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If you’re in a leadership position in your corporation or small business, you know that employee management can make or break the success of your organization. Happy, hardworking employees will catapult you to success, while disgruntled, lazy ones will bring you down from the inside.

Navigating the social and performance aspects of managing your employees can be a daunting task, particularly when you have several different generations of employees who have different goals, motivations, and views on work.

Through skillful employee management, you can create a functional, efficient workplace by capitalizing on the strengths of your employees and motivating them to accomplish the team’s goals. Employees will be involved, motivated, successful, and loyal.

Successful employee management that leads your team to a successful future includes the following qualities: 

Communicate effectively.

You can’t manage your employees if you don’t know how to communicate with them.  Sending messages is only half the battle — knowing how to listen to your employees is just as important as getting your message across.

In order to be an effective communicator and leader, you must:

  • Be consistent with providing feedback, both negative and positive, and make sure that you’re always available to your employees when they need you.
  • Engage your employees with meaningful workplace talk and work to understand their motivations. This will help to keep you in the loop with how your employees are doing and what challenges they may be facing. By staying informed and engaged, you’re also showing your employees that you care.
  • Your workplace mantra should never be “Do as I say, not as I do.” If your behavior and actions in the workplace don’t match up with the messages that you’re sending, don’t expect employees to listen, much less respect you. It’s paramount that everything you are telling your employees lines up with your behavior.
  • Be self-aware. If you have a hard time seeing your own flaws or weaknesses, make sure you have at least a few trusted associates who will keep your words and actions in line.
  • Be sincere when addressing employees. This will always be a more effective form of communication than having a distanced corporate tone.
  • Use a personal touch. When at all possible, communicate face-to-face rather than email or phone. This is very refreshing in an e-communication world.
  • Simplify any lengthy or complex messages so that you can clearly communicate to your employees in a way that is more easily digestible and memorable. By being concise, you’re better able to keep your audience’s attention and focus on the message at hand.

Master nonverbal communication.

Communication is more than just using words; it’s also using one’s body. Be aware not only of your body language, but your co-workers’ and employees’ as well. Nonverbal communication  makes up the majority of communication, and is also the most important means of doing so.

You can tell how engaged your employees are — or what mood they’re in — through reading their non-verbal cues. Good leaders use this information to their advantage to gracefully navigate the social waters of the workplace and to communicate with more effectiveness.

Here are some examples of nonverbal cues,  according to body language experts:

  • Crossed arms can mean resistance or that someone is not listening.
  • Feet pointing towards the door can mean they are tired of what they’re doing or who they’re listening to.
  • A back-of-the-neck scratch can mean that they still have some concerns or that they’re not entirely convinced.

Become an active listener.

To manage your employees effectively, you must be able to listen in order to motivate and influence others.

Take the time to recognize what kind of listener you are, and then strengthen that knowledge. Listening is not hearing — listening is actively taking in and thinking about what someone else is telling you.

Many times leaders hear what their subordinates are telling them, but they’re not truly listening.

According to the Association for Talent Developmentlistening effectively should be high on a strong leader’s list of priorities.

Of course, in any management position, you have to do a lot of communicating. Instead of making the mistake of always being the one who barks out orders or rambles on, be known as the leader who cares and listens. There’s a lot to be learned from listening to others speak, and you’ll have a much better insight into the kind of employees you’re working with.

The following are the traits of a good listener:

  • Attentiveness
  • Asking questions when needed
  • Responding frequently and when appropriate
  • Staying on subject
  • Keeping emotions in check
  • Never interrupting

Use the Pygmalion effect to your advantage.

The expectations that you set for your employees and the expectations they have for themselves are powerful and will determine how your employees will perform. This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy or Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect in the workplace goes as follows:

  • Leadership has expectations of their subordinates.
  • These expectations are communicated consciously or unconsciously.
  • Employees consciously or unconsciously pick up on these expectations.
  • Employees’ performance is consistent with management’s expectations.

