Human resources departments


Highly motivated staff within the organisation are often associated with the success of the overall performance of the company (Baruch, 1997; Tsui, 1987). Traditionally, the responsibility of motivation lay with an employee (self-motivation). More recently, as companies started to develop their Human Resources departments, the responsibility boundary started to shift across to the centralised functions. Motivational techniques, such as the provision of training, career guidance and performance appraisals were all offered to employees by HR deparments (Kulik et al, 2008). However, over the last 20 years, the HR function has received a large amount of negative publicity, primarily being accused of "playing a complicit role in corporate excesses (e.g. extravagant executive compensation packages) and corporate ethics scandals" (Kulik et al, 2008, p). Large amount of empirical evidence and reflective academic analyses shows that the HR function not only does not have the trust of it's stakeholders (e.g. employees, line managers) but also has developed a strong reputation of an inability to provide adequate HR support, which in turn leads to demotivation within organisations (Kochan, 2004; Peterson, 2004; Rynes, 2004; Graham et al, 2006; Lansbury et al, 2004; Ulrich, 1997). ( direct citation need number of page(s))

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The need for change was most strongly pointed out by Schuler (1990) who said "HR must transform or die" (cited by Kulik et al, 2008 p.). Some of the necessary changes came naturally over the years. One of them will be examined in this work: the devolution of HR functions to Line Managers. In this devolution, the Line Managers take on certain parts of traditional HR functions themselves (Cunningham et al, 1999; Currie et al, 2001; Larsen et al, 2003; Renwick, 2003). "Advocates of a devolution strategy suggest that it can save costs, speed up decision making and link HR activities with other aspects of day-to-day management (Larsen &Brewster, 2003; Renwick, 2003), benefiting the organisation as a whole" (Kulik et al, 2008, p).

There is relatively little empirical work aimed at increasing the understanding of the devolution of HRM to LM (Maxwell and Watson 2004; Kulik et al, 2008). Few previous studies, for example, have looked at devolution from a Line Manager's point of view; previous studies have concentrated largely upon the effect on the HR function (McConville 2006).

The present study will look at the effects the devolution of the HR functions to the Line Mangers has on staff motivation. The literature review will look at the theoretical work that assesses motivation and the functions of both HR and Line managers. Through primary research, a number of LM's and their staff will be surveyed in order to assess if the devolution took place and to what extent the devolution of HR function happened. It will try to establish the relationship between the perceived efficiency of the manager in performing some of the HR functions, focusing on the various soft skills involved, and the employee motivation. The study will also take into account the degree to which the HR supports the Line Manager where there is devolution of functions. The study will be set in the context of recent theorising about the devolution of HR, looking both at the new 'strategic' role of HR and also at the way in which this impacts upon the LM role as more HR functions are included in that role. The role of 'partnership' working, defined and described in more detail later on, is an influential approach to devolution, which is promoted by Ulrich (1998) and other writers, and a partnership approach that means collaborative working of LM, HR and staff in order to reach common organisational goals will be considered as a particularly fruitful one on all levels throughout the organisation.

Research Area and Aims

The aim of the research is to examine the effect that a devolution of a Human Resources Function to Line Management had on staff's motivation in the context of Saudi Arabia. In order to achieve this aim, it is important to examine the available academic literature on the subject of this devolution and conduct primary research to identify whether the results support the existing theories.

Previous studies have concentrated on the new role of 'strategic' HR and the role played by devolution within it, however in the following literature review the concern will be with identifying current thoughts about the impact of this devolution upon the level of motivation among the staff. It will be seen that devolution has both negative and positive effects (Whittaker and Marchington 2003). Although evidence exists that this kind of devolution can increase productivity and motivation of the employees (Baron 2003), the literature review will also examine the lack of adequate training provided to the LMs to provide this function and question whether this approach will work in the long-run (from a motivational point of view).

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This aim of the research can be broken down further into research questions:

  1. What are the reasons for devolution? Is it likely to positively affect the motivation of the employees?
  2. How has devolution of HR functions to Line Management affected the questioned employees motivation in selected Saudi Arabian companies?

The above questions, aims and objectives lead to the creation of the framework of the literature review. The formulation of a series of interrelated hypotheses to be investigated by the research study is the next step that will be carried out as soon as the framework is defined in the literature review.

