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What You Can Do when Employee Management Feels Like Herding Cats

Managing people is one of the trickiest parts of running a business, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn how the right approach can build a happy, productive team.

Carla Bauto Dena
Writer at Motion
Jan 31, 2024
Table of contents

Running a business can be tricky, and, as a business owner, the most difficult part can be managing the people (while preserving your company culture).

Each team member has different experiences, skills, dreams, aspirations, and professional goals. Your job is to take advantage of their strengths while fostering employee engagement.

Employee management is also about the money. (After all, employee retention is considerably less expensive than hiring new employees.)

This article will dive into the essence of effective employee management, including the different types of employees to manage, employee management tools, and several employee management tips and tricks.

What is employee management?

In short, employee management involves helping your people perform at their best so that you can all achieve the business’ goals together.

There are four key responsibilities that all managers need to fulfill to be effective in their role. Think of them as a continuous cycle.

Acquire new talent

Effective employee management begins with the recruitment process. It's important to bring in the right person for the right position at the right time. Do that, and you make your life much easier from the start.

This is also why successful hiring managers focus on detailed job roles, accurate job descriptions, and thorough interviews. This attention to detail is especially important if you're managing a remote team.

Manage people

Once you've found them, it's important to inspire your new employees to bring out their best. After all, engaged employees score their job satisfaction higher and perform better.

Engagement can only increase if employees are given opportunities to develop new skills or grow in the organization. And that requires active support and encouragement from their managers.

For example, you could suggest suitable training courses or upskilling programs that they may attend. Or you could suggest conferences and trade shows for them to attend. And if there’s a company budget to help fund or subsidize these activities, so much the better.

But growth doesn't happen in a vacuum. Workplace culture plays a large part in this. An environment that is flexible enough for employees to pivot based on their strengths and interests. Do this right, and you'll keep your employee turnover low.


A critical part of the employee management process is continuous and effective communication. As a manager, you need to make your employees feel included. That means maintaining an open-door policy and sharing business updates with them as needed.

There are many forms of communication to keep your employees in the loop, from one-on-one feedback to project status updates.

Employees must feel part of the machine, where their ideas, opinions, and concerns matter. By providing that forum, you open your door to constructive feedback that you can use to improve internal processes and help keep your employees engaged.

Recognize performance

The final piece of the employee management puzzle is recognition. When employees feel their hard work is appreciated, they'll typically be more motivated.

Recognition can be a simple thank you or a shout-out during a meeting. Or go whole-hog with pay raises or promotions.

While it's true that you need to recognize strong performances among your employees, doing so can be tricky. Praising too much can be counter-productive or seen as favoritism.

Types of employees

Pigeonholing employees by employee types can get complicated quickly. It's far easier to categorize employees based on their engagement.

Engaged employees

Recent Gallup research reveals that only 23% of employees are truly engaged in their work, meaning they enjoy their jobs, value the company they work for, and work hard to make their organization better.

These are your A-players.

Effective employee managers identify this group, track them for signs of disengagement, and step in if problems bubble to the top.

Quiet quitters

According to the same Gallup report, 59% of employees are quiet quitting. This doesn't mean that they're thinking about quitting their jobs. It means they're simply doing what's required of them and then getting on with their lives — focusing on achieving a better work-life balance.

‎Quiet quitters can still become engaged if they find something at work that interests them. Most will continue doing their job without fuss, but if you can tap into their interests, you'll raise engagement.

Disengaged employees

It's the 18% that's your problem. Loud quitters are deliberately disruptive, actively undermining your business goals and leadership. They're on their way out, loudly looking for another "better" job and trying to cause as much mayhem as they can before they go.

You have two options here: You can either help them out the door or try to figure out why they're acting up and work to fix the situation.

The art of people management

How many times have you heard someone say words to the effect of "our employees are our greatest asset"?

The simple truth is that while many managers talk that talk, very few walk that walk.

If you want to be effective at managing your employees, you absolutely must walk that walk. Here's how to do just that:

Lead, don’t manage

Many managers today feel trapped. They don't know the line between being a business manager and an employee manager.

Businesses need leaders who inspire and inject enthusiasm into the workplace. They need to be able to get their employees excited about doing their work. If you can do that, you can move them to deliver extraordinary performance.

Good leaders understand their people and their people's aspirations, and by helping them achieve those aspirations, they're rewarded with commitment and loyalty.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Don't micromanage. Doing so is guaranteed to lower self-confidence. While it may seem like an effective way to get work done, it’s actually not. Micromanagement has negative consequences for managers and staff, including:

The message is simple: Assign the work and get out of their way (while ensuring they know your door is always open for them).