You as the leader can control your employees’ performance by positively encouraging them. Praise their successes, and acknowledge their loyalty and hard work. This will help to boost your employees’ self-esteem and yield consistent results in positive work performance.

As can be seen by the Pygmalion effect, if you’re not consistently encouraging your employees, you’re working against yourself.

When employees feel as though they’re not living up to their supervisor’s expectations, their self-esteem and work performance begin to falter. If management does not consistently motivate and encourage all employees, then the employees that have been neglected will think that they’re lesser than their counterparts and not cut out for the tasks set before them.

It’s easy to let a few people slip through the cracks when management has so many responsibilities; however, it’s of utmost importance to be vigilant against such common management mistakes.

The goal of any leadership should always be to motivate and inspire. Driven employees will always exceed expectations.

Here a few ways to encourage and improve employees’ self-esteem:

  • Show appreciation or gratitude.
  • Give them your time.
  • Give praise and approval.
  • Be agreeable.
  • Be genuine and smile.

You should also encourage employees to participate in projects that are likely to be successful, or assignments that are challenging — but not so much so that they have a high risk of failure. Work on developing your employees by nurturing their interests and utilizing their strengths.

Create a learning culture.

The world is ever-changing, and with technology advancing at high speeds, it only makes sense to grow and change the world around you.

Leaders control the vision and set the tone in the workplace, and the best leaders are innovative. Innovative leaders are not afraid of change, thinking outside of the box, or taking risks. They are constantly growing and learning, and are open-minded and receptive to the ideas and opinions of others.

Here are some aspects of creating a learning culture that you should keep in mind:

  • It’s your job as a leader to encourage your team to dare to be innovative, to take courses that will increase their strengths, and to challenge them.
    • A team that is always learning is always growing.
  • Lead by example. Don’t just verbally encourage growth, but show that you are willing to take classes and expand your knowledge by actually doing things to improve yourself.
  • Schedule time for you and your employees to attend training and conferences, and praise the employees that go. Create the expectation that they will be there, and encourage the employees to share what they learned with others.
  • Use every project or assignment as a teaching and learning opportunity. If a project is a success or failure, debrief the employees on why it succeeded or failed. Avoid making it about blame, but rather, create a safe place for a constructive discussion for employees to contribute their thoughts on the events that took place.
  • Dedicate time to work with employees one-on-one and discuss their goals and how they can achieve them.
  • Encourage employees to form study groups to learn and discuss ways to overcome any challenges they might be facing in the workplace day-to-day.
    • Create an environment where everyone is treated as equals, and where all ideas and contributions are respected and appreciated. There should be a sense of camaraderie in the workplace, not an atmosphere of distrust and cutthroat behavior.

Manage performance.

Performance management is the series of actions taken to develop a work environment in which employees are empowered to perform at their best.

Performance management is not something you do once a year — it’s the process of working with your employees every step of the way throughout the course of their careers.

These are the components of a performance management system,  as outlined by human resources expert Susan M. Heathfield:

  • Giving clearly defined job descriptions.
  • Recruiting the most qualified candidates to interview.
  • Performing interviews.
  • Identifying the best candidate for the job.
  • Offering candidate position and negotiating the terms of employment.
  • Welcoming the new employee.
  • Providing new employee orientation.
  • Discussing employee performance expectations and standards.
  • Providing continuing education as necessary.
  • Providing regular feedback and instruction.
  • Discussing performance development every quarter.
  • Designing methods in which to reward and encourage employees for their continual contributions.
  • Providing career development opportunities.
  • Assisting during exit interviews.

Conduct performance development meetings.

Performance development meetings are a crucial part of maintaining an efficient and motivated workforce. Every manager should take the time to conduct these meetings quarterly.

Management will want to schedule the meetings to take place in a private and comfortable location and spend a few minutes to build a rapport with the employee to put him or her at ease.

