Afive year UK study on moving HR
responsibility to line managers found two key factors hindered success:
1.Too much was pushed onto line managers before they were ready for it.
2. Not enough support, motivation, training for managers and staff to absorb the changes in managerial style and process.
The study found other risks of devolving HR included:
* unnecessary duplication of effort
* lack of coordination and waste of resources
* inconsistent treatment of employees
* sub-optimal performance
* breaches of the law.
These potential risks raise issues such as to what degree should standard HR policies and practices be implemented?
How can the HR competence of line managers be assured? How is it possible to maintain the collective interest of the organisation and its resource use?
These risks can be managed firstly by clear understanding of HRM in the company, and secondly by planning the most appropriate HRM structure.
In planning the devolution of HR you need to be clear about the role and responsibilities of line managers and HR specialists and administrators.
There’s difference between strategic HRM responsibility, line HRM responsibility and HRM administration — all three tasks shouldn’t necessarily fall to the line manager.
It’s also important to consider that ‘people management’ isn’t always definable workload that can easily be devolved to line managers.
Recent overseas studies show little evidence of personnel management without personnel managers.
What these show is that in most cases HR staff moved out of the business unit to work closely with line managers, and that line managers have far more control over HR decisions and budgets. In effect, HR specialists are performing the administrative and advisory functions of HRM.
Additionally, some organisations choose to use senior HR specialists to maintain strategic overview for the whole organisation.
This strategic role keeps HR planning in line with business outcomes and internal best practice.
Line managers aren’t always capable of taking on total HRM responsibility and it’s often mistake to assume they can.
It can also be mistake to assume they want the responsibility or have time to devote to it.
Having worked with variety of organisations the study team observed that whatever HRM role and responsibility configuration an organisation chooses, it needs to be consistent with business strategy.
It also needs to be clearly communicated to the organisation, with good infrastructural support.
Setting up HRM has range of parameters, including:
* establishing clear roles and responsibilities
* setting up policy frameworks
* organising training and support for managers
* undertaking performance management and incentives
* monitoring performance, and keeping the strategic overview.
Ideally line managers should exercise their authority in framework of policy — not bureaucratic web of rules.
Many HR policies are available by computer, but the downside is they become outdated, or can be ignored by line managers.
So someone still needs to be responsible for maintaining policy.
As with all changes, good preparation and training help overcome uncertainty about devolution.
It will also reduce exposure to risk.
Line managers don’t need to become HR experts but they do need to know when to seek assistance.
This assistance may be supplied by organisational policy frameworks, by access to HR specialists (either in-house or external) and/or by management colleagues.
“Managing the managers” is another important facet of successful HR devolution.
Organisations should be selecting, retraining and rewarding those line managers who show good people management practices and interpersonal skills.
The greatest risk of devolving is to delegate this responsibility to line managers without holding them accountable for it. Their performance should be measured in areas where they hold HR responsibility.
An ideal solution is to maintain decentralised HR function supporting line managers with the general day to day issues of HRM, while maintaining HR specialist for the strategic overview for the organisation, setting policies, ensuring best practice and remaining as an ‘independent’ body for employees. Surveys of staff attitudes to devolution all show the need for neutral body here. And they show demand for counselling services within organisations.
While devolution of HRM does pose risks, there’s lot of potential to achieve it successfully.
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