Research structure

The structure of this research project is constructed around the research questions and includes several chapters. Firstly, the introduction defines the scope of the research and the research problem. Secondly, the literature review presents the theoretical discussion of the main variables and introduces the existing opinions of the scholars upon their relationship. The third part outlines the methodology that will be followed in order to collect and analyse research data. The following part will represent the analysis of the research findings. After the research findings are presented the conclusions will be made and the recommendations for managers will be stated.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

What is motivation?

Motivation as a subject is of interest to a large number of fields. Managers from every industry use motivational techniques in order to develop their workers, psychologists study the behavioral pattern of those subject to motivation, economists analyse how motivation effects the economy and individuals study self-help books in order to gain higher motivation. ( reference )

The main reason why so many industries study motivation and apply the techniques is because motivation is often associated with success (Baron 2003). This chapter will look at the empirical evidence and theories of how high levels of motivation lead to an increase in productivity, employee commitment, efficient running of the company, correct resource integration and further managerial development. All of the above improve the bottom line of the companies and therefore, it can be argued that high levels of motivation among the staff is the key ingredient to profitability.

Abraham Maslow is often considered as the "father" of motivational theories. His work, A Theory of Human Motivation (1943), outlined a hierarchy of human needs that trigger different levels of motivation. He argued, that human kind require their needs to be satisfied in a hierarchical order. By understand the hierarchy one could determine how to motivate an individual. Each of the levels has to be done in turn, therefore, the first priority is always to satisfy the basic Physiological needs such as the provision of food, water, shelter and sleep. The next level would be to provide for the security needs, such as life threat preventions, or avoidance of different fears. Social needs level deals with the acceptance that is required by individuals, esteem needs will be required to be fulfilled (e.g. self-respect; power, prestige). The last level is "self-actualisation", where an individual focuses on personal growth, self-fulfillment and achieving their potential (Maslow, 1943 cite by Swinton, 2009).

Later on, Atkinson (1964) identified that motivation was a combination of two ingredients: motives and expectancies. "Motives are dispositions to approach or avoid certain behaviors; they are thought to be developed in childhood and to remain fairly stable across life (Atkinson, 1964: 242). Needs for challenge, power and affiliation are examples of basic motives. Expectancies, which are more ephemeral, consist of an individual's assessment that his or her own actions will lead to the successful attainment of a desired outcome" (Dunifon et al, 1998, p. 34). Expectancies can be either specific (a personal belief that one can do the job, which will lead to a promotion) or general (a belief that hard work leads to promotion). Atkinson's theory (1964) also takes into account a personal investment that individuals are willing to make in order to achieve the expected results. For example, if a certain result will require training then an individual may be interested in investing their time (and potentially money) if the expected return is high enough. ( have you used the original source for Atkinson 1964, or just cited by Dunifon ?)

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The subject of motivation is fascinating not only because it can potentially lead to success, but also because there is still no agreement on how to provoke it. For example, White (1959) argued that the level of motivation can be traced back to the childhood of each individual and that would explain the individual motivation a lot better than the studies of behaviorism and psychoanalysis (White, 1959 cited by MacTurk et al, p.2). Herrnstein and Murray (1995) identified The Bell Curve, which deals with the success of individuals at work, and relates it to the natural intelligence of each individual. The research by Murnane and Levy (1996, cited by Dunifon et al, 1998) concluded that each individual possesses "new basic skills" (such as the level of understanding of certain subjects such as mathematics, reading, writing) and "soft skills" such as team work, negotiation skills; and the level of those skills would determine the success of each individual. Bandura (1986), Brandstatter and Gollwitzer (1994, cited by Dunifon et al, 1998) argued that motivation is the key factor that determines whether or not an individual will achieve something.

It is also important to outline that the understanding of "success" is very individual. Using Maslow's (1943) theory, it can be seen that "money" is not the only measure of success. Although money, as a means of payment, can satisfy the first two hierarchical levels (Physiological and Safety), it may help (but not guarantee) the next three hierarchical levels, namely social, esteem and self-actualisation needs. Therefore, it can be argued, that once an individual has satisfied the first two levels of motivation; they will require an additional means of satisfaction in order to stay motivated.

