A Guide to Effective Employee Management
How to lead and manage your employees so your business succeeds.
Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
All businesses need both leaders and managers. Sometimes the leaders and managers are different. For small businesses, the same people often have to perform both roles. This can be a challenge since many people lean naturally more toward leadership or management. Fortunately, most people can learn both skills.
Leadership versus management
Leadership is deciding what needs to be done and prioritising it. Management is making sure that the right people are doing what needs to be done in the right way.
A leader, by definition, is a pathfinder. You are the person who works out where a business needs and wants to be (its end goal). If necessary, split the end goal into smaller, shorter-term objectives. Then further subdivide them into objectives and targets for different teams, job roles and employees.
Your responsibility extends to allocating suitable resources both to the goal and to each objective. This includes setting at least a provisional deadline for it to be achieved. You won’t get involved with the detailed strategy and operational mechanics of achieving these goals. This is the job of managers.
A manager is, essentially, an organiser. You may organise products, services or functions (such as operations). You may focus on staff management.
In general, however, almost all management roles need a combination of technical skills, administrative skills and people skills. Technical skills are based on the specific job role. Administrative skills and people skills can generally be transferred from one job to another.
These days, the focus is on setting up systems and processes to ensure that work is done. Increasingly, this is likely to involve deciding when to automate and when to deploy human staff. Once these systems are in place, oversee and adjust them as necessary.
If you are a line manager, you also work with HR to ensure that payroll is kept accurate. For example, ensure that events such as overtime, holidays and sickness are all accurately recorded. Also tell HR about productivity as this may be linked to pay and is almost certainly linked to staffing levels.
In many cases, your success is linked directly to your people skills. No matter what type of business you are in, employee engagement is usually a vital factor in its performance. This starts with hiring the right people. Then you need to motivate your staff, develop them as individuals and as a team, and retain them for as long as possible.
If you are a hiring manager, you prepare the job description, or at least the bulk of it. HR may add key details such as referring candidates to the business’s equality and diversity policy. After that, take ownership of selecting candidates for interviews and conducting the interviews. Do this under guidance from HR to ensure that the entire process is fair and transparent.
HR usually takes ownership of the logistical side of hiring staff. For example, they arrange interviews, conduct the necessary checks and take care of the practicalities of onboarding new employees.
Once new staff have been hired and onboarded, regular employee management is handled through standard line management. In practical terms, this translates as managing staff to set them up for success in their annual appraisal. Also ensure that employees are developed so that they can progress in the workplace.
In the modern workplace, it is vital for businesses to be able to demonstrate that employee management is both fair and transparent. Firstly, this ensures that businesses stay on the right side of the law (particularly the Equality Act 2010). Secondly, it’s now essential for recruiting and retaining employees.
Remember, that it’s now very easy for employees (and former employees) to review employers. There are even sites dedicated to this (e.g. Glassdoor). It’s also possible for people to discuss their experiences on social platforms such as LinkedIn.
Basics of managing an employee’s performance
Every employee should have a reasonable, attainable set of objectives. Assess their performance assessed by their progress towards these objectives.
Inform the employee of the criteria by which you measure their progress and what measuring systems you use. Keep subjective judgements to a minimum. If used, always support them with objective facts.
Monitor continually how an employee is performing. This doesn’t mean micromanaging people. Often managers hate this as much as employees.
Deliver constructive feedback regularly. This gives your team members the opportunity to build on what they are doing well or to course-correct quickly. Effective communication throughout the year should prevent unpleasant surprises at formal appraisals.
Managing workplace communication
Fundamentally, effective people management is largely down to setting clear expectations. If you have hired the right people, they will be willing to do whatever is required of them. Just let them know what that is. Also, if necessary, provide them with extra training to be able to do it effectively.
In principle, overcommunication is always better than undercommunication. Respect your employees’ time and their ability to remember information.
For example, document in writing the information that rarely changes (e.g. company processes). Supplement this with other media (e.g. videos) if appropriate. Staff can then access this information as, when and if needed.
Convey updates, current information and business-critical information through written communications, meetings or both. If you organise meetings, involve the minimum number of people and keep them as short as possible. Ideally, document meetings in some way so people can refresh their memories of them.
Managing remote teams
For the most part, managing remote teams is the same as managing on-site ones. There are a couple of key points worth highlighting.
Firstly, keep in mind that you won’t always have the same level of visibility over a remote team’s workplaces. For example, you may not be aware of localised internet outages or extreme weather conditions. You may even forget about time differences unless you actively note them. It’s therefore important to let your team members know they need to communicate anything that affects them.
Secondly, establish and enforce a set of protocols for remote meetings. For example, are people expected to have their cameras on or can they leave them turned off? Should they be muted and just use chat or speak normally? Are meetings recorded as standard and if so by whom? If these protocols vary between meetings, communicate them at the start of each meeting.
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