Make sure you accomplish the following in your development meetings, as suggested by About Money’s “Performance Development Planning”:

  • Establish that the objective of the meeting is to develop a performance plan.
  • Go over the employee’s accomplishments.
  • Discuss ways in which the employee would like to improve on and develop work performance via training or assignments.
  • Discuss ways in which you think the employee could improve upon work performance.
  • Discuss things further and ensure you’re both on the same page.
  • Go over future job responsibilities, standards, and expectations.
  • Go over how performance and goals tie into the company’s business plan.
  • Establish goals for the next quarter.
  • If an employee meets standards, then create a performance development plan for the next quarter.
  • If an employee is underperforming, develop a performance improvement plan and go over the repercussions of continued underperformance.
  • Give the employee the opportunity to provide constructive feedback about their job and your management.
  • Discuss anything else that is relevant to the employee and the job while maintaining professionalism and a positive tone.
  • Make sure the performance development plan is signed by both you and the employee as evidence that the meeting took place.
  • End the meeting by giving the employee your vote of confidence in their future performance and your continued support in the following quarter.
  • Set a date to follow up with the employee.

Through consistent performance planning, you set the employee  — as well as the organization  — up for success.

Create performance improvement strategies.

In an ideal world, employees follow all guidelines and rules, meet deadlines, exhibit round-the-clock discipline, and have great attitudes. Unfortunately, this isn’t reality — and that’s why management should have strategies in place in order to improve employee performance.

The following are questions to ask in order to improve employee performance:

  • Does the employee know his/her role? Oftentimes an employee is simply not aware of what is expected or required of him/her. This can be due to poor communication and training.
    • Always ensure that employees’ roles are clearly defined and that they are aware of what is expected of them.
  • Is the employee managing their time wisely? Not every employee manages their time judiciously, and, as a result, their performance suffers.
    • Discuss ways in which the employees can better manage their schedules while showing them effective ways in which to strategize and meet their goals.
  • Is the employee overwhelmed by their workload or doubtful of their abilities? Sometimes employees become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tasks set before them, and consequently underperform; other times, they simply lack self-assuredness.
    • Show the employee that you’re confident in their abilities and discuss ways in which they can break down their workload into something that feels more manageable.
  • Is someone or something prohibiting the employee from performing at their best? In some cases, other team members may be underperforming, and in turn, cause the employee to not meet his/her goals. Other times, it may be a technical issue or staffing issue.
    • Find out what’s keeping the employee from meeting performance standards, and rectify it immediately. Ensure that the employee knows that if need be they can come to you when something is prohibiting them from performing their job.
    • Always take the time to thoroughly go over what’s keeping an employee from succeeding. Through effective communication and employee performance strategy, management should be able to lead their employees toward success.

Create an environment of self-discipline.

No manager or supervisor wants to be forced to discipline an employee, and employees hate it even more. Instead, create an environment of self-discipline to reduce the need for disciplinary action.

  • Ensure that every employee under you is clear on what is expected of them and their role in the workplace. Whatever actions or behaviors you want to see in the employee need to be made known to them.
    • Take the time to talk with the employee and go over what’s important to you, as well as the organization, and how the employee can help achieve the team’s goals.
  • Reward self-discipline when you see it. If an employee shows initiative or self-motivation, encourage it. Tell them why you are praising them and thank them for their hard work.
    • Personalize the ways in which you reward each employee so that it has more meaning and is therefore more effective. This can be through more time off, special recognition, a raise, or the lead on an assignment.
  • Avoid condescension and treat employees with respect. No adult wants to be micromanaged and have their hand held throughout the day. Give employees the space to work and provide their own feedback or opinions on tasks and projects.
  • Employees don’t want to feel like just another cog in the machine — they want to be treated and respected as individuals. Always take the time to recognize and thank employees for their contributions.
  • Ensure that every employee, the new ones as well as the veterans, receive adequate training. Training should take throughout an employee’s career to ensure that all employees have the necessary skills for the job.
    • Take the time to ask employees how they’re doing and if there is any further training they feel they need or have an interest in. Always give employees the opportunity to seek extra-curricular training or education, and reward them for their work ethic.
  • Be an active presence in the workplace. Ensure that you schedule the time to leave the office to visit other employees in the workplace. When management is regularly present, employees tend to stay on task.
    • There’s no need to lord over other employees. Avoid visiting the workplace with the intention of catching someone in the wrong. Employees are smart adults and can tell the difference between a good leader who is merely staying in touch, and a leader who is looking for trouble.
  • Correct undesirable behavior immediately. There will be a time when you notice an employee showing no self-discipline and it’s your job to rectify the situation.
    • Employees will lose morale, and respect for management and the workplace if undesirable behavior is left unchecked. Never put off disciplinary intervention.

