People leave managers, not companies

For me, HR is all about the line manager, but line managers have got a tough job – their operational day job, along with having to manage a team of people on top – so even with the best will in the world, being a line manager has its challenges.  So how can HR help?

HR needs to make it easy for line managers to be managers:

Be an effective support function

First and foremost, understand the business and ensure there is a link between all HR activities and how they support the overall business plan.  Get trained yourself and be the people expert, so the managers use you as a resource. Keep information short and to the point but ensure there is some context so managers’ insight can help deliver a message and seek feedback.  Support your managers in HR tasks that need to be done by providing crib sheets, coaching them through a scenario and hand-holding them through a meeting.

But…don’t do it for them

Managers are the ones with the relationship with their staff.  Taking activities away from them will undermine that relationship and keep them out of the loop.  They need HR’s trust to be a people manager.  This will be achieved partly by a HR training programme and HR support, but a great way to learn is also by doing.  HR must support line managers so they are able and confident to get involved, make mistakes, but learn from them.  Line managers will provide much more insight and context than someone on the periphery.

Keep on educating

Unless knowledge and skills are used, they will be forgotten.  Sending a manager on a disciplinary and grievance course 3 years ago, will not stand them in good stead for their first disciplinary hearing right now.  There should be a constant, rolling programme of training for things that crop up from time to time in their role.  All people managers should know about disciplinary & grievance, performance management, absence management, recruitment and selection and equality & diversity.  At the very least this will protect the organisation from potential Employment Tribunal claims but it has the scope to create a high-performance business.

Look at their job design.

In any role, to perform you need the right resources.  Give managers time to manage.  Being a manager is a big task.  Look at what is expected of them and ensure people management is a big chunk of it.  This is the time the performance management and motivation of their teams will be achieved.

Send a clear message from the top

What gets measured gets done.  Influence senior managers to measure the HR outputs and talk about them. Don’t focus so much on quantitative outputs such as the number of appraisals done – that only measures the amount of forms completed rather than quality performance conversations. Ask about career paths of the manager’s team, what is making their team motivated, what new skills are being learned.  If the conversation is only based on the number of widgets being turned out, the people agenda is not at the forefront.

These are the areas that will always need attention and input.  The issues themselves change over time, but the role of manager and staff will always be there. To develop your HR skills as a HR practitioner or as a line manager check out our HR Training.

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