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People Manager: Definition, Responsibilities & Career Path

24 Jun, 2024 - By Hoang Duyen

Do you find yourself drawn to leadership roles, motivated by helping others grow, and energized by a collaborative work environment? If so, a career path in people management might be the perfect fit for you! This role goes beyond simply overseeing tasks. People managers act as catalysts, guiding and supporting their teams to achieve success. 

But what exactly does a people manager do? How can you develop the necessary skills, and what steps can you take to become one? This comprehensive guide will answer all your questions and equip you to embark on this rewarding leadership journey.

What is a People Manager?

what is a people manager

A People Manager is a professional responsible for overseeing and guiding a team of employees within an organization, primarily focusing on managing individuals to ensure they are motivated, productive, and aligned with the organization's goals and objectives. 

This role encompasses a variety of responsibilities, such as managing performance, developing employees, allocating resources, and creating a positive work environment. A People Manager acts as a liaison between the workforce and senior management, striving to create an inclusive, supportive, and efficient workplace culture.

What does the People Manager Do?

A People Manager's primary responsibilities revolve around managing and developing employees to ensure they are productive, motivated, and aligned with the organization's goals. 

Employee Recruitment and Onboarding

employee recruitment and onboarding

They participate in the hiring process, from job postings and interviewing candidates to onboarding new hires into the company culture. These processes are crucial for bringing new talent into the organization and ensuring they are well-integrated into the company culture and operations. 

Employee Recruitment

People Managers begin by collaborating closely with department heads and senior management to understand the current and future staffing needs aligned with business objectives. Subsequently, they craft comprehensive job descriptions that outline key responsibilities and necessary qualifications. 

Using a mix of traditional methods and innovative strategies, such as networking, headhunting, and utilizing recruitment agencies, People Managers actively source and attract a diverse pool of candidates. They meticulously screen resumes, conduct initial interviews, and organize panel discussions or face-to-face meetings to assess candidates’ suitability. Throughout this process, they leverage assessment tools like skills tests or psychometric assessments to gauge competencies. 

Once suitable candidates are identified, People Managers manage the offer negotiation process, ensuring alignment with both candidate expectations and company policies.

Employee Onboarding

People Managers oversee the seamless integration of new hires into the organization's culture and operations. 

On the new hire's first day, People Managers warrant their workspace is fully equipped and operational, including computers, phones, and access to necessary systems. They orchestrate a structured orientation program, acquainting new employees with the company's mission, values, and organizational structure. Role-specific training sessions are arranged to familiarize them with their responsibilities and tools. 

Throughout the onboarding process, People Managers facilitate introductions to team members and key stakeholders, fostering early connections and relationships. They schedule regular check-ins during the initial weeks and months to provide support, gather feedback, and ensure the new hire's successful integration and adjustment within the organization.

Performance Management

performance management

People Managers set performance expectations, conduct regular performance reviews, and provide feedback and coaching to employees to help them improve and grow.

Setting Clear Expectations

People Managers work with their teams to establish clear goals that align with the organization's objectives. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Monitoring and Feedback

People Managers consistently track employees' progress toward their objectives and offer constructive feedback. Informal feedback is provided during daily interactions, while formal feedback is given during performance reviews.

Performance Reviews

People Managers conduct periodic performance reviews to assess employees' strengths, areas for improvement, and overall contribution to the team and organization. These reviews are an opportunity to discuss achievements, challenges, and career development goals.

Coaching and Development

Based on performance reviews, People Managers identify opportunities for skill development and career growth. They provide guidance and support to help employees enhance their skills and achieve their professional goals.

Recognition and Rewards

Acknowledging and rewarding employees for their efforts is a crucial aspect of performance management. People Managers make sure that accomplishments and milestones are recognized and celebrated, which in turn motivates employees to maintain high-performance levels.

Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs)

In cases where employees are not meeting expectations, People Managers may develop and implement Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs). These plans outline specific actions, timelines, and support mechanisms to help employees improve their performance.

Providing Learning Opportunities

Providing learning opportunities is fundamental in fostering growth. It can be achieved through access to relevant training programs, workshops, and seminars that improve job-related skills. Additionally, pairing employees with mentors or coaches can offer valuable guidance and support, facilitating professional and personal development.