Know how to skillfully handle disciplinary action.

Every manager has at least one difficult employee that they have to discipline. The following are ways in which to make  disciplinary action less painful and more effective:

  • Follow a set disciplinary action plan. This should consist of escalating steps for correction and consequences, such as a verbal coaching, a written reprimand, suspension, and then ultimately termination.
  • Discuss the issue with the employee. You cannot simply tell an employee that they are underperforming. You have to be detailed in the ways in which they are failing as an employee in a tactful, yet clear, manner.
  • Be clear about the consequences. When disciplining an employee, it’s important that they know what the consequences of continued poor performance will be, in all the stages of disciplinary action.

There will be times in which disciplinary action is unsuccessful in the reformation of an employee, and you’ll have to terminate their employment. In these cases, always remain calm and professional, cite the employee handbook for further support and explanation, and follow your organization’s laws and guidelines for termination.


Many responsibilities come along with the title of manager, but to effectively lead and manage a team of employees, you must know how to delegate.

Plan, organize, and strategize for the team. Then delegate tasks and responsibilities to the employees most suited for each role.

When needed, coach and mentor the team on new skills, and then delegate assignments to them so they can improve upon and strengthen those skills.

Empower employees to take on new responsibilities and to assume responsibility for their assigned tasks and projects, while still offering your support when needed.

Be sure to take the opportunity to delegate:

  • When there’s time in the schedule to coach and train the team in the skills necessary for the job.
  • If similar jobs will be recurring in the future.
  • If the task is a good opportunity for growth and development of the employee.
  • If another employee has the skills and competency to complete the task.

If there’s a project or task whose success is paramount to the team or organization and will require long-term attention, then it’s best that leadership stay involved and not delegate such an important responsibility.

When delegating a task, be clear about what is required and expected for the assignment, and thoroughly answer any questions the employee may have.

Let the employee know why they were chosen, and that while you will not be micromanaging, you are available for support.

Always set aside the appropriate time to go over completed tasks that have been delegated, and discuss the results with the employee responsible for the assignment. If the task was completed well and as expected, recognize and praise the responsible employee. If the task was not completed to up to standard, then discuss with the employee how they can improve in the future.

When a leader successfully delegates, employees learn and grow, the team operates at maximum efficiency, and stress is greatly reduced.

Be a mentor.

It’s in management’s best interest to create a workplace composed of mentors.

Every successful person has had a mentor at some point in their life. Ensure the success of your employees and team by not only being a mentor yourself, but through the encouragement of others to be mentors as well.

Elements in creating a mentoring culture.

  • A successful mentoring culture must fit within the company’s overall culture and values. An organization cannot have an effective mentoring culture if it’s not congruent with the organization’s principles and goals.
  • Create accountability through defined roles, expectations, and goals. A sense of personal responsibility and shared goals creates a more efficient work environment and aligns employees to work together to overcome challenges and to achieve individual goals as well as team goals.
  • Showcase and praise mentorship. Regularly talk about the value of mentoring others, and share mentoring success stories. Praise and reward mentorship whenever you see it and make positive examples of those in the workplace who exhibit qualities of a good mentor.
  • Provide training and education to grow and strengthen mentoring skills. Empower employees to take the initiative to improve their professional skills. A well-trained and educated employee boasts increased self-confidence and is more likely to share their knowledge with others as a mentor.