Empirical evidence of motivational measures

Inspired by motivational theories, governments as well as private companies have been trying to assess motivation. Data has been collected in order for academics to study the effects of motivation in a more scientific way. For example there is the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and the National Longitudinal Survey (NLS) panels that measure peoples motivational and economic statuses as well as their achievements over the years (Dunifon et al, 1998, p.33). Using those statistics many have tried to predict the success of individuals based on the original inputs. However, results have been mixed. For example, Andrisani (1978) found that although correlations existed between fixed variables such as sex, race and economic status and eventual wages; the correlation could not be applied over different age groups. Similar non-conclusive results were found by Duncan and Morgan (1981) when they applied Andrisani's tests to PSID data. Goldsmith, Veum and Darity (1997, cited by Dunifon et al, 1998) used NLSY data to assess motivation. Although they found that rising earnings had a strong significant correlation with the level of self-esteem, they could not show that personal control (i.e. motivation) had an effect on success.

Koppel's (1981, cited by Dunifon et al, 1998) work, using NLS data, showed that attitudes do have an effect on earnings, however, his findings did not outline how long those results would last for. The results were also inconclusive for Hill et al (1985), who tried to find a link between motivation and earnings through the use of additional variables such as economic conditions.

However, when training was taken into consideration, the results were a lot more conclusive and predictable. For example, Earley (1994, cited by Dunifon et al, 1998) showed that there is a very strong and positive correlation between the training that employees receive, their motivation and performance at work. Similarly, by using PSID data, Dunifon et al (1998) found that there is a significant correlation between an individuals preference for a challenge and their earnings, if training is provided. A study conducted by Kulik et al (2008) found that devolution of the HR function to a LM had a significant positive effect on how the staff viewed HR departments post devolution. The above positive results indicate that devolution may increase the motivation among the employees of the company and hence should be considered seriously by organisations.

What motivates people?

As has been outlined above, the factors that trigger motivation are complex and the list of them is lengthy. Adam's "Equity Theory" (1963) is one of the most used theories when motivational techniques are being identified. Adam's theory states that there should be a balance between the inputs that each worker is prepared to put forward (e.g. working hours, effort, loyalty) and the outputs that are being received (wages, success, satisfaction). Unlike other theories, The Equity Theory also takes into consideration the "referents". Referents are external factors that affect the inputs and outputs of people, for example the external economic environment or competition. Therefore, each person, when assessing the balance of their input-output ratio, will take into consideration their surroundings. For example, the level of salary will be compared to the other employees in the company; the working conditions may be evaluated relative to other companies in the market and the job satisfaction may be assessed relative to the economic conditions at the time (Adam, 1963).

More recent papers (e.g. Steers and Porters, 1991) also identified that individuals' motivations can be split into two broad categories: extrinsic (e.g. money) and intrinsic (e.g. personal development). As long as the expectations of both are met within an organisation, the employee is likely to stay within the company and be motivated. Hall (1994) developed the Equity Theory's point on the external factors that influence employees and added that socialisation is also an influential variable in the complex equation of motivation.

For the purpose of future evaluation, it is important to summarise the possible "inputs" that the employee can provide to a company:

  1. Effort
  2. Loyalty
  3. Hard work
  4. Commitment
  5. Skill
  6. Ability
  7. Adaptability
  8. Flexibility
  9. Tolerance
  10. Determination
  11. Enthusiasm
  12. Trust in superiors
  13. Support of colleagues
  14. Personal sacrifices

All of the above inputs can potentially lead to higher profitability of the company. If each employee puts more effort into each piece of work, stays behind to produce more and improves the efficiency, the company is likely to utilise that and offer the employee the "outputs" that they demand (e.g. wages, commission, bonuses, training, travel) as long as the company is able to make a profit. (Reference?)

In summary, correct motivation has a positive effect on the profitability and success of the company, therefore it is essential for organisations to put forward sufficient resources in order to maximise motivation among the employees. However, as will be discussed in detail in the next chapter, in order to achieve the desired employee motivation, the correct resources must be employed. Who is more suitable to handle this responsibility: HR or Line Managers?