Career Pathing and Advancement

Career pathing and advancement are important for employee motivation and retention. Managers should help employees map out potential career paths within the organization, highlighting opportunities for growth and progression. Succession planning is also crucial, preparing employees for future leadership roles through targeted development activities.

Encouraging Continuous Learning

In today's fast-paced work environment, fostering a culture of continuous learning is essential. Effective people managers understand that employees need to stay updated with industry trends and acquire new knowledge to remain competitive and adaptable. It can be achieved by providing access to various learning resources like online courses, industry publications, conferences, and even workshops.

Conflict Resolution

conflict resolution

People Managers strive to create a harmonious work environment by resolving disputes and promoting healthy communication.

Understand the Source of Conflict

Conflict is inevitable in any workplace setting. When disputes arise, people managers act as facilitators, guiding their teams toward resolution. The first step in this process is understanding the root cause of the conflict. Often, conflicts stem from simple misunderstandings. Active listening helps clear up confusion and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are there clashes in values or work styles? Sometimes, conflicts arise because team members have fundamentally different approaches to work.

  • Do communication breakdowns play a role? Miscommunication can easily lead to misunderstandings and frustration.

  • Are there underlying issues of competition or resource allocation? 

  • Are there external factors contributing to the stress? Personal or professional issues outside of work can spill over and impact team dynamics.

Promote Empathy and Understanding

Managers should encourage the conflicting parties to understand each other’s perspectives and feelings, helping to build empathy and reduce animosity. Validating the emotions of those involved can also diffuse tension and promote mutual respect. Shifting the focus from assigning blame to finding mutually acceptable solutions is important. A solution-oriented approach that involves collaborative problem-solving can strengthen relationships and improve team dynamics.

Maintain Confidentiality

Maintaining confidentiality is crucial in conflict resolution. All discussions regarding conflicts should be kept confidential to maintain trust and respect among employees. Handling sensitive issues with care and discretion protects the dignity and privacy of those involved. By adopting these strategies, people managers can effectively resolve conflicts, creating a harmonious work environment that fosters collaboration, productivity, and mutual respect.

Policy and Compliance

policy and compliance

First and foremost, understanding legal and regulatory requirements is fundamental. People managers must stay informed about relevant labor laws, industry regulations, and compliance standards that impact the organization. They must be continuously educated through ongoing training programs to stay updated on any changes in laws and regulations.

Managers should create comprehensive policies and procedures that comply with legal requirements and reflect organizational values. These policies are well-documented and easily accessible to all employees, whether through a digital platform or physical copies. 

Providing clear communication of these policies is equally important. Policies should be communicated regularly through meetings, emails, and the company intranet. An employee handbook that includes all relevant policies and procedures ensures that new hires are well-informed from the start.

Training and education are vital in ensuring compliance. Implementing mandatory training programs on key policies of anti-discrimination, harassment prevention, and data privacy, is necessary. Offering regular refresher courses helps employees remain aware of their responsibilities and any updates to policies. 

Handling violations requires clear procedures. Establishing processes for reporting and handling policy violations is momentous. Investigations into reported violations should be impartial, ensuring confidentiality and fairness. Appropriate disciplinary actions should be applied when policies are violated, ranging from warnings to termination, depending on the severity of the violation. 

Fostering a culture of compliance is essential for long-term success. People managers ought to lead by example, following policies rigorously and setting a positive example for employees. Encouraging open communication where employees feel comfortable reporting issues without fear of retaliation promotes a healthy compliance culture.

How to Become a People Manager?

Becoming a People Manager typically requires a combination of education, skills development, and practical experience. 

Educational Background

educational background

Starting with undergraduate studies, majors such as Business Administration, Human Resource Management, Psychology, and Communication provide decisive foundational knowledge. Business Administration equips you with fundamental business principles, including management, finance, and marketing. Human Resource Management focuses on recruitment, employee relations, compensation, and benefits. Psychology helps in understanding human behavior, which is vital for managing people. Meanwhile, Communication enhances verbal and written communication skills for effective management.