Not everyone is equipped with the skills required of a mentor, and some people might have the right qualities to be a mentor but not the skills necessary for the job.

These are the qualities and skills to look for in a strong mentor:

  • Integrity: Every employee should possess integrity, but it’s even more important for a mentor. A mentor who possesses integrity has a strong moral compass, is honest, just, and fair, and practices what he or she preaches.
  • Emotional intelligence: A mentor who is emotionally intelligent possesses the skills to control his or her own emotions, as well as the ability to empathize with others. An emotionally intelligent mentor is also able to handle interpersonal relationships prudently and calmly.
  • Professional success: In order to be a good mentor, the employee should already have exhibited signs of success in the workplace. The employee must excel at his or her own role in the workplace and be in good standing with management as well as other team members.
  • Availability: Mentors should have sufficient room in their schedules to mentor others. No one can be a good mentor if they don’t have enough time to sufficiently support and counsel an employee.
  • The desire to mentor: A good mentor genuinely wants to help the person they are advising to succeed. One cannot be a good mentor if they do not express any desire to guide and counsel another professional.
  • The ability to admit failure: Not every mentor relationship works out, and a good mentor knows when he/she is ill-suited to the role, or when the employee is ill-suited to the job.

Keep employees engaged and motivated.

Companies thrive when they have an engaged and motivated workforce, and management plays a strong role in making that happen.

The following are ways to engage and motivate employees:

  • Develop employees’ strengths: Focus on developing each individual’s strengths and encourage them to mentor others.
    • By developing skilled employees, you create a strong team with aligned goals and the capacity to mentor.
  • Dedicate resources to employee development: Through employee development, you improve upon skill sets while boosting morale and confidence.
    • A certain amount of resources must be dedicated to training, motivating, and the personal development. When employees receive this kind of positive attention from their company, they feel valued and are more likely to stay with the organization.
  • Show employee appreciation: Gratitude and appreciation are strong motivators. Employees who feel appreciated perform better than those who do not.
    • Set notifications to remind yourself of important events for an employee, such as their birthday, or work anniversary, and take the time to send them well-wishes. Such genial and personalized recognition creates loyalty.
  • Simplify providing feedback: Make it easy for employees and management to communicate with effectiveness. Management should always be easily accessible to employees, and there is less frustration in the workplace when the channels of communication are uncomplicated.
    • Consider setting up a program in which management and employees can communicate regularly, and buy software to simplify the process.
  • Enable employee contributions: Give employees the opportunity to provide feedback and opinions on new programs, potential policies, and projects. Employees who are given a voice oftentimes offer great ideas for improvement.
    • Take the time to ask employees what they think about something, or if they have any ideas they would like to share, and if they are good, implement them. Nothing encourages an employee more than when their ideas are heard and implemented.
  • Provide incentives: Incentives are a classic way to get employees involved and motivated. Get creative with how you incentivize and make it fun for everyone. You can offer money, gift cards, paid time off, or vacation.
    • There are many ways that you can motivate employees through gifts and incentives that are creative and cost-effective.
  • Ensure room for growth: Most people don’t want a just a job — they want a career that provides growth and development. If there’s no room for employee advancement, employees will lose focus and drive.
    • Remind employees of all the opportunities within the company for growth and promotion. Then enable them to work toward these goals for advancement.
    • An organization needs to have engaged and motivated employees in order to thrive.
    • Every single employee makes a difference in whether the team succeeds or fails.

Know how to manage change.

