Team of three coworkers sitting at a table in a bright conference room.
An effective people manager can improve employee retention and increase productivity. — Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

There are good managers, and then there are great ones. Often, the difference between good and great lies in the approach. Good managers are able to run the business efficiently, reach key benchmarks, and ensure customers are happy. Great leaders are often people managers. They achieve the same business results as good managers by focusing on making sure employees are set up to succeed.

[Read more: Beyond the Bottom Line: Why Putting People First Matters]

A survey from Gallup found that 70% of a team’s engagement depends on the manager. Someone who is good at managing people can help improve employee retention, which leads to lower hiring costs, better customer service, and increased productivity. If you’re interested in improving your people management skills, here are a few steps to get you started.

Identify each person’s strengths

People perform best when they play to their strengths. Becoming a better people manager often means delegating tasks according to an employee’s interests, abilities, and experience. Spend time observing your team to see the things each individual is drawn to and what each person struggles with. Or, schedule time to sit down with each team member and ask them about their best day at work.

“Find out what the person was doing and why he enjoyed it so much. Remember: A strength is not merely something you are good at. In fact, it might be something you aren’t good at yet,” wrote Harvard Business Review.

Someone might have a rough idea that they might be good at something, and get a lot of satisfaction from trying or practicing it. Enable this to become their strength by offering training, mentorship, or job shadowing until the person gains more insight.

Practice transparent communication

Top-down decision-making may be the way things are done, but there’s no reason why transparency can’t be part of that structure. In fact, one survey found that ​​68% of respondents wanted their companies to increase transparency efforts, particularly millennial and Gen Z workers.

In practice, transparent communication involves explaining the “why” behind work assignments and key decisions. “If the project has ceased to receive funding and will die soon, tell them honestly about it. If there are plans to change something, also tell about them in advance, and do not put people before the fact,” wrote Entrepreneur. Employees respect and trust managers who are honest about what’s going on in the company, rather than hide things.

Someone might have a rough idea that they might be good at something, and get a lot of satisfaction from trying or practicing it. Enable this to become their strength by offering training, mentorship, or job shadowing until the person gains more insight.

Find the right motivation

Good performance is triggered by different things for different people. One worker may feel incentivized by bonuses, while another may want more schedule flexibility or the option to work remotely. Across the board, however, most employees respond well to recognition. It’s just the “how” and “when” you recognize each team member that makes a difference.

Try to provide positive feedback to an employee in front of the audience he or she values the most. For instance, one team member might want to be praised in front of her coworkers, while another might value recognition in a one-on-one meeting.

Just as you customize your approach to feedback, look for ways to tailor benefits, bonuses, and other incentives to each individual.

[Read more: 6 Tips for Managing a Multigenerational Team]

Be consistent

Consistent, reliable management is what builds trust and teamwork over time. Set goals, check in with your employees, course correct when necessary, and continually provide feedback.

“When you say that you are going to do something, follow through every time,” wrote Indeed. “Although you should personalize your management techniques to each individual, you also need to hold everyone to the same standards of behavior to avoid showing favoritism.”

As the saying goes, the customer experience is only as good as the employee experience. As a customer, no one wants shopping to feel chaotic. When you can create consistency and flow for your employees, your customers will feel the same sense of ease — and business results will follow.

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Published August 15, 2022