Line Managers have regularly had a role in human resource management. Their involvement has increased recently due to more HR activities being delegated to them. The role of line managers has been affected by an evolving workforce and surge in HR strategy and policies. It has been argued that line managers have not been effective in implementing HR strategy into practice. I will briefly discuss the evolution of the role of the line manager, analyze theory behind the concept of line managers being the “weak link”, suggest ways to strengthen the line manager's position and discuss the issues of methodology when addressing this issue.
The role of the line manager in an organisation has changed in correlation to the alterations in the organisation of work. When trade union influence and power increased in the 1960s and 1970s, the authority of personnel managers increased in regards to bargaining and managing collective agreements. This increase in authority led to greater power over line managers actions. Subsequently, trade union power decreased significantly in the 1980s and the line managers re-affirmed their right to lead organisational processes. Competitive domestic and international markets have led to a focus of reducing costs in organisations. DEVOLUTION OF RESPONSIBILITY
The evolution of the line managers role into performing HR functions, has led to a number of issues. The majority of complaints on line manager's efficiency and effectiveness in performing HR functions lie in the following areas: skill level of line managers, contempt for HR-related work, competing priorities and inconsistencies with the application of HR tasks. There is an argument, especially by personnel specialists, that line managers lack the necessary skills and competencies to successfully perform HR functions. There is a noticeable difference between perceptions of competence between line managers and personnel specialists. For example, Cunningham and Hyman (1995) presented an identical questionnaire to personnel specialist and line managers and supervisors regarding the competencies of line managers on a range of hard and soft HR issues. The results showed a drastic difference in perceived levels of competence. Line managers tended to see themselves as very competent, while personnel specialists had an opposite view. The greatest disparities were in recruitment, discipline and absenteeism for hard HR skills and communication and training of employees for softer HR skills. There are a number of line managers that have negative views towards HR and feel that it is not valuable. Marchington and Wilkinson (2008) noted that line managers perceived HR specialists skills as either irrelevant, because HR is “common-sense” or inappropriate, because HR is based on idealistic and naive views of human behaviour. It is important to mention that not all line managers have had issues with being delegated HR related tasks. Some line managers feel HR is a priority because managing staff is an important aspect of their job. Provide an example from article. Another issue regarding the implementation of HR functions by line managers is the competing priorities faced on the job. A majority of line managers feel that managing and developing staff is not high on their list of priorities. People management was seen as taking a backseat to more performance-related functions, such as production or service goals. Line managers are hesitant to take on HR roles because it is perceived as work on top of their other responsibilities, and it leads to added accountability. Discuss lack of reward?? The final issue involves the application of HR functions. Elaborate.
So how do we fix this problem? How do we strengthen the role of line managers in performing HR tasks? Let's address each of the issues discussed previously and look at ways to resolve these issues. In terms of the lack of skills and competencies of line managers in HR functions, training needs to be a top priority in organisations. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. The perception of HR by line managers needs to be adjusted, as many line managers feel training in HR is unnecessary because HR is “common-sense” and can be learned by on the job experience. In one of the organizations studied by Cunningham and Hyman (1995), a manager remarked that there was no HR issue for which he needed further training because: “Most of this is common sense anyway. We have had some training, but when an issue comes up it's always in the area where you have had no preparation. However, again, it is common sense and you can deal with it if you consider matters carefully.” An approach to address this view is to make sure senior management has a positive outlook of HR and is supportive to creating an organisational climate that is conducive with developing line efficiency in HR functions. The study by Whittaker and Marchington (2003) examined senior/board level line managers
Issues of methodology - 1st article, interviewing - are responses factual? Interviewed large corporations only in a few sectors.- 3rd article-focused on company going through drastic restructuring and a decrease in HR positions, may not transcend to other companies
For the future - Train the line managers early when the first join the organization
Identify the training needs of the line managers, have continuous evaluation and feedback
Cunningham, I. And Hyman, J. (1999), Devolving human resource responsibilities to the line: Beginning of the end or a new beginning for personnel?, Personnel Review, Vol. 28(1/2), pp. 9-27
Cunningham, I. And Hyman, J. (1995), Transforming the HRM vision into reality: The role of line managers and supervisors in implementing change, Employee Relations, Vol. 17(8), pp. 5-20
Hope Hailey, V et al (2005), The HR department's role in organisational performance, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol. 15(3), pp. 49-66
Marchington M. and Wilkinson A. (2006), Human Resource Management at Work, 3rd edition, Chapter 5
Renwick, D. (2003), Line manager involvement in HRM: an inside view, Employee Relations, Vol. 25(3), pp. 262-280
Whittaker, S. And Marchington, M. (2003), Devolving HR responsibility to the line: Threat, opportunity or partnership?, Employee Relations, Vol. 25(3), pp. 245-261
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