Change is an inevitable fact of life.  The effects of change in the workplace can either have disastrous consequences or positive ones — and it’s the leadership’s responsibility to ensure that it’s the latter.

Begin by building support:

  • Change that is sprung on employees, without any background, tends to be ill-received. Leadership can prevent this by building support for an idea before it is implemented. Provide employees with information on how the change will affect them and the reasons why the decision for change has been made.
  • With advance notice and proper information, most employees will agree with the organization’s reasons and decision for change.
  • Ensure that every employee in a leadership role is well-informed on the changes to be made and that, in turn, adequately informs their subordinates.
  • Share with employees what the workplace might be like if the changes are not made, and assure them that they are being made in the best interest of everyone.
  • Take care that every system, structure, and network is in alignment with the change. Consistency within the internal structure of employee management is paramount toward the effectiveness and acceptance of the change.

Have patience:

  • Change is a hard thing to warm up to and the change may be more difficult for some employees than for others.
  • Employees need time to adjust to the new mode of business operation. Offer support for employees that need it whenever possible, and always lead with patience and encouragement.

Remove any obstacles in the way of implementing the change:

  • It’s critical that all senior management and the team in leadership positions, support the change and help aid in its long-term success.
  • Any leader who does not support the change will only impede its acceptance and success and is no longer a positive and beneficial asset to the organization.

Manage meetings effectively.

Through successful management, workplace meetings don’t have to be the dreaded time-consuming bore that many employees loath.

Here are some components of effective meeting management:

  • Establish if a meeting is required. Ask yourself first if having a meeting is necessary. There may be other avenues to accomplishing your goal or task that don’t necessitate the time and resources that an effective meeting requires.
  • Plan the meeting. Establish what you want the meeting to accomplish and what will be needed in order for it to achieve positive and effective results. Figure out whose presence will be needed for the meeting and schedule accordingly.
  • Before the meeting begins, ensure that all the required materials are available. Presentation materials and documents must all be readily available before the start of the meeting. Schedule enough time in advance to prepare for the meeting and replace any missing material that may have been forgotten or left out.
  • Begin the meeting by stating its purpose and its goals. The leader of the meeting must be clear, positive, and engaging. They must also possess the ability to keep everyone on task and involved.
  • Stick to the schedule. It’s easy for a meeting to get derailed. When it happens, redirect the conversation back to the topic at hand.
  • Give everyone an opportunity to contribute. Some meeting participants may be more eager to share their opinions and ideas than others. Encourage equal participation and avoid letting any one person dominate the conversation.
  • Create a defined time for a follow-up. Establish the time and place for any meeting follow-ups before the meeting is adjourned, and ensure that every meeting participant knows what actions they’ll be responsible for.
  • Hold meeting participants accountable. Every member present at the meeting must be made aware of what the consequences of poor action or follow-through will be — and then be sure to implement the consequences when necessary.

Know when and how to reward employees.

Employees need to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work and loyalty in order to prevent burn out. A successful employee recognition and rewards plan can ensure that the organization retains its best employees.

An employee should be rewarded and recognized whenever they exhibit desirable behavior.

Ways in which to reward and provide recognition:

  • Through gifts. You can thank an employee with a gift card, or better yet give the employee their choice of pre-selected gifts like MP3 players, phones and other personal electronics.
  • With a personal note. A simple note card expressing your appreciation is a great way to connect with an employee and recognize their accomplishments.
  • With certificates of appreciation. A simple, nicely designed certificate is like a good report card taped to the fridge. If your company culture supports it, a little humor can also go a long way.
  • With verbal recognition. Take the time to have lunch or coffee with the employee in order to thank them for their hard work while providing encouragement for further exemplary performance.
  • With public recognition amongst their peers. Some employees really appreciate a public pat on their back for all their hard work. It’s a simple and free way to reward an employee for their accomplishments.

What are your thoughts on employee management? Is there anything else you feel is essential? Let us know in the comments below.