Human Resources roles and functions before devolution

HR is a relatively new approach to the management of people within the organisation. HR first emerged as a distinct organisational area in the United States from the mid 20th Century onwards. Within the United Kingdom, HR first appeared from the 1980's (Sutherland and Canwell, 2006). Like any new discipline - and many older ones - there is much debate about what it covers and the essentials of its nature. Ever since it arrived in the UK there has been discussion of whether aspects of its function should be devolved, and, if so, which and to whom (Brandl et al 2009).

Various attempts have been made to model HR either within a historical perspective or in terms of functions and approaches. A historical view, for example, traces the development over the years from an early (1960's) focus upon routine and administration (the 'clerk of works' approach). In this model, the 70's saw an emphasis upon the 'contracts manager' function and HR being based upon the notion of industrial relations, while the 80's saw the HR professional as an 'architect' focusing upon management and planning as well as day-to-day administration. (Tyson and Fell, 1992). Other models look at the different types of function found within the area of HR which may co-exist at any one time; Storey (1992) for example classified four different co-existing types of Personnel function, distinguishing between roles as 'advisers' (internal consultants) 'handmaidens' (reactive, at the service of other managers) 'regulators' (monitoring and establishing rules) and 'changemakers' (who boost employee commitment). Each approach, or a combination of approaches, can characterise different organisations at different times (Storey 1992). Another way to approach the description of HR is to characterise it into the various functions performed by a typical department. This can involve a separation between the following; first, the design of organisations, including such aspects as job content and definitions; second a concern with organisational staffing (recruitment, staff testing and monitoring, careers and training and so on) (Sutherland 2007); and third, performance and reward (job appraisals, remuneration, employee benefits and the like) (Beer et al 1984). Gibb describes HR as people management in the widest sense, including within it employee resources, relationships, reward and also learning and development (also referred to as L&D) (Gibb 2003).

It is obvious from even a brief look at Human Resources that it is a relatively new discipline, and one that has never emerged from a state of flux into a fixed structure in order to obtain independent status within the organisation as a whole. While HR has thus embraced a wide range of different roles and been theorised in a number of ways, a core part of the function has consistently been administrative functions that were often seen by line managers as complications to the day-to-day activities. Not only have carrying out day-to-day administrative tasks been a central part of HR, it has also tended in the past to a reactive approach - responding to problems as they occur rather than becoming involved in a more proactive setting of strategies (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). This focus on administration, together with the characteristic fluidity and relative newness of the discipline, may be partly responsible for the extent to which HR is seen as a function part which can be devolved to other departments (Cunningham and Hyman 1999).

Devolution: a necessary change

In order to be able to discuss how the devolution of HR functions to LMs affects the motivation of staff, it is important to understand how and why the devolution happens and what are the arising conflicts from carrying out this devolution. Research suggests that the involvement of LMs in some HR decisions does have a favourable effect on the achievements of the organisation as a whole as well as allowing the instantiation of a corporate vision and strategy with a beneficial effect upon performance (MacNeil 2003) and upon employee motivation (Baron 2003). There is further evidence to show that nowadays more than a half of larger organisations have moved towards the devolved model with a reduction in the size of HR departments and a change in HR function, as well as an increase in LM responsibility (Brown and Purcell 2007).

From the 1980's onwards, even as HR was establishing itself as a discipline in its own right there was a pressure for the devolution of some of the responsibilities from HR to Line management (Gennard and Kelly, 1997). As it will be shown below, some of that pressure was due to a natural devolution of HR responsibilities; part of it was due to the need to cut costs, while the rest of the pressure came from technological developments and the need for quicker decision-making processes.

There is some disagreement about the ways in which such change started; Storey (1992) suggesting that this devolution was a function of the overall instability of organisations during the 90's when a period of unprecedented change led to many corporate change initiatives being communicated to employees by Line Managers, who thus took on a HR role (perhaps with little acknowledgement either by themselves or from higher management that was what they were doing) (Brandl et al 2009). In other words, Brandl et al (2009) described devolution as a process of transferring some of the HR responsibilities to the line managers. This can be seen both as a move forward, since the line managers always had some sort of HR responsibilities in terms of encouraging teamwork for example (Gibb 2003, MacNeil 2002), however, the new HR functions would include more HR-specific responsibilities such as carrying out performance appraisal, planning the training and development with the employees for their personal growth and career development and more.

