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About this book

At the heart of every organisation are the people that contribute to it. Neil Thompson's latest book offers an outstanding guide to the art of management by highlighting the, too often taken for granted, importance of staff and their well-being at work. The result is a unique introduction to people management that focuses on getting the best, rather than simply the most, out of staff in the workplace.

Combining theory and practice in clear and sensitive balance, this book: Is unrivalled in scope, covering 30 key tasks and challenges faced by managers, from recruitment and staff motivation to grievances and bullying. Adopts a multidisciplinary approach applicable across many organisational settings for readers whatever their background. Is written with the clarity and practical focus for which Neil Thompson is renowned, ensuring a navigable and intuitive companion for students and new and aspiring managers alike.

People Management is an ideal textbook for students taking courses on human resources, management and leadership across a range of fields, from Business and Organisation Studies to professional qualifications in Nursing, Social Work and related people professions. It also a rich and succinct tool for practising managers.

Table of Contents

The fundamentals of people management

Charter 1. Equality and diversity

Of course, it has to be recognized that we will not be able to get the best out of people if we treat them unfairly or allow others to do so. We therefore have to have a strong focus on fairness. This is usually encapsulated under the heading of ‘equality and diversity’. Historically, organizations have placed emphasis on equal opportunities, but more recently we have moved away from this to talk about equality and its companion term, diversity. What these approaches have in common is a recognition that discrimination can be a significant problem in the workplace and is therefore something that needs to be given careful attention.

Chapter 2. Communication

At the end of Chapter 1, I made the point that so much of what we are trying to achieve in people management will collapse if not built on the foundation of a commitment to equality and diversity. Much the same can be said about the topic of this chapter. Without skilful and effective communication, organizations will struggle to achieve their aims. In fact, there cannot be any real organization without communication. To bring people together with common goals — which is, after all, what organizations are all about — cannot happen unless there are patterns of communication that connect people to one another and to the information they need to share.

Chapter 3. Supervision

Supervision can be understood as a form of leadership carried out on a one-to-one basis. Leadership is in part about getting the best out of people, and this can be done collectively through the leadership of a team, division or whole organization at a macro level or individually through supervision at a micro level. It is a process of offering guidance and support to enable employees to produce the best quality of work that they are capable of and to learn from the process, so that their personal and professional development are adequately catered for. Supervision involves establishing a healthy balance between the destructive extremes of, on the one hand, intrusive micromanagement (where the manager gives far too detailed a set of instructions on how the work should be carried out, leaving little or no room for autonomy and a sense of pride in one’s work) and, on the other hand, where there is laxity about supporting people to achieve their best (where they are, in effect, simply left to get on with it, without adequate management support).

Chapter 4. Recruitment, selection and workforce planning

Without people there can be no people management, without staff there can be no employing organization, and so the question of recruiting and selecting appropriate employees and undertaking workforce planning is an important part of our endeavour. Getting the right people can be crucial; getting the wrong ones can be disastrous, potentially creating problems for years to come. This therefore raises two important questions. First: how do we attract and select the best people? and second: how do we plan for what our staffing needs will be? These are the two main topics to be covered in this chapter.

Chapter 5. Induction

We are all generally aware of the importance of first impressions, and this is a particularly important consideration when new members of staff join an organization. It is therefore important that the induction process is taken seriously and given the attention it deserves. New employees who are largely left to fend for themselves are likely to have a poor impression of the organization and get a very clear message that it is not a supportive people-focused organization. It can take a long time to eradicate such a negative perception, and for some people in some circumstances, it may never be removed.

Chapter 6. Workload management

Maximizing productivity can be seen to be an important part of a manager’s role — in effect, a key element of the rationale for human resources management. The challenge of making sure that people have appropriate workloads (so that they are able to produce optimal results in terms of quantity and quality of work) is something we therefore need to take seriously. In this chapter we will be looking at some of the key issues that we need to be aware of if we are to try and make sure that we are successful in this task of maximizing productivity.

Chapter 7. Appraisal and performance management

Appraisal is intended to be a constructive organizational process that can have positive outcomes all round. By reviewing work performance and learning, employing organizations are able to work towards getting the maximum return on their investment in terms of human resources, in so far as the process is designed to help employees achieve their best. By the same token, employees can be helped to maximize their potential, to achieve optimal job satisfaction and to identify opportunities for continuous learning and development. In this way, the process can be a good basis for career planning (see Chapter 17). Other stakeholders of the organization (customers, clients, patients, for example) can also therefore benefit from what the process has to offer.