Give them autonomy

The need for autonomy in the workplace has become even more important since the pandemic forced businesses to adopt a remote or hybrid working model. And, whether we like it or not, there’s no way of putting that genie back in the bottle.

When they were working at home without managers peering over their shoulders, they got a lot of good work done. But best of all, it was done at their own pace and on their own time. As a result, modern employees value autonomy [PDF] over material rewards.

Research backs this up. The results of a study of community health centers in Taiwan are clear. The more autonomy you let employees have at work, the more satisfied they'll be with their work and the less likely they are to quit (or quiet quit).

Let your people fly

If you're going to let your team members fly, it's important to know their strengths and weaknesses. You must also understand that these things aren't static.

Be alert to opportunities to coax team members out of their comfort zones. This will encourage them to develop their skills and improve their value to the business. You can build an empowering culture that encourages some risk-taking by accepting mistakes as long as they're used as learning experiences.

There's an anecdote from the annals of Toyota often used by Kaizen practitioners. A manager walking a production line one day stopped at a new worker's station and pointed out an error. The worker was initially mortified but shocked when the manager and the whole line erupted in applause.

The manager saw the employee's confusion, stepped forward, and explained, "They're clapping because you learned something, and because of you, they all learned something."

Encourage risk-taking

If you’re like me, those words would have sent a shiver down your spine. But you have to embrace risk-taking because the world or work has changed. The balance of power has shifted. Today, businesses need their employees more than they need the business.

And that means we have to create an enabling environment if we want to attract the best talent and keep it engaged. We can do that by building an empowering culture that encourages our employees to take a certain level of risk.

Follow the Kaizen example. If employees know that mistakes are acceptable, they’ll be far more willing to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions on how to make your business better.

Use technology to your advantage

Technology can help with many aspects of employee management.

Human Resource Management (HRM) software, for instance, can help you with everything from the hiring process, employee onboarding, and scheduling to regulatory compliance and benefits.

And technology can help with the more mundane aspects of effective employee management, too. Tasks that can be a real chore include vacation requests and scheduling, performance management and reviews, managing key performance indicators, and training.

‎In fact, there are systems that can do just about everything for you except the face-to-face stuff. For now, at least.

Why is technology important?

Depending on the system you choose, software can take much of the hassle and unnecessary administrative work out of your job. It can automate time-consuming tasks that come with the territory, making workflows easier and more efficient.

Specifically, software can help to:

  • Cut or reduce the effects of workflow bottlenecks
  • Improve HR management efficiency
  • Track and manage employee development
  • Host employee performance reviews
  • Manage and act on employee feedback
  • Enhance employee performance and experience

What to look for in software

The best way for you to choose the right system for you is to start with a checklist.

You can use the list below as a starting point. A good tip is to categorize each of the features you choose as one of the following: “must-have,” “nice-to-have,” or “ho-hum”:

  • Accessibility via mobile devices
  • Self-service functionality for managers and employees
  • Time tracking and management
  • Compliance with local regulations and legislation
  • Integration with your chosen payroll platform
  • Analytics
  • Onboarding
  • Employee learning and development management

Managers adjust the composition of their teams

‎Get the best from your employees

Any successful people manager will agree that getting the most from your employees relies on whether you’re there for them when they need you. While you might not be available immediately at all times, you should certainly be around to help within a reasonable time frame after the need is brought to your attention.

And if you have the appropriate systems in place to take care of the mundane aspects of the job, you’ll have the time to be there for your employees. They might need some advice on their career development, how to resolve a conflict with another employee or the best way to come to an agreement with a client, for instance.

If you’re there, you can help them, support them, and guide them.

Whether you’re leading a large, multinational enterprise, a mid-sized business, or a startup, software can help you streamline your employee management.

So, if you’re in the market for this type of tool, you’d be well-advised to explore your options. It’s important to determine which one would be the best fit for your business needs and your unique set of employees.

Why not let Motion’s AI-powered calendar save you valuable time so that you can focus more on your employees? Even better, you can try it for free. Sign up for a 7-day trial today.

Carla Bauto Dena
As a journalist and content writer, Carla Bauto Deña crafts stories for both traditional and digital platforms. She loves harnessing the power and accessiility of tech tools to uplift local and global communities.
Written by Carla Bauto Dena