Giving up traditional roles, the new HR challenge.

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HR for one reason or another has been in focus in the past few weeks I am am not sure why that is?

Maybe it is timing or maybe HR is at a real crossroads which I believe is the case.

The recent Kings College Report on the state of HR showed that not enough is being done across the board to develop line managers to be people managers and true managers of talent and at the same time HR is showing signs of being very  reluctant to pass up many of it traditional roles and practices so that line mangers can develop appropriately.

We know that many managers and leaders come into these roles because they have a strong technical or domain expertise, this does not qualify them to be or become a suitable leader of people but this situation has been allowed to perpetuate because HR teams have been able to provide the back up for this skill and knowledge deficit by many line managers and is so have made the situation even worse.

Research out of the Stockton Borough Council and conducted by Liz Hanley shows that HR may be loosing its grip and line managers are demanding and wanting more control of the people and talent agenda.

“Stockton Borough Council carried out research to support the implementation of the organisational vision to develop the strategic HR function in this way. Line managers at third-tier level were questioned about what they saw as the core aspects of the role of the line manager and that of HR professionals.

The research showed that there was already a culture of line managers working closely with HR in order to address people management responsibilities. However, it was also clear that line managers felt vulnerable about taking on more of what they saw as traditional aspects of the HR role – such as dealing with poor staff performance – without direct access to HR support and undertaking additional training, for example in conflict management. The risk of a lack of consistency in judgement and decision-making by line managers was also highlighted, as was the perceived reluctance of HR professionals to relinquish some of their traditional responsibilities. Managers who took part in the research also expressed concern at expectations of their taking on more duties, when they already lack time and are juggling a number of priorities.

Implicit in the research findings was the acknowledgement that the employment relationship is very complex and that there has been significant growth in employment law that can appear to be contradictory. The economic environment makes it more important than ever that employees are enabled to perform at the peak of their abilities, with public services expected to achieve more with significantly less resources.

Line managers play a crucial role in managing employee relations and performance, but can be described as the ‘weakest link’, as some managers in the public sector may be promoted for their technical expertise, rather than their specific people-management skills and experience.

For the organisation to be fit for purpose in the current and future challenging contexts:

  • The required managerial behavioural competencies need to be embedded into job design and recruitment processes.
  • Good people management needs to be recognised and rewarded.
  • Line managers have to be involved in the development and review of HR policies.
  • These changes need to be embedded, before HR support is withdrawn in a controlled way.

To effect the required changes to the line manger role, it is important that HR continues to provide for the ‘employee champion’ role, particularly until the change is embedded.” (source” HR Magazine)

This is a very complex issue and one that does not have an easy answer or is there a silver bullet but there is a clear message in this complex debate that HR transformation has to include more than being a process of internal review it must affect real change with its external clients and business partners it is to really transform.

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