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Line Managers and HR – whose job is it anyway?


Most of us in HR would love to spend more time focusing on the strategic elements of HR but get embroiled in the day to day activities where managers have “got it wrong… again”.

But when you speak to the Line Managers, their usual comment is “HR should have sorted it out”. So whose job is it to manage the people within our companies?

The answer is, of course, a shared responsibility. But without the correct policies, procedures and training, often initiated by HR, we will continue to have to pick up the pieces when things go wrong and continue to allow abdication by line managers of their responsibility for their own people.

Overall HR’s role is to establish policies and procedures, which are agreed by the Senior Management, and then ensure Managers are trained in the fundamental elements we need them to manage.

Recruitment and Selection – if managers understand the significance of getting it right and are given the tools and training to allow them to do so, the selection of staff assists the team function and the development of the business.

Performance management – whilst HR can co-ordinate staff appraisal and systems to evaluate individual employee performance; line managers must set the standards expected, monitor on-going performance and review outcomes.

Training and development – training courses and training budgets are highly valued possessions of HR but it is only when managers understand the significance of their involvement in learning, that real value is gained. Who holds the budget and who arranges training is immaterial. HR can serve an important function in advising both of organisational needs and the best sources of meeting learning needs.

Discipline and grievance handling – once policies and procedures have been established, Managers need to understand how to implement them to ensure a consistent approach is taken throughout the organisation.

Employment law – where line managers have an appreciation of the fundamental elements of employment law, they can understand the significance of actions and so work to avoid potential legal issues. Complex arrangements still need the HR specialist but day-to-day issues are avoided by understanding the basics of legislation.

So what is left for HR – well all the things we want to do; establishing strategic approaches, advising on leading edge thinking to tackling issues and being the ‘expert’ that others look to.

So how do we get to where we would like to be? We establish sound policies and procedures then train our line managers in how to manage. We wouldn’t expect someone to pilot a plane without having had flying lessons so why expect managers to manage people without giving them the skills in HR to do just that.