Chapter 8. Staff departures

One aspect of people management that receives relatively little attention in the literature or in training programmes is the question of staff departing — that is, leaving the employment of the organization concerned. Despite this gap, it is a very important subject, as the way an organization treats people who are leaving says a great deal about that organization and to what extent they are people focused. How the departure of a member of staff is handled also gives a strong message to remaining staff and to other organizational stakeholders about how seriously it takes the idea that an organization’s most important resource is its human resource. Sending out a very negative message can do a lot of harm to that organization (for example, in terms of how partner organizations perceive it in terms of trustworthiness and reliability or how attractive the organization might appear to potential applicants for jobs).

Chapter 9. Disciplinary matters

This is the first of two chapters relating to what many organizations refer to as ‘Fairness at Work’ policies. What the two chapters have in common is a sense of dissatisfaction, the dissatisfaction that characterizes many workplace situations. This first chapter is a discussion of disciplinary matters and therefore reflects dissatisfaction on the part of the organization towards one or more of its employees, while the next chapter addresses grievance procedures, which reflect dissatisfaction on the part of an employee towards the organization or some aspect of how they have been treated by it.

Chapter 10. Dealing with grievances

This is the second of two chapters about ‘Fairness at Work’. Grievance procedures exist to ensure that dissatisfied employees have an opportunity to seek redress in relation to an issue that they are not happy about, to prevent an escalation of the problem or — in extreme cases — the departure of the employee. They are there as an important contribution to people management, in so far as they enable staff to have a voice and to insist on being heard in relation to matters that are causing them some degree of concern. Ideally we should be aiming for a situation in which the existence of grievance procedures gives an important message that staff concerns will be taken seriously, but they are rarely if ever used as the other mechanisms for supporting staff are working well enough to ensure that staff do not feel the need to pursue a grievance.

Achieving best outcomes

Chapter 11. Leadership

Leadership is a central part of people management, which is why I have included it as the L of the Staying CALM model that underpins the whole book, and, indeed, my whole approach to people management. Its importance rests on the fact that leadership is an essential basis of getting the best out of people. Staff will not perform to their best or achieve maximum job satisfaction if there is no sense of direction, no clarity about what the team, staff group or overall organization is trying to do.

Chapter 12. Managing change

Sadly, the area of change management is one that is beset with a tendency towards oversimplification — for example, the commonly expressed (but inaccurate) idea that ‘change is the only constant’. A dynamic interplay between change and continuity has always been a feature of human experience, and that in itself has not changed. That is, while change will inevitably happen, we should not allow that to distract us from the fact that much also remains the same.

Chapter 13. Industrial relations

We have seen major changes in the world of work in recent decades, not least of which has been a shift away from the traditional idea of trade unionism towards the concept of human resource management (HRM). Industrial relations and collective bargaining issues have therefore been a key part of these changes. While trade unions continue to play an important role in contemporary working life, much of the function of collective bargaining has been watered down. This chapter is concerned with looking at the current situation, recognizing that the changes that have taken place do not alter the fact that there is a fundamental tension between the organization and its employees, individually and collectively. We know from the work of the cooperative movement, for example, that such tensions can be managed effectively to a large extent. Our concern here, then, is to explore some of the basic aspects of how the tension between the interests of an organization and the interests of its employees can be managed constructively. In effect, this is what industrial relations is all about.

Chapter 14. Team development

Despite the simplistic cliché that ‘there is no I in team’, the reality is that teams are collections of individuals (‘I’s), and there will be no real teamwork if individual needs are not met, if they are sacrificed, as it were, to the overall collective interest. Indeed, what makes for an effective team is for people to work together in such a way that everyone feels fulfilled by the collaboration. It is not a case of suppressing individual needs, but rather of incorporating them into the wider picture of collective needs, with some degree of trade off involved — successfully managing the tensions and conflicts involved rather than naïvely assuming there will not be any. We have to remember that each ‘I’is a person, a human being, and so the ‘no I in team’ mentality runs counter to the idea of a people-focused approach to organizational life.

Chapter 15. Motivating staff

A key part of people management, as we have already noted, is a genuine commitment to trying to get the best out of people. Motivation is therefore a key issue, as clearly the extent to which a person is motivated will have a significant impact on their level of effort and concentration. But what we also need to recognize is that motivation is quite a complex subject, and there is much more to it than most people tend to realize. Because of this, it is dangerous to oversimplify it and to regard it as a straightforward matter of either carrot or stick, persuasion or threat.

