As a manager, one of your most important duties is to keep track of your employees and chart their progress. This not only ensures that the work gets done but that you have some sort of documentation for their performance evaluations at the end of the year. The process of charting employee progress is one that will require listening and people skills with a bit of organization and planning thrown in for good measure.
Outline to the employees exactly what is expected of them Refer to the job description and explain to them their role in the project at hand. Provide them with their goals and the timeline for the completion of those goals. Set targets that are achievable and take place in a relatively short amount of time. It's easier to track the progress of a program over a few months than an entire year.
Walk around the department daily to observe what your employees are doing. This can give you incredible insight not only to the progress of your team but also how they go about working toward those goals.
Instruct employees to give you an account via email or face-to-face meeting of what they are working on and what they completed. Make sure you take notes (or print the email) and keep those notes in a file folder.
Meet with all employees at least once per week and ask direct questions about their job. Ascertain how things are going and help them with any problems they may have. If they are being vague, it might mean that they are not as far along as you want to them to be. Draw the information out of them until you get a sense of where they are at with their goals. Again, take notes and place it in a folder.
Spot-check your employees actual work. You don't have to do it every day, but make sure it's frequent enough that any issues (like low productivity) are being taken care of before they become giant problems. You should treat this like a pop quiz and not announce when you will be looking.
Listen to what your employees are telling you. Sometimes the best way to really learn how various employees are doing is to listen to what their co-workers are saying about them. Learn to find the subtext in what people are saying so you can get to the heart of the issues.
Take copious notes about your observations of the various employees and keep them in a secure file cabinet. These notes will be your backup for an accolades or, in a worst case scenario, termination.
Some managers seem to feel that they need to document every little thing or they go for a lighter touch and document nothing. Try to be somewhere in the middle. Don't document little things (like a late arrival or being slightly late on a target) until they become chronic. Also, be sure to document and track major failures, as this is your back-up should you need to take action on the employee.
Don't assume that your employees will do what they are told to do. This is an active process which you must be involved in. Otherwise, it will be your reputation on the line when the goals for your department are not met.