employees and coaching current employees on updated processes. You can use the elements of people management to provide constructive feedback and mentor employees so they can succeed in their positions.

Managing deadlines

Directing employees includes assigning tasks and establishing achievable goals. Effective people management can help you evaluate your team’s resources and set realistic deadlines that encourage progress.

Building company culture

Your leadership position may allow you to positively influence your work environment. You can use your people management responsibilities to build rapport with employees. You can also ask your team for feedback on their perspective of the company, and then turn that feedback into actionable changes to a company culture that every employee can help develop.

Essential people management skills

People management requires several soft skills, including those that can lead to open and honest communication as well as improved employee experience. Each of these skills can better help you interact with your employees and perform organizational tasks.

Here are eight essential people management skills to incorporate into your workplace:

  1. Empowering employees

  2. Active listening

  3. Conflict-resolution

  4. Flexibility

  5. Patience

  6. Clear communication

  7. Trust

  8. Organization

1. Empowering employees

Empowering your employees helps them develop new skills and be more productive. It’s important to train new employees well and give them the knowledge and resources they need to perform assigned tasks and continue learning on their own.

Other important aspects of empowering employees include:

  • Offering constructive feedback to encourage skill-building

  • Being available for questions or additional training

  • Allowing them to adjust workflow or standard processes if it improves their productivity

  • Encouraging them to take additional skill-building courses and learning opportunities

  • Supporting them on or manage challenging projects

2. Active listening

Active listening is the practice of listening to the speaker to fully understand their perspective, question or concern before responding. Active listeners remove distractions, maintain eye contact and offer verbal or non-verbal cues to indicate their engagement and understanding. 

When an employee comes to you with a question or issue, use nonverbal cues such as nodding to demonstrate your engagement while they’re speaking. Respond thoughtfully by repeating a summary of your understanding of their message. If you have understood, you can then ask follow-up questions to learn more about what they need. You can also express that you empathize with their experience to further assure them you understand and respect them. These active listening techniques lead to quality people management that promotes positive interactions in the workplace.

Read more: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Conflict-resolution

Good conflict-resolution skills can help address interpersonal challenges. You can analyze the situation and identify what the causes of the conflict might be. If there’s a miscommunication or differing opinions, you can mediate between opposing parties and help them make a compromise or reach a collective understanding. After mediation, monitor the situation to ensure the conflict is fully resolved and to prevent it from occurring again.

Read more: Conflict Resolution Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Flexibility

Knowing when to be flexible and when to more firmly direct employees is an important aspect of effective people management. You can demonstrate flexibility in your management style by accommodating individual employee needs—such as adjustable schedules or remote work options—and allowing employees to adjust their individual workflow so they can be as productive as possible. You should assess the results of the employee’s process to ensure its efficiency and to help them revise the process if it can be optimized.

For example, if one of your employees prefers to complete related tasks in batches while another employee moves back and forth between different tasks, analyze each employee’s results. If both employees are their most productive using their respective processes, then you can encourage them to continue using and improving their systems. You may even ask them to demonstrate their individual processes to other employees to optimize the entire team’s workflow. If an employee seems to be struggling with personalizing their process, you can coach them through the standard steps, and help them discover what works best for them.

5. Patience

Patience is an important people management skill that uses kindness, respect and empathy while helping others overcome obstacles. You can use patience when training new employees, teaching new processes, handling conflicts or solving problems. When employees can trust their managers to be patient, they are more likely to ask for clarification to ensure they understand directions and to increase the quality of their work.

For example, if an employee continues asking questions about a single process, you should continue to guide while trying new ways to better communicate your message. Consider providing multiple examples that clarify and demonstrate your instructions, or combine typed instructions with visual diagrams if possible.

Use patience in the workplace to encourage employees to always ask for help if they need it.

6. Clear communication

Communication is a necessary people management skill that enables team members to work together in solving problems, brainstorming new ideas and adapting to new changes. Your ability to clearly communicate with your coworkers can help you be a better team member.

Practice effective communication by using clear and simple language so every recipient understands your message. Consider revising the way you give your message to avoid common barriers, such as too much information at one time or inaccessible terms. Allow your employees to ask clarifying questions, and directly confirm that each member of your team understands the information so there is no miscommunication.

7. Trust

Trust means believing that you can rely on someone’s abilities, assistance or advice when you need it most. Building trust helps your team work together more efficiently and productively. Teams should be able to trust that their leader supports them and believes in their hard work. Leaders should be able to trust that their team can complete tasks correctly and on time.

You can build trust by reliably performing your tasks and demonstrating technical skills when employees ask for help. You can also promote trust when you provide constructive feedback that helps team members improve their skills and work quality.

8. Organization

Managing a team involves handling several different ongoing tasks simultaneously. Organization is an important people management skill that helps you track and maintain your team’s productivity. Signs of effective organization include:

  • Promptly responding to emails, approval requests and questions

  • Keeping a calendar to actively track deadlines

  • Running meetings that efficiently discuss information

  • Properly assigning tasks to team members

How to develop your people management skills

If you can demonstrate your people management skills, you can become a stronger candidate for future leadership roles. Identifying your strengths and areas for improvement can help you decide which distinct skills to grow. Consider using these strategies to develop specific people management skills:

1. Choose individual skills to focus on

People management is a broad skill set. Select a specific skill from the list above, such as conflict resolution, and learn more about the skill, its benefits and how to apply it in the workplace.

2. Enroll in professional development courses

Some companies offer their own management training programs while others may sponsor employees to take development courses elsewhere. You can find courses online or through an educational institution.

3. Find a mentor or business coach

Specialized or targeted attention is a great way to develop people management skills quickly. Mentors and business coaches can give you personalized feedback and specific, actionable strategies.

4. Ask other managers for feedback or advice

Ask your manager or supervisor for advice on how to develop your people management skills and potential leadership opportunities where you can demonstrate and practice those skills.


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