Management Articles


Critical Importance of People Management

By: Gordon L. Simpson

Toronto Managing Partner of The Mansis Development Corporation, Gordon has conducted extensive workshops and seminars on the supervisory and management topics in which Mansis specializes, including performance management, delegation, the hiring and selection process, employee performance problems and performance appraisal. In addition he has worked with many organizations in a consulting capacity in areas related to human resource management, implementing change and team building, and has published articles for a variety of magazines and news publications.

Many organizations profess to consider their employees their most important asset but all too often their policies, procedures and managerial practices contradict that view. Such contradictions and out-dated management practices inhibit improvements in productivity, sap motivation and reduce profit margins.

Managerial practices must keep pace with the changing workforce. The workforce of today is better educate and its value systems, career expectations, and basic work habits are drastically different from those of the previous generation. Unfortunately many managers have not changed their style to meet their needs.

Continued adherence to management techniques that may have been acceptable in the past is a serious impediment to any organization's ability to succeed in today's competitive environment. Employees are looking for more responsibility and more involvement in decisions - particularly those which directly affect them. The traditional authoritarian boss/subordinate relationship is not accepted by the majority of employees today. Worker resistance to outdated management results in minimal performance levels and causes organizations to forfeit required improvements in productivity.

A different focus on the relationship of the manager to those being managed can be done without "giving away the store" and compromising the manager's role to give direction. For companies to survive, it is essential that they update their approach to managing their most important asset - their people.

Many managers are familiar with, and were part of, the evolution of personnel management where new ideas in this field were seized upon as a solution to an existing problem or existing practices were modified and given new impetus. As a consequence, many facets of personnel management were introduced as individual programs.

This often resulted in a disjointed set of policies and procedures, which were not focussed on contributing to corporate goals and often had the opposite effect. In fact separate individual programs were sometimes contradictory in their stated objectives.

Such conflicting messages can have the effect of lowering employees' commitment to an organization, reducing their motivation and productivity. It can also be the cause of the loss of valued employees who are bright enough to see the contradictions and the adverse effects of misguided personnel management practices.

Personnel management is not the sole responsibility of the personnel department. It is the business of all managers. All levels of management from first line supervisors up to and including the CEO must be in tune with and manage their employees in a manner consistent with published practices, policies and procedures which are in harmony with the needs of the workforce. All functions related to people management must be co-ordinated, follow a common philosophy and be part of a process that effectively contributes to the achievement of the goals of the organization.

The only competitive advantage many organizations have is the ability to improve the performance of their people at all levels. Therefore HR management has to take on a whole new meaning and be regarded by senior management as a key component of the organization's activities and be given the requisite high profile in the development of its long term strategies.

In the years ahead , in addition to increasing business competitiveness, there will be increasing competition for a shrinking workforce. Employees will be attracted to organizations which practice imaginative and enlightened management and avoid" management by best-seller" which gives rise to the contradictions discussed earlier.

When revising, updating and redefining the roles of employees and development training plans, particular attention should be paid to the people at the lower levels . It is the customer service reps, drivers, order clerks and receptionists who frequently are the first interface with the customers. Their behaviour will reflect either positively or negatively on the organization and will be consistent with how they themselves are managed.

No matter how wise the CEO, or how great the product or service, the battle for customer loyalty is fought by the front-line troops - those employees at the lower levels of the organization structure. Hence it is critical that due care and consideration be given those employees when developing HR policies and training programs.

The development of an effective employee management plan is indeed a major undertaking. It requires the endorsement and active support at the CEO level. Although many managers claim to be experts in people management, there are probably fewer experts in HR management than in most other areas of business activity.

If organization leaders do not take a personal interest in the integration of human resources planning with other aspects of the planning cycle and develop a co-ordinated process, they will soon suffer the economic penalties. As Peter Drucker has pointed out, an irreversible change in the world economy has already taken place. To prosper in this new world order, high priority must be given to increased productivity through enlightened and effective people management.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Gordon L. Simpson

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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