Chapter 16. Staff retention

In Chapters 4 and 5 I emphasized the importance of getting the right people in post and getting them started along the right lines. However, we have to recognize that all our efforts in that regard can easily be wasted if people leave prematurely, if their time in post is short-lived. Of course, a certain level of turnover is to be expected in any organization, but if (i) there is a high percentage turnover (what is often referred to as ‘churn’); or (ii) some people are leaving not long after starting, then it is telling us that there is something wrong that needs our attention. Surprisingly, and unwisely, many organizations tend to gloss over such matters, as if they are frightened of facing up to the fact that there is something wrong in the organization that is discouraging people from staying (or even actively driving them away) — see Chapter 8 for a discussion of staff departures. Ironically, such a failure to engage with problems may be part of the reason why people are leaving — that is, if they encounter a culture characterized more by problem avoidance than problem solving, they may well lose faith in the organization’s ability to provide a secure and positive workbase for them.

Chapter 17. Career planning

It is quite common for people to equate the notion of career with promotion, but a good people manager can help staff to develop a much clearer picture of this, to understand that career is about their own development over time whether or not that includes promotion. For example, some people can become excellent practitioners in their particular field and continue to grow and develop over time without leaving their role as a practitioner.

Chapter 18. Mentoring and coaching

Mentoring and coaching are two processes that have much in common, in so far as they both focus on promoting learning and driving performance improvement. There are various definitions and varying distinctions between the two, but as a general rule, coaching tends to be seen as a (relatively) short-term process geared towards specific learning needs, while mentoring tends to refer to a longer-term relationship geared towards learning and development more generally. However, what they have in common is a commitment to using a one-to-one relationship to promote learning. This chapter sketches out the important role that effective mentoring and coaching can play and warns against the dangers of jumping on the bandwagon of fashion and using these two important processes inappropriately.

Chapter 19. Training and development

If, as we have stated in many of the chapters in this book we want to get the best out of people, then we need to help them get the best out of themselves. Training and development is a key part of this, but what can people managers do to help employees to get the maximum benefit from the opportunities available? The short answer is: quite a lot, and this is a central part of what this chapter is all about.

Chapter 20. Making work meaningful: Meeting spiritual needs

People commonly associate spirituality with religion, and this is an under­standable association given that for so many people their primary source of spirituality is indeed a religious faith. However, it is important to recognize that spirituality should not simply be equated with religion. This is because there will be very many people who have a spiritual sense of well-being which is not necessarily connected with religion. It is this spiritual sense that is the topic of this chapter. Spirituality is about how we make sense of the world and our place within it, and how we come to understand that there is something greater than ourselves, something beyond ourselves in a sense. To look at meet­ing spiritual needs, we therefore need to be clear about what we mean by spir­ituality. It involves meaning making, a sense of purpose and direction and connectedness. It is therefore closely linked with the M, for Meaning, of Staying CALM, and, as we have already seen, there is a close link between meaning and motivation. Motivation can therefore be understood as a spiritual phenomenon in some respects at least.

Promoting well-being

Chapter 21. Dealing with stress

Stress has come to be recognized as a major problem in the contemporary workplace. There is now a growing body of knowledge which emphasizes how harmful excessive levels of pressure can be. Kinder, Hughes and Cooper point out that:

The collective cost of stress to US organisations has been estimated at approximately US$ 150 billion a year. In European countries, stress costs the economy an estimated 5–10% of GNP per annum. Studies show that workplace stress was responsible for more long-term sickness absence than any other core factor. With absence come increased workloads, longer working hours, lower morale, increased mistakes and accidents, culminating in reduced productivity.

(2008b, p. 2)

Chapter 22. Health and safety

When it comes to matters of health and safety, organizations have the legal and moral duty to safeguard their employees from undue hazards. It is therefore important for people managers to be aware of such hazards and our responsibilities in respect of them. Duncan, Heighway and Chadder, commenting on the UK context, highlight the significance of health and safety:

Every working day, there is on average one death and 361 reported non-fatal injuries to workers. Every year, three-quarters of a million people take time off work due to


illnesses, and as a result, about 30 million work days are lost.

(2010, p. 1, emphasis added)

Chapter 23. Sickness absence

There are various reasons why it is important to have a good strategy for managing sickness absence. This can be because of the needs of the organization to be properly staffed and to get value for money in terms of the salary and other costs that are being invested in the employee. But, of course, there are also the needs of the employee concerned to be taken into consideration, their well-being. If sickness absence is not managed effectively, then a bad situation can get worse, sometimes significantly worse. However, there is also the team to consider, in so far as colleagues who are absent on a long-term basis, or who are frequently absent for short periods, can place an undue strain on the rest of the team. There is therefore a strong need for people managers to be sensitive to the challenges associated with managing sickness absence. This can relate to both genuine sickness related to actual physical conditions people are suffering from, or what is known colloquially as malingering or swinging the lead — that is, when people are not genuinely ill, but are claiming to be so in order to get unauthorized time off from work. In addition, there is also the more complex area in which there may not be direct physical illness, but where it is not simply a case of malingering either — for example, when someone is stressed or distressed for whatever reason.