In addition to this 'stealth' approach, a range of other possible drivers for the change in HR function have been suggested. The main one is cost. Companies are always aware of the financial implications of the way they do business, and including some simpler HR responsibilities in Line Management duties can reduce costs (Papelexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). Moreover, a trend towards cost-centre management has led to a need to integrate LM with HR on a day-to-day basis (Larsen and Brewster 2003), meaning that the HR functions performed by LM became part of the daily routine changes to the market place also underpin the devolution of HR functions. The UK, USA and Europe-wide market has seen vast changes including privatisation of the public sector, increases in unemployment and growth of competition. Organisations increasingly face the demand to enhance their strategic edge, which means HR must function more efficiently rather than being inundated by repetitive administration (Cunningham and Hyman 1999, Maxwell and Watson 2003).

Moreover, an increase in awareness of the market place has gone hand-in-hand with an increasing awareness of the importance of customers and service supply, which has led to a consequent increase in awareness of the importance of 'people' skills across organisations as a whole (Larsen and Brewer 2003). This increasing emphasis upon market conditions and influence upon HR and LM is reinforced by Keenoy (1990). The changes in the market therefore stimulated the devolution of HR functions to LM, which is seen by the businesses to be more cost-effective while at the same time providing a variety of benefits to the company as described further under the heading of advantages of the devolution.

Other drivers include technological changes within HR. Advances in computing and IT mean procedures can be simplified and speeded up and hence line management can take over some of HR's functions (Malmqvist 2008). An increase in organisation change (restructuring, mergers and similar) since the 90's means also that HR needs to become more sophisticated and to devolve simpler functions to the line as there is an increasing need for HR to concentrate upon overseeing complex change initiatives (reference). Moreover, most jobs nowadays are changing in nature. Not only are more complex functions demanded of even the lowest level employee, workers change organisations with increasing frequency rather than having a 'job for life'. Consequently, HR skills such as leadership and communication need to be integrated into all management positions rather than remain the function of one department (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). This increased job complexity goes together with an increase in the managers' role of a leader, motivating and appraising his or her team members (Larsen and Brewer 2003). Therefore, increasingly, the managers have to perform the responsibilities of HR that are now embedded in their own roles, such as motivating, leading, communicating, appraising. The ability to perform these tasks allows the manager to be more effective in achieving the set goals through increased motivation and improved performance of the employees (Purcell and Hutchinson 2007).

A further reason is speed. With devolution, decisions can be made quickly and on the spot by Line Managers rather than having to refer even the simplest personnel matter to HR (Papelexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005).

Although "motivation" is not stated as a separate reason for the necessary change, it can be argued that it is assumed. One of the key benefits of devolution is that Line Managers are a lot closer to their employees than the HR department. The Line Managers have the opportunity to observe employees on a daily basis, guide them proactively and discuss an employee's performance informatively. In turn, a closer relationship with a manager who is fully aware of the situation allows employees to be more motivated, due to the attention provided and an understanding of their needs. Despite HR departments being more qualified to discuss work-related issues with the employees, they are less likely to have the full understanding of people's performance issues and be able to provide accurate guidance.

The new proposed HR role

The previous part has emphasized the need for the line managerial role to include some of the HR responsibilities. Therefore, the day-to-day operational HR tasks ("recruitment, appraisal, pay, health and safety, training and development and discipline" (MacNeil 2003, p. 295)) should be carried out by the people who actually deal with and supervise staff on a daily basis - that is, Line Managers (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). Since the 90's there has been a realisation that the HR function can integrate with and improve operations of other parts of the business (Renwick 2003, Gibb 2003). It has been realised that integrating these areas of operation can help the organisation as a whole gain advantage in the marketplace and improve productivity (Kulik and Perry 2008). These recent changes in the marketplace have led to a change in function of HR with the traditional administrative part of the HR process being passed to Line Managers (Kulik and Perry 2008, Maxwell and Watson 2004). This devolution of administrative tasks has been accompanied by a move to reinvent HR as a strategic department (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). Strategy decisions are handled by HR specialists, perhaps in conjunction with senior management (MacNeil 2003).

