Being a great boss means helping to boost employee productivity and job satisfaction through effective management. Good management techniques involve creating a supportive atmosphere where employees have autonomy and are motivated to excel. We’ve all had bad managers. Ineffective managers might micromanage, be overly controlling, focusing too much on details and what hasn’t gone right, or fostering poor work/life balance.
Whether you want to hear it or not, employee productivity starts with good management. The good news is that there are simple things you can do as a small business owner to manage your employees more effectively to keep your team motivated and productive.
In this article we’ll cover effective management techniques, as well as management techniques for new managers, management techniques to improve productivity, and management techniques to motivate employees.
Top management techniques
- Dish out recognition when it’s deserved.
An employee study by gamification and behavior management platform Badgeville found that 70 percent of workers are more motivated by recognition than by monetary rewards. Employees who are acknowledged for their good work tend to feel more of an emotional commitment to their job, which results directly in increased effort (i.e., better productivity and improvement to your bottom line). What’s more, a study by TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm, found that only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work. So don’t be shy — bring out the warm-and-fuzzies for a job well done.
- Make company goals transparent and provide consistent feedback.
Sharing the company’s goals and vision with employees helps them understand the meaning of their day-to-day tasks and the value that they each bring to the job. Set up monthly or quarterly check-ins to provide honest feedback — even if that includes constructive criticism. When you hold your employees accountable, they’re more likely to deliver if it’s crystal clear what they’re expected to achieve.
- Provide training and career development.
According to the 2020 Global Talent Trends report by Mercer, 78% of employees are ready to skill up, however 87% say that they experience barriers to reskilling – with one of the main barriers being time. Work with your employees to identify areas of growth and learn what parts of the business they’re most interested in. By providing training and career development, you help employees develop new skills which is an asset for your business and a way of showing you care about your employees future, which in turn builds loyalty.
- Troubleshoot problem areas.
Be clear with staff about your expectations. When you hit a trouble spot, give them specific, timely feedback about what isn’t working. Together, try and find a solution that works for everyone. For example, if an employee is consistently late to work, talk to them about how their tardiness impacts other people, learning more about the root cause. Once you have more empathy about what’s going on it will be easier to come up with an appropriate solution together.
- Know when to let someone go.
One underperformer on the team can lower overall workplace morale, increase the burden on high performers, and contribute to lack of initiative and motivation, according to a study by Eagle Hill Consulting. But if you do come across a few bad apples, don’t be too quick to dismiss them. Instead, show them you’re willing to help them get better before giving up. If their behavior doesn’t improve, or gets worse, it could be time to part ways. This can be especially hard if you used to be able to really count on them and their work ethic has deteriorated, or if they’ve been working for you for a while and you like them personally. It’s not easy to fire people (be sure to consult with a professional to make sure you’re checking all the right legal boxes), but sometimes letting go of a problem employee is what’s best for the business, and perhaps for them as well, since they may find a new job which is hopefully a better fit.
What are management styles and how do they differ? The consulting firm Hay-McBer identified six different management styles which were popularized in Daniel Goleman’s best selling book Emotional Intelligence. Their research states that the most effective leaders use four management styles, typically in combination. Some styles are more productive than others depending on the situation. We’ll go through each in turn:
- The Authoritative Style
The most effective management style, the authoritative leader is a “firm but fair” visionary who gives their employees clear, long-term direction. This approach works in most work environments, especially when the business lacks direction.
- The Affiliative Style
The goal of this type of manager is to create harmony between employees, keeping everyone happy. This style is especially good to pull out of your management toolbox when you’re building a team, need to boost morale, or foster better communication.
- The Democratic Style
This participative style aims to build consensus and commitment in the group. Perhaps most effective with more experienced employees, the democratic style can contribute to high morale, and the feeling that everyone has a stake in the business’s success.
- The Coaching Style
A highly effective management style, the coaching style’s main objective is to foster long-term professional development in their employees. This style works best with motivated employees who want to grow. It’s challenging when the manager is less experienced and may be less effective with employees who are poor performers.
- The Coercive Style
This extremely controlling management style demands employees do what the boss tells them to. Employees don’t learn much from this approach and can become frustrated not having autonomy. It should generally be avoided, though it is effective when there’s a legitimate crisis.
