top of page

Successful organizations manage human resource through line managers

Traditionally, employee management has evolved from personnel management to the human resource management function that it is today. A key difference is that that personnel function was very involved in handling the administrative function of human resource management, think about records, staffing, staff welfare, leave, organizing office parties among other similar functions.

Human resource management is more strategic in its thinking and focuses on how the organization will be able to achieve its strategic objectives through effective utilization of the human resource. Inevitably, the administrative function of the human resource department still exists but has been made more effective by using human resource management information systems.

I have had the privilege of working in various parts of the function in the last twelve years and I think there needs to be a fundamental change in how organizations view managing the human resource.

The organizations that I have worked for and have been the most successful use the line managers effectively to manage the human resource. With this in mind, I have made sure that my approach to leading the human resource management function is different. My focus is on empowering the line managers to be more effective human resource managers. I preach this to my team for the following reasons;

  1. The human resource department numbers cannot single-handedly effectively handle all people related matters in the organization. It is a matter of numbers, simply put the ratio of staff to Human resource department staff is usually about 75 to 1. It is then not possible to effectively cover and understand all the people needs of all the 75 employees. However, with a good span of management of one manager to say five employees effectively they will be a total of sixteen people managers including the human resource manager.

  2. The people/line managers interact with the employees daily and will be able to interact with them much closer. They best understand the needs of the people they manage. The touch points between HR and employees is much less and therefore the people managers stand a better chance to handle the employee matters more efficiently.

  3. The human resource function should focus on providing support to the leadership and management team to enable achievement of the people strategy for the organization. True change is achieved in an organization when this is done. In organizations, I have worked in and the human resource leader and chief executive were aligned on strategy, the organization performed much better.

  4. As a function, we should let the line managers handle their employees human resource related issues and support them to be better at it. There are many situations where I have had line managers send their team members to the human resource team because they said it is a people issue and so we should handle it. A majority of the times I sent the employee back to the manager and guided the manager to close the matter. Mostly, the conversation is about performance management, compensation, requests for time off to attend to special circumstances. Given clear policies, the manager is well equipped to discuss this and understands the operations much better than I would to make a decision.

Human resource managers therefore can do consider following ways to make the organization successful through line/people managers.

We need to empower our line/people managers to be able to perform their people management responsibilities. This can be done through clearly communicating the managers people management responsibilities and training them to handle staff related matters.

We can make sure we have very clear organizational human resource policies that the managers can be able to refer to and that they are trained to execute their duties well.

As a function, we need to actively support and praise good people leadership skills in our line managers. When we recognize such leadership it is easy to model that and then replicate it across the businesses.

We need to rethink hiring of managers in our businesses. The majority of line managers who rise up the ranks are usually the best in the operational side of the business and not necessarily having the pedigree to become great leaders and people managers. They will execute well in operations but when it comes to showing leadership and direction they fail to perform. So when hiring managers, the focus should be on leadership competencies rather than operational competencies.

Being conscious about the need manage the human resource effectively through the managers will make the difference between success and failure for your organization.

bottom of page