Chapter 24. Bullying and harassment

The notion of ‘dignity at work’ is one that has become firmly rooted in the modern world of work. It has arisen largely in response to significant concerns about bullying and harassment in the workplace and related problems. In view of this, effective people management requires us to do everything that we reasonably can to prevent bullying and harassment from occurring in the first place and to respond sensitively and supportively if or when it does arise. This can be seen to be part of our commitment to developing genuinely people-focused organizations. If we neglect this aspect of our duties we will be failing in our efforts to get the best out of people, as staff who are being bullied or harassed are highly unlikely to achieve their best. In many situations, the existence of these problems will also stop other staff, not directly affected, from achieving their best because of the tensions, ill-feeling and resentment involved.

Chapter 25. Dealing with conflict

Conflict, as we have noted, is an inevitable part of life, including working life. While it is generally perceived in negative terms and therefore defined as something to be concerned about, conflict is not necessarily a problem and can be seen to have significant positive elements at times. An effective people manager therefore needs to have a good understanding of at least the basics of conflict in order to be well equipped to avoid, or minimize, the damage that conflict can do and to capitalize on the positives results that it has the potential to bring.

Chapter 26. Handling aggression

In most organizations aggression or violence are not regular occurrences, while in others they can be a significant feature of working life, or at least the risk of such occurrences can be. However, no organization is entirely free from the potential for aggression to develop and to lead into actual violence. It can therefore be a dangerous assumption to make that such events will never happen, although sadly many organizations do not make any preparation for the possibility (in terms of policies or training, for example). This tendency to neglect such issues can leave organizations ill-prepared for dealing with aggression when it does arise. It is therefore important to be realistic and accept that handling aggression is something that any people manager may be called upon to do at any time. It is not something that is reserved for organizations that regularly encounter aggression (for example, the police). We also need to be aware that aggression and violence can bring about major ill effects that can be very detrimental for an organization and the people working within it.

Chapter 27. Loss, grief and trauma

Of course, everyone will face a bereavement in their life sooner or later. This means that no workplace is immune from the impact of loss following a bereavement. Indeed, in large organizations it can be quite common for one or more employees to be grieving after a bereavement at any one time. However, we also need to recognize that loss and grief apply in a wide range of situations where no-one has died — for example: divorce or other relationship breakdown; moving house; becoming disabled; or a new manager taking over a team after a much-loved manager moves on. There can even be a grief reaction after a positive change, such as becoming a parent.

Chapter 28. Mental health problems

Mental health is a topic that can raise unnecessary fears, partly because of stereotypes that lead people to make too strong an association between mental health problems and violent crime, and partly because of the strong mystique traditionally associated with mental distress. However, many people with mental health problems are to be found operating successfully in employment, and many employees with no history of such problems can develop them while in our employment. From a people management perspective, it is therefore important that we have at least a basic awareness of mental health and its significance for the workplace.

Chapter 29. Drug and alcohol abuse

We have known for some time now that the misuse of drugs and alcohol presents a range of major problems in society at large and is often a cause, or aggravating factor, in many others (crime, violence and abuse, homelessness, and so on). We therefore have to be aware that the problems associated with drugs and alcohol can be of major proportions. We also have to recognize that the workplace is not exempt from alcohol- and drug-related problems. Indeed, if we bear in mind that a large organization can have a workforce similar in size to the population of a small town, then we should not be surprised that a certain proportion of employees will be struggling with problems associated with alcohol and/or drugs.

Chapter 30. Inclusion

This chapter reinforces the importance of issues discussed in Chapter 1 in relation to equality and diversity. The question of valuing everyone for what they bring and not excluding people because they are different in some way is an important part of not only the idea of valuing diversity, but also of inclusion. It has been known for some considerable time that there is a propensity for in-groups and out-groups to form in any collective setting, including work organizations. There are therefore various means by which some people who are perceived to be different in one or more ways can be assigned to the out-group category, and, whether deliberately or unwittingly, end up in a subordinate position where they are not fully included in what is happening. Clearly, this is not in keeping with the idea of valuing diversity, but nor is it in keeping with the idea of having a people management approach that is genuinely people oriented and not dehumanizing (as so much of the existing literature has been over the decades).

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