The strategic approach to the HR role has many advocates. For instance, Ulrich (1997) is often cited as an influence in the 'devolved' model of HR (Brown and Purcell 2007). Ulrich (1997) has proposed a new model for HR and HR Management (HRM), which has a four-fold structure. According to Ulrich (1997), first, HR should work as a partner with senior executives; the input of HR staff needs to inform decisions made at board level regarding the HR approach of the organisation as a whole. Their role is that of an 'architect', making the overall vision into a plan that can be carried out in practice. Second, HR should oversee administrative organisation and execution, ensuring that it is as efficient and cost-effective as it can be. Third, HR should be a 'champion for employees', acting to distil their many opinions into a coherent whole and presenting to Senior Management. Finally, HR should become an 'agent of continuous transformation', enhancing the organisations change capacity (Ulrich 1998). There is some debate over the question regarding whether Ulrich oversubscribes functions to HR and thus plays down the enhanced role of Line Managers in this model; however it is an exceptionally useful way of looking at the nature of strategic HR as a whole.

The development of strategic HR is not without its problems. The complex process of devolution can lead to the uncovering of some contradictions in overall organisational policy which may have been previously masked by the way HR functioned (Whittaker and Marchington 2003). There also seems to be some confusion regarding the practical working of the new role of the Line Manager, and the relationship between HR and LM (MacNeil 2003). The issues regarding the new role of LM will be considered in greater depth below.

The new proposed Line Management Role

The following section will look at the new proposed role adopted by Line Management. The nature of what is now expected of Line Managers will be considered together with the advantages and disadvantages of this new role. Special attention will be paid to things which need to be changed in order for the HR function to be effectively integrated with that of LM. Since the role of Line Management is changing with the addition of new HR responsibilities through devolution (McConville, 2006), this part will look at the new functions of the Line Management that would have effect upon employee motivation in organisations.

Research indicates that line managers play an increasingly important role in making the difference between a successful company and a mediocre one, specifically by implementing HR policies in a satisfactory way (Brown and Purcell 2007). Line managers traditionally have various functions which include setting objectives, organisation and administration as well as measurement, but also take on a range of people-focused tasks including motivation and communication. There is some evidence that line managers have failed in the past to acknowledge the people development and management part of their task (Renwick 2000). One feature of the Line Managers' role is that they are an interface between management levels above themselves and the employees they manage directly. This gives them a unique and specialised knowledge of day-to-day relations with employees and hence an insight into some functions previously assumed to be the province of HR (MacNeil 2003). The move towards devolution then simply highlights the importance of these 'people skills' in order to boost their integration into the LM role.

What does the new role involve in practice? There are various components. It can be seen first as incorporating Learning and Development (L&D) issues: helping others learn and progress. This is a wide area and includes training (induction, on-going training), performance management (making sure targets are met, offering rewards as appropriate, intervention when employee performance falls as well as the development and application of appraisal systems), leadership (team building and transition to team working, mentoring) as well as assessment and knowledge management (Gibb 2003). Perhaps the best way to characterise the new role is by the increased emphasis upon 'people skills'. This can be seen as a shift away from integrating the principles of classic Fayol or Taylorian ( year) style management with its emphasis upon rigid systems, bureaucracy and lack of development of the individual to one which integrates the awareness, growing since the 1950's, of the role people can play in an organisation.

There is a shift from codified, structured knowledge to an acknowledgement of tacit knowledge and hence a shift from the 'us and them' power balance towards one which allows for a greater sense of teamwork and shared responsibility (MacNeil 2003). The Line Managers being able to motivate their direct employees through effective leadership and communication is especially important (Baron 2003). A Line Manager therefore has to take on the role of facilitator and communicator as much as 'boss' or 'decision maker'. His or her communication skills need to be developed, including an awareness of how negative and positive atmospheres can be communicated. In order that knowledge be fully shareable throughout the team the Line Manager must create an atmosphere of mutual trust in which individuals are happy to communicate (MacNeil 2003). The ability of a Line Manager to act as communicator and facilitator can be helped or hindered by the organisational climate as a whole; there is a need for back-up from senior management and HR (MacNeil 2003).

