“People don’t leave bad companies; they leave bad managers.”
Cliché as this phrase is, people say it for a reason. In a world where managers drive 70% of employee engagement and 50.5 million employees quit last year, the writing is on the wall. Either you motivate your people to stay, or you motivate them away.
To win the war for talent, it’s important to revisit your management best practices. Whether you’re a newly minted leader or one with decades of experience, you can always find a new trick of the trade. In this article, we’ll share 10 workplace management practices you can employ to drive engagement, improve retention, and be a leader your people love.
Let’s take a look.
What are management practices?
Management practices refer to the ways in which employers motivate, incentivize, and lead their teams in pursuit of a common goal. Most organizations’ management practices are designed to improve the bottom line—whether by enhancing efficiencies, reducing costs, or boosting productivity.
The importance of management practices
Work only gets done with the right game plan. Without an effective management playbook, leaders can and will struggle to help their people do their jobs effectively. By investing in good management practices, you give your team structure and direction, increasing the likelihood of their success.
Easier said than done. According to the 2023 Middle Manager Report, 58% of middle managers don’t feel properly supported by their superiors. And that lack of support is creating some serious tension: 79% of middle managers say they’re at risk of burnout, and another 70% say they’d return to being individual contributors if given the chance.
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List of best management practices
Need some employee engagement best practices? Struggling with retention, or need a few team-building tips? No matter your management needs, we’ve got you covered.
Here are 10 management practices and principles to help you bring your A-game:
1. Understand your team’s strengths.
Each person on your team has their own natural drives and needs. The more you understand your team’s behavioral makeup, the easier it is to lean into your strengths and turn shortcomings into opportunities.
Sit down with your team to discuss how each person fits into the broader team strategy. Maybe you have a person with high extraversion who’s feeling stuck behind a desk. To fill their cup, give them opportunities to flex their social chops—whether that’s by interfacing with clients or leading internal meetings.
2. Invest in your culture.
Think culture is a “soft” play? Think again. According to MIT Sloan, a bad culture is 10 times more likely to drive employees away than bad pay. The “why” is simple: People want to work in environments where they feel they belong. And that belonging starts with a foundation of inclusion, positivity, and psychological safety.
If you can’t provide belonging at work, another organization will. Get ahead of the competition by investing in your team culture. Schedule an impromptu company outing or team dinner. Host a trivia night at the office, or spin up a game of Jackbox over Zoom. The little details count just as much as the big-picture ones—start small, and work your way up.
3. Keep a pulse on engagement.
Quiet quitting may be the talk of the town, but workplace engagement has always been an issue. Per Gallup, only 32% of employees feel engaged—a figure that’s barely budged for more than two decades. Stress rates, however, have increased by nearly 50% over the same period. Work is only getting more challenging, and workers aren’t exactly getting any happier.
The takeaway: We’re witnessing a powder keg of disengagement that’s ready to explode. Let stress build, and it can quickly lead to burnout, ambivalence, and active disengagement.
Don’t give your team a chance to burn out. Engagement surveys are a great way to keep a pulse on employee sentiment. See what has people jazzed and what has them frustrated. If you can diagnose areas of friction, you can take action to address them—and keep morale high.
Learn more: Want more best practices for engaging employees? Check out our free e-book on solving employee disengagement.
4. Hire for critical roles.
Great managers aren’t just effective leaders—they’re also savvy hirers. If you’re struggling to hit your team goals, the solution may have less to do with who you are, and more to do with who you’re not. Conduct a skills gap analysis within your existing team, and find exceptional talent to fill those gaps.
At PI, we’ve been looking to level up our social media strategy for months. Unfortunately, “social media experience” wasn’t in any of our initial job descriptions. Rather than have us take on work that doesn’t play to our strengths, our head of Demand Gen greenlit a Social Media Specialist role. Months in, our new hire Kayleigh is crushing it with creative and engaging content.
Tip: Finding great people doesn’t have to be so tough. Here’s how our VP of Sales scaled her team from four to 30 by hiring for potential.
5. Promote from within.
Struggling to attract, hire, and retain great talent? The solution may be hidden in plain sight. According to a 2021 Cornell study, internal hires tend to outperform external hires in overall productivity. Not only that, but these hires also tend to stick with their organization for longer.
It makes sense. When looking externally, you’re often relying on someone’s resume or college degree to make a hiring decision. But these data points only tell you about someone’s past experiences—they don’t help you predict a hire’s future at your organization.
By promoting from within, you reinvest in people you already know, love, and trust. Enjoy the benefits of already-engaged employees, avoid time-consuming change management processes, and put your people in roles where they’ll thrive.
Tip: We have a term for this management best practice. It’s talent optimization.
6. Conduct stay interviews.
Exit interviews are common business practices—but perhaps they shouldn’t be. What’s the point of feedback if you’re only soliciting it when someone’s on their way out the door?
Instead, conduct stay interviews. These function almost identically to exit interviews, except you perform them while your employees are still actively engaged. That way, you can gather feedback, implement it, and address a potential exit before it happens.
This is a simple business management practice, yet one with incredible upside. The average organization loses 19% of its employees to churn each year. The more of these employees you retain, the more you save in vacancy, hiring, onboarding, and productivity ramp-up costs.
Try it out: Curious how much employee churn is currently costing you? See for yourself with our turnover cost calculator.
7. Communicate regularly.
Communication is an ever-important skill, yet one that’s tragically undervalued. According to the 2021 People Management Report, communication is the No. 1 skill employees feel their managers lack.
As a manager, you set the tone for your team. Whatever behaviors you model will be mirrored and adopted—whether good or bad. Communicate with clarity and candor, and so will your team. If you ignore your inbox or talk in circles, however, you encourage them to do the same.
Good communication is good business. To deliver on your organization’s mission and vision, you need people who understand the work to be done as well as their role in getting it done. The more you invest in effective top-down communication, the easier it is to gain this alignment.
8. Listen actively.
Communication is typically associated with talking. But just as important is how you listen.
It’s one thing to talk to someone; it’s another thing entirely to talk with them. By taking time to pause and consider the other person’s perspective, you’ll better understand what drives them at work. Tap into that motivation, and you can bring out their natural superpowers.
When PI went fully remote back in 2020, it was a new environment for all of us. We knew we had to listen to our people; otherwise, we’d be lost. So, we worked with our science team to develop guidance for managing remote employees by behavioral type. We’ve only continued to update our science in the years since.
The takeaway: Accommodate your people today, and anticipate their needs for tomorrow. Things will go so much smoother if you do.
9. Embrace healthy conflict.
The word “conflict” is a bit of a misnomer, as it implies a negative interaction or disagreement. In reality, conflict can be beneficial—so long as it’s healthy and grounded in good intent.
At PI, we use the trust triangle to encourage healthy conflict and foster a culture of psychological safety. Each time we enter the office or log on to Slack, we default to a shared state of trust. We try to assume the best in each other, which allows us to propose new ideas or challenge existing notions without guilt or fear.
Your team can do the same—no triangle required. Encourage your team members to think freely and talk openly, and reiterate that yours is a safe space where all voices are valued. Avoid the toxicity of bad management practices, and create an environment where people feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.
10. Empower future leaders.
Do all of the above, and you’ll be going the distance for your team. To go the extra mile, though, you need to ensure these management best practices don’t end with you.
Succession planning is one of the biggest burdens you’ll shoulder as a leader. The rule “leave it better than you found it” is apt, whether you’re managing a team of two or two hundred. Identify opportunities to delegate roles and responsibilities to top performers. Entrust them with these same management best practices examples, so that they too can pay it forward.
If every leader at your business empowers two future leaders, the organization will be in phenomenal shape.
How PI can help
Whether you’re looking to level up your leadership or retain future leaders, PI’s talent optimization software has you covered.
- PI Design: Understand the strengths of your existing team, and identify any talent gaps.
- PI Hire: Hire the right people for the right roles, using 65 years of behavioral science.
- PI Inspire: Develop existing employees and bring out the best in their abilities.
- PI Diagnose: Solve disengagement and get recommended actions to improve retention.
Start with any of our products, completely free—no credit card required.