- The Pacesetting Style
This management style should be used sparingly at most, and if used, should only be deployed alongside other styles from the top section. The goal of this style is to complete tasks to a very high standard. The pacesetting manager takes on many tasks themselves so they can exert greater control over results and expects employees to follow their lead. It can create a toxic work environment and low morale.
Top management techniques for new managers
If you haven’t managed people before, you might feel overwhelmed and uncertain how to lead. Here are some top management techniques for new managers.
- Manage, but don’t micromanage.
No one likes the feeling of having a boss constantly looking over his or her shoulder. Make the conscious choice to be the kind of manager who gives employees enough autonomy to feel encouraged, motivated, and trusted to do a good job. Empower them by providing direction and offering assistance, then step back and let them work in their own style.
- Lead by example.
If you’re always stressed and disgruntled, what kind of standard does that set for your employees? Hold yourself accountable, first and foremost, and be genuine with your team, instilling in them a sense of trust in your working relationship. Good habits at the top have a way of organically trickling down to the bottom. Be the kind of manager who employees admire and they’ll work that much harder not to let you down.
- Get to know your employees.
Everyone has different communication styles and different ways of working. It’s important to get to know your employees to build a strong rapport, and understand how to best communicate with them. Lindsey Pollak, author of the management book Becoming the Boss, stresses the importance of face-to-face communication rather than being overly reliant on email. Talking in-person can help you work through issues that need to be discussed and it can lead to productive problem solving.
Top management techniques to improve productivity
As a manager you want your employees to be productive and efficient, using their time effectively. Of course you want to be as productive as possible too, which can be hard with the various responsibilities you’ve got competing for your attention. These management techniques will help improve your productivity so your business can run more smoothly.
- Let technology do the heavy lifting.
We’re lucky to live in an age when technology makes work life easier and more efficient. All companies, no matter how big or small, can benefit from hardware and software geared toward increasing productivity. Cloud storage and collaborative applications like Asana, which can help teams manage projects and work flow, could be well worth the investment, as are things like remote access and mobile device connectivity.
- Focus on the big picture.
As a manager you need to focus on your business’s larger objectives as opposed to shorter-term personal goals. Good managers trust their capable employees to execute projects, while they take care of higher-level objectives and support their direct reports. This strategy will help everyone be more productive.
- Model good time management.
Take care of urgent tasks as soon as possible and encourage your employees to do the same. It’s a good habit to start the day with the most pressing or unpleasant tasks, so you get them out of the way. You’ll feel better knowing that task is taken care of. As a manager it’s important to help remove any roadblocks for your employees so they can do their work effectively.
Top management techniques to motivate employees
Motivated employees take more pride in their work and are more likely to stick around. A recent TINYpulse study discovered that there are several factors influencing the work of high-performers, including getting the help they need from their workplace, happiness at work, feeling recognised and valued at work, and having a good work-life balance. That means creating a friendly, supportive work environment where people feel valued can go a long way to motivate employees. Here are some other management techniques for motivating your staff.
- Provide supplemental training and educational opportunities.
Don’t let talented employees hit a plateau. Build training and educational opportunities into the framework of your business. If you’re a small company, this doesn’t have to mean spending big dollars on career coaches, conferences, or fancy seminars. It could be as simple as designating mentors within the company. Making the effort to develop high performers means less turnover in the long run. A TINYpulse study discovered over a quarter of employees feel they don’t have the tools they need to succeed in their roles. Better training can help. According to Business Know-How, a 10-percent increase in workforce training can result in an 8.6-percent gain in productivity.
- Offer bonuses to reward good performers.
Cost of living raises are expected and don’t serve as much of a motivator for employees. Bonuses, also known as variable pay, are increasingly used to reward individual employees for a job well done.
- Make employee happiness a priority.
A happy employee is a healthy (and productive) employee. Eighty-nine percent of workers count office rapport as important to their overall quality of life, according to Globoforce’s Workforce Mood Tracker survey, and the more friendships employees have at work, the less likely they are to leave for another job. Plus, these emotional connections are directly related to a more productive and engaged team. In addition to fostering interpersonal relationships, schedule team happy hours or outings, and plan team-building exercises at least once a year. Put a vacation policy in place that actually allows your staff to take time off. Encouraging these “brain breaks” allows your team to come back feeling refreshed, recharged, and more productive.