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A framework for people management

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Written by John Berry on 25th September 2023. Revised 30th September 2023.

4 min read

What’s the essence of people management?

How do you as a manager, entrepreneur or leader understand people management without reading the 350 pages of Because Your People Matter (at https://amzn.to/420DYkM)? Of course, we'd like you to read our book, but that's not the point here.

Here we capture the essence of people management and give you a central ideology to guide day by day.

That ideology is that people have value. There are five pillars to the ideology.

Five pillars

Core ideology 5 pillarsFirst, you as manager must accept that the people who work for you need a good standard of living. In simple terms, this means paying people a good wage for the job they do. Employees need enough to keep themselves and their family in a decent fashion - living in a good house, well-nourished and able to participate in society. If they can’t do this, or some aspect is constrained, they’ll be driven toward subsistence and their loyalty and commitment towards the firm will diminish.

Second, the jobs employees do must be described as ‘good’. Employees must use the training and education that they built over the years. If the job is boring, requiring low skill and is repetitive, the employee will not commit to the firm, and they will have a high intention to quit. If you haven’t got good jobs right now, you need to look at what you do have, and make them good. Every job can be made good – by enhancing scope, responsibilities, and interactions.

Third, each employee must have access to equality of opportunity. No employee wants to join a firm and do the same job forever. It is incumbent on you as manager to ensure that the firm develops on, and that the employees can develop with it. You must engage in succession planning, identifying employees who could take up bigger jobs, and making sure they take whatever training necessary. The aim ultimately is to grow each employee’s self-confidence so that they can progress beyond survival and enjoy a rewarding life with you.

Girls on JuiceFourth, and as a development of the first pillar, all employees must enjoy security of tenure. Of course, you don’t know what the future holds. Markets can change and even collapse. But you should never treat employees as if they are disposable. As far as is reasonably practicable, employment should be forever. And all firms should have a safety net (in case of redundancy, and illness), and planning for old age. In many EU countries the safety net is generous and state-sponsored meaning employees can go to work without worry. In the UK, the state safety net is meagre and hence you must fund good redundancy, illness, and retirement benefits – and not just enough for your employees to survive.

And fifth, the firm must be structured and managed so that there is no special treatment for any employee or manager group. Pay should be based objectively on value to the firm. If any there’s any other measure, employees will feel bitter over such privilege.

Fundamentally, reward should be equitably meted out. Justice must be seen to be done when you decide who gets what. Additionally, and linked to this, the process by which you decide who gets what should be open and fair.

Simple ideology

These pillars are achieved by following the simple ideology that people have a value. People are not a resource. Sure, they have competence, and as manager you will exploit that competence to build the business and make a profit. But business is not only about growth and profit.

Within the ideology is the concept that people have the right to be treated well and for the manager to believe in each employee’s career. In return, the employee will give good service, until it’s time for them to move on.

So, the essence of people management? Embrace the ideology that people have value and with that, build a great firm!