It’s often said the art of management is getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it. How exactly you achieve this in the workplace has preoccupied HR experts and employers alike since the dawn of business. However an analysis of soft and hard management techniques can be helpful to clarify and sharpen your workforce management approach.
Pressed for time and juggling tight resources, small businesses already typically and instinctively make use of a variety of management techniques – combining task-based direction with negotiation and persuasion. The latter typifies ‘soft management’ which a YouGov poll revealed was viewed as important to the current business success of 97% (600) of the senior managers polled. Not only that but a research report warned employers that a soft skill deficit would cost the UK close to £8.4 billion a year by 2020 in lost production.
What is soft and hard management?
You may not know it but, if you’re a manager or supervisor, chances are you’ve already been practicing soft and hard management. In the world of HR jargon they describe different approaches to the work that managers do to ensure the job gets done. So what do they mean?
Soft management takes account of the emotional needs of employees treating employees as individuals. This type of management focuses on the roles, rewards and motivations of employees and plans accordingly. Its key features include:
- Focusing on longer-term workforce planning
- Ensuring regular two-way communication
- Empowering individuals with delegated responsibilities
- Regular appraisals and development of staff
Hard management views employees as a resource of the business, alongside equipment and buildings. This type of management focuses on the requirements of the business, recruiting and managing them accordingly. Its key features include:
- Having a shorter-term focus on workforce planning, changing employee numbers through redundancy and recruitment more often
- Instructing individuals rather than empowering or delegating responsibility
- Less communication which tends to be top-down when it occurs
- Appraisal is based on good or bad judgments rather that development
Clearly, it’s not all black and white – there’s often a balance between soft and hard management. The most successful managers will draw on a combination soft and hard skills. Sometimes your strategy will depend on business goals and what you want to achieve at the time: use soft skills to build a stronger, more commited team while hard skills are handy to develop a more profitable and cost-effective business. In reality, any manager is likely to adopt factors from both types of management to get the best from their employees.
Nevertheless, while small businesses may find it easier to deal with the ‘hard’ technical or task-based skills, the value of soft skills such as encouraging team work, time-management and communication are becoming increasingly recognised. For a manager, it’s said that you may be recruited for your hard skills but it is the soft skills which will make or break your effectiveness.
Whatever your approach, it’s important to have great support systems. Efficient ways of monitoring absence, organising scheduling and running accurate payroll will leave you more time to do your job and keep in touch with your employees.
Chronologic’s Workforce Management System has been designed to meet the needs of both small and larger businesses. The system provides managers with the tools for organising employees, saving time and money.