But that’s HR’s JobPosted in : HR Updates on 12 October 2017
I recall a conversation I had with a pretty senior manager about some office gossip that she wanted to make me aware of regarding a staff member. After a brief discussion around how best to address the issue, she then made a comment along the lines of, “I don't know how you do this job”. I asked her to clarify what she meant to which she responded, “You know, HR stuff. I mean you clear up all the mess”. I immediately became defensive feeling the need to protect my profession by reminding her of her role as a people manager and how HR were here to support managers etc… but I knew that my words were unconvincing to her. Later, when I reflected on the conversation, I began to realise that maybe that senior manager had a point. If that was her perception of HR then surely there was a responsibility for HR to change this and take stock of how much managers were empowered to carry out their people management duties. What support should be given to all managers with line management responsibilities?
I believe this starts with ensuring that line managers are not recruited on their technical ability alone. It's easy to blame a poor manager for disengaged staff but HR need to take responsibility for that manager being appointed in the first place. Soft, interpersonal skills should be included in the job specification right at the beginning of the selection process and these should be assessed during the interview. Personality or psychometric testing can be invaluable here as they will provide a more in-depth analysis of the necessary behavioural traits for the job. But how do we know what these behaviours are? This is where it is good to ask staff directly. Consider running focus groups inviting employees to give their opinions on what makes a good manager. You should soon see consensus on the types of behaviours that are key in your organisation such as allowing autonomy, approachability, and integrity. These can then be fed into the job specification and personality test if you ideally chose a bespoke offering.
But once appointed, our work is not done. HR now have a duty to ensure that managers are supported in their new roles. Line managers play a vital role in motivating staff and ensuring they are productive as well as meeting operational and strategic needs. It is therefore easy to see how they will struggle to fulfil their people management duties while under pressure to meet operational targets. They need ongoing help, mentoring and training to know how to manage responsibilities such as performance, staff development and attendance. And it is within HR's interest to ensure that managers are fully equipped to carry out these important people management duties to avoid us becoming bogged down with administration and fire-fighting. Management support, guidance and access to the necessary information is therefore vital.
In terms of trust, have you ever been reluctant to let line managers actually manage for fear they may get it wrong? It is often easier to take the reins and do it ourselves. However, this is only going to be a short-term solution. We need strategies, policies, frameworks and systems to support managers to do their jobs. Technology can play a useful part here through online access to resources.
And there are other ways that we can support line managers, for example, through practising mindfulness so that they can become more aware of the own stress and anxiety levels and manage them appropriately.
Given that line managers are expected to manage performance and carry out staff appraisals or performance feedback, equally managers should expect to receive performance feedback. This should focus not only on output, but on how they apply the softer, interpersonal skills needed for their role as first identified through the interview process. The opportunity to give feedback and recognition to managers is also important as well as assessment of any development needs.
So quite simply, by spending more time empowering line managers to carry out their HR duties, this will free us up add more value to the organisation. Meanwhile, employees will become more productive, thanks to great line managers!
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