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The HR Department and Managers: An Important Partnership

All managers—regardless of their functional area, their position in the hierarchy, and the size of the firm for which they work—must deal effectively with HR issues because these issues are at the heart of being a good manager. The role of a company’s human resources department is to support, not to supplant, managers’ HR responsibilities. For instance, the HR department may develop a form to help managers measure the performance of subordinates, but it is the managers who conduct the actual evaluation. Stated another way, the HR department is primarily responsible for helping the firm meet its business objectives by designing HR programs, but managers must carry out these programs. This means that every manager is a human resource manager.

According to CIPD, there is a lack of measurable indicators for people management and leadership behaviours. Where individuals are promoted into managerial roles because they are good performers, rather than for their people management and leadership potential, adopt a hands-on style instead of coaching their team through tasks.

Scrutiny of managers increases at times of underperformance or crisis, and senior managers tend to adopt a command-and-control style in that situation rather than coach middle and front-line managers through it. The need for frequent reporting on performance against (quarterly) targets takes time away from developing staff.

Increasingly demanding performance targets do not always take into consideration the human and technological resource capacity, as well as the limited opportunities in the external environment. Resource constraints make it difficult for managers to remain flexible to staff needs, while some cost-cutting solutions only add more processes to manage (for example managing contractors).

Failure to allow time for forward planning reduces opportunities to seek bottom–up feedback. It also causes managers to operate primarily in the firefighting mode and apply directive management styles.

Faced with competing priorities, individuals are likely to focus on those aspects of their role that are directly linked to their individual performance in order to avoid sanctions.

  • If specific individual targets do not ‘add up’ to the common goal, employees pursue activities that support their personal performance and career goals over other priorities that can improve the performance of the team as a whole.
  • Respondents highlight that judgements on how appropriate their decision is can be subjective and prefer to ‘err on the side of caution’.
  • A company’s overall vision is not always clearly translated into specific objectives for individuals, resulting in competing priorities in cross-functional teams.
  • Organisations fail to benefit from workforce diversity by continuing to use unduly subjective methods of selecting and rewarding staff.
  • By aiming to eliminate undesired behaviours, organisations can create frameworks that restrict the scope for discretion and unconventional judgement. For example, organisations introduce people management systems aimed at fairness of outcomes (for example, pay and reward), but the mechanisms to ensure that managers apply the procedure fairly and consistently are ineffective or absent.
  • Managers are limited in the range of instruments they can use to motivate a diverse workforce. In the absence of robust behavioural indicators, achievement of operational targets is the main objective factor that differentiates individual performance.

About Dr. Ev D'aMigo; PhD

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