Putting Employees First: People-Centered Approaches To Management

Written by James O. Rodgers

approaches to management

If we want to see how current management thinking has evolved, we should first review history. The formal study of management is a relatively new concept: it began in the late nineteenth century, when Henri Fayol introduced his 14 principles of management. Frederick Taylor further formalized the study of management when he introduced the principles of scientific management.

Shortly thereafter, thought leaders like Maslow, McGregor, and Skinner applied the tenets of sociology, psychology, and religion to management studies. Since then, management studies have moved away from total concern for processes and transactions and now focuses on the management of people.

Putting People First In Management

People-centric approaches to management has been the most relevant model of management in recent years, but I would argue that it has always been a central component of management philosophy, even when it was not the focus. Though management has become a process-oriented field, many early models of management studies – like Taylor’s scientific management – also focus on people. Just look at the four key components of Taylor’s model: true science and standardization, training workers on tasks, education employees about the science of Taylorism, and employee-management cooperation.


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What Does People-Centric Management Look Like?

Following Taylor’s example, many researchers have put forth management theories that draw on the natural sciences and psychology, including ideas like humanism, human relations, human capital management, diversity management, and behaviourism.

Each of these movements can seem like a fad, and it can be difficult for practicing managers to keep up with the latest versions of people-centered management. But no matter how hard it is, managers must acknowledge the preeminence of the human factor in order to be effective.

Workplace spirituality, for example, is one of the latest forms of people-centered management, though it has its roots in earlier management theories. In fact, it can be seen as a logical extension of diversity programs.

Society influences management thought, and we can see this fact in the development of workplace spirituality. Polls show that nine out of 10 Americans consider faith to be important in their lives, and since traditional spiritual practices have declined in recent years, young workers turn to their workplaces as surrogate spiritual families. Acknowledging the spiritual pursuits of employees is a smart response to changing social needs in the modern workplace.

Support Your People

Management theory should always be in tune with what people expect and want from their social institutions. After all, the workplace is a social institution – one that employees spend much of their time with. In order to get the best from your people, your workplace needs to meet their needs by putting them first. For practicing managers, this means keeping up with the latest in people-centric management philosophies, even if they seem like fleeting trends. These new ideas and different theories focus on the people.