At the graduate level, degrees like a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Master's in Human Resource Management, or Organizational Leadership are beneficial. An MBA offers advanced knowledge in management, leadership, and strategic planning. A Master's in Human Resource Management provides specialized knowledge in HR practices and strategies. Organizational Leadership focuses on leadership theories, organizational behavior, and change management.

Gain Relevant Experience

gain relevant experience

There are several ways to gain relevant experience to become a people manager, even if you haven't held a formal management position yet.

Entry-Level Positions

You should begin your career in roles that offer exposure to management and organizational dynamics. Positions such as HR assistant, administrative assistant, or junior project manager provide foundational experience. These roles assist you in understanding basic operational tasks, employee relations, and organizational structures.

Customer service roles like customer support representative or service coordinator, are excellent starting points. These positions require strong communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and the capability to handle conflicts - skills directly transferable to people management.

Progressive Responsibility

As you gain experience, aim for positions that offer more responsibility. Move up to roles such as team leader, supervisor, or project manager. These roles give you chances to manage small teams, oversee projects, and make decisions that impact team performance.

Another way to do this is to take on leadership roles in team projects, volunteer to lead committees, or manage internal initiatives. You can practice leadership skills in a less formal setting, making you more comfortable with taking charge and making decisions.

Cross-Functional Experience

Gaining experience across various departments such as marketing, sales, operations, and finance submits a holistic view of how different parts of the organization function. This cross-functional experience is invaluable as it equips you with a broad perspective and understanding of organizational dynamics.

Join cross-functional project teams or task forces. These teams often include members from various departments working towards a common goal, you will have the chance to collaborate with diverse groups and understand different working styles and priorities.

Obtain Certifications (Optional)

obtain certifications (optional)

Obtaining certifications can be an advantageous step for those aspiring to become a people manager, although it is not always mandatory. These certifications show valuable knowledge, enhance your credibility, and set you apart from other candidates. 

One highly regarded certification is the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) offered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). This certification demonstrates your understanding of HR management, including employee relations, business management, talent acquisition, and learning and development.

For senior-level HR professionals, the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), also offered by HRCI, focuses on the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management. Another globally recognized certification is the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This certification is specific to the operational aspects of HR management and the application of HR principles.

For those in senior HR roles, the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) is designed for individuals who develop strategies, lead the HR function, and contribute to the overall performance of the organization. Additionally, the Certified Manager (CM) certification from the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) covers essential management skills such as planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.

Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), is another useful certification for people managers who oversee projects. Similarly, the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) is ideal for managers' employee training and development, illustrating expertise in improving organizational performance through learning.

For managers in agile environments, the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from the Scrum Alliance facilitates agile projects and teams. 

These various certifications, while optional, significantly boost your knowledge, skills, and credibility as a people manager. They add formal recognition of your expertise and commitment to professional development, making you a more attractive candidate for management roles.

Stay Current and Network

stay current and network

Staying current with industry trends and building a strong professional network are two pillars for becoming a successful people manager.

Staying Current

The world of work is constantly evolving, and successful people managers need to stay ahead of the curve. 

Regularly reading industry publications such as journals, magazines, and online articles assists you stay informed about new theories, practices, and technologies that can enhance your management approach. Taking advantage of online courses and workshops on platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Skilltrans, and edX permits you to continually update your skills and knowledge. 

Joining professional associations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or the American Management Association (AMA) brings access to resources, training programs, and industry-specific publications. Additionally, subscribing to newsletters and podcasts focused on management and leadership can keep you informed and provide diverse perspectives from thought leaders in the field.


Building a robust professional network is equally important for a people manager. Networking can provide support, resources, and opportunities for career advancement. Attending networking events such as industry conferences, local business meetups, and professional association gatherings is a prime chance to meet other professionals, exchange ideas, and build relationships.

Essential Skills for a People Manager 

essential skills for a people manager

These skills will enable you to lead a team effectively and make employees motivated, productive, and aligned with the organization’s goals.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is a cornerstone of successful people management. As a people manager, possessing strong communication skills enables you to lead teams, resolve conflicts, and foster a collaborative work environment.

Verbal Communication

Straightforwardly presenting ideas and instructions to your message is easily understood by your team. 

Written Communication

Your ability to communicate effectively in writing should be clear, concise, and error-free. Practice meticulous attention to detail in all written communications to ensure accuracy and clarity.

Active Listening

It’s important to show your team that you value their input by listening attentively, which can be demonstrated by nodding, maintaining eye contact, and providing feedback. 

Non-Verbal Communication

Positive body language, like maintaining eye contact, using open gestures, and smiling, can enhance communication and build trust. Be mindful of your facial expressions as they convey emotions and reactions. Positive expressions can encourage and motivate your team, while negative expressions can cause discomfort and misunderstanding.

Organizational Skills

organizational skills

Organizational skills are the backbone of any successful people manager. 

Time Management

Prioritizing tasks based on their urgency and importance ensures that critical activities are completed on time. Utilizing tools like calendars, to-do lists, and project management software can help keep track of deadlines and manage workloads efficiently. 

Setting clear goals and breaking larger projects into manageable tasks with specific deadlines helps maintain focus and productivity. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your schedule to accommodate changes and unexpected tasks is also important for staying organized.

Project Management

Developing a clear project plan with defined goals, timelines, and milestones keeps projects on track. Using project management tools like Trello, Asana, or Microsoft Project can aid in organizing tasks, assigning responsibilities, and tracking progress. 

Documentation and Record Keeping

Maintaining clear and accurate documentation to track progress, ensuring transparency, and facilitating communication. People managers keep detailed records of meetings, project plans, performance reviews, and other important information. 


Effective decision-making involves analyzing information, considering alternatives, and making choices that align with organizational goals. A people manager needs to be able to make timely and informed decisions, often under pressure. Utilizing decision-making frameworks, such as SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), can structure the process and consider all relevant factors. Engaging team members in the decision-making process can also provide valuable insights and foster a sense of ownership and collaboration.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of others. High EQ intensifies leadership effectiveness, promotes a positive work environment, and fosters strong interpersonal relationships.


Understanding your own emotions is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is recognizing your emotional states and understanding their impact on your thoughts and behavior. Consider maintaining a journal to track your emotions and reactions. 


Managing your emotions, especially in stressful situations, is momentous for effective leadership. You should study how to control your emotional responses, stay calm and composed, and avoid impulsive reactions. Deep breathing, mindfulness, and pausing before reacting can be helpful. 

Additionally, being adaptable means being open to change and flexible in your approach. Embrace change as an opportunity for growth and encourage your team to do the same.


A high level of motivation is characterized by a passion for work that goes beyond external rewards. Intrinsic motivation drives you to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Set personal and professional goals that are meaningful to you, and share your enthusiasm with your team. 

Maintaining a positive attitude, even in the face of setbacks is very difficult but effective. An optimistic outlook can inspire and motivate your team, helping them stay focused and resilient. Let's celebrate successes, learn from failures, and maintain a forward-looking perspective.


Empathy is about seeing things from others' perspective and responding with care and compassion. Practice active listening, show genuine interest in your team members’ concerns, and validate their feelings. You should know that strong interpersonal relationships are built on trust and mutual respect. 


People management is not just a job title; it's an opportunity to make a significant impact. By fostering a positive, growth-oriented environment, people managers empower individuals, cultivate strong teams, and ultimately drive organizational success.  

The journey to becoming a people manager is a must for dedication, continuous learning, and a genuine passion for guiding others. If you possess the essential skills of communication, empathy, strategic thinking, and the ability to motivate, then this path offers a chance to make a lasting difference in the lives of your team members. So, embrace the challenge, hone your skills, and take the first step towards becoming a truly inspiring people manager. Remember, the success of your team is your success, and together, you can achieve remarkable things.

Are you looking for a companion on your journey to becoming a people manager? If the answer is yes, Skilltrans is always ready to become a friend in your path with all the necessary skills. Let’s join our courses now!

Hoang Duyen

Meet Hoang Duyen, an experienced SEO Specialist with a proven track record in driving organic growth and boosting online visibility. She has honed her skills in keyword research, on-page optimization, and technical SEO. Her expertise lies in crafting data-driven strategies that not only improve search engine rankings but also deliver tangible results for businesses.