While there is clearly an increase in administrative tasks, and a change in the type of administration and paperwork to include personnel records and career development mapping, the line manager's new role is not simply that of taking on board new tasks and responsibilities but one of getting involved with people "getting every manager involved in people's issues is the key to organisational success" (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005 p.). The LM role opens up to allow him or her to connect with employees. As 'people' skills have always been part of the LM job, it is more an expansion of current capabilities than a new departure (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005).

A new proposed Line Manager's Role: advantages and disadvantages

The new role of the Line Manager includes many new functions and responsibilities and therefore putting a Line Manager in charge of those functions has its advantages and disadvantages. From the point of HR, Line Management involvement can allow the HR specialist to concentrate on a strategic approach. Overall, responses to HR challenges can be more immediate if handled by LM and can be more specific to location (Whittaker and Marchington 2003, Brandl et al 2009). HR will also benefit from the increased satisfaction from employees as it will allow them to build strategically upon day-to-day improvements (Gibb 2003).

If LM take on HR responsibilities for L&D, more people will be able to tap into career and personal development as LM are better placed to assess their training needs and, having a closer bond with them, will have more commitment to their 'lifelong learning'. Lifelong Learning needs to be an integrated feature of working life, and the closer relationship between HR and LM can promote this. Traditionally, learning has involved a classroom situation and been organised by HR; the new approach also allows for 'on the job' learning, training and development (Gibb 2003). As the empirical evidence showed (Dunifon et al,1998), correct training is likely to lead to higher motivation amongst the employees.

There are also benefits for the Line Managers themselves. Their people management skills will improve, they will become better at creating good teams, managing teamwork and interpersonal skills (Maslow's fulfillment of social and esteem needs) (reference). This will in turn benefit the organisation as a whole (Gibb 2003). It has also been suggested (McHugh et al 1999) that Line Managers can input effectively into organisational change with their enhanced role and ability to communicate to all team members. Baron (2003) has also suggested that the LM have a lot of impact on employee motivation. Moreover, LM will see an increase in the importance of and respect for their role as they take on more of the devolved functions and their job becomes more complex, and also as change within organisations increases with the complexity of modern working life (MacNeil 2003).

Further studies show the advantages of devolution of HR functions to Line Management. Kulik and Perry (2008) provided evidence for the positive effects of devolution with their study of 174 HR managers and directors. They asked them to assess change over the preceding years in overall responsibility, degree of integration with other units and involvement in organisational strategy. They found that devolution had an overall positive effect in that respondents reported that devolution led to their HR unit being perceived more positively by LM than in non-devolved organisations. They also report an overall increase in HR responsibility and better integration with Line Management. They conclude that HR is in fact better able to play the strategic role they were intended to play by the devolution (Kulik and Perry 2008).

Renwick (2003) looked at the attitudes of 40 Line Managers towards the devolution of HR functions and discovered a rather more mixed response. There were both negatives and positives about the devolution. Positive aspects included the willingness of LM to take on both responsibility and accountability for the new HR tasks, and a flexibility in approach as well as keenness to become involved. The respondents were successfully managing large numbers of employees, and taking a professional attitude to the new tasks, not simply dismissing them as 'soft' aspects of the job. They also saw HR in a positive light, a source of help and support as well as seeing career benefits for taking on the new role (Renwick, 2003).

Maxwell and Watson (2004) studied employees of Hilton, finding that there was a strong sense of responsibility amongst managers for their team members and also strong feelings of support for them (4.51 mean and 4.40 mean on scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is disagree strongly and 5 agree strongly). There was however less senses of responsibility towards the company as a whole. The commitment was primarily towards the team and the individuals in it (Maxwell and Watson 2004).

Line Management vs. Motivation

Through devolution the line managers have gained the opportunity of directly affecting the motivation levels of their employees (Baron 2003). According to Baron (2003) through devolution the line managers are faced with the challenges of motivating and leading the teams effectively. There are many theories related to leadership and a variety of opinions exists as to its nature. The definition of leadership provided by Sutherland and Conwell (2004) says that it is an individual capacity of inciting and inspiring the actions of people in a given direction. They also argue that leadership is different to management and that there is a significant distinction between the two concepts. The so-called "people-skills" are a pre-requisite for successful leadership and employee motivation. The term "people skills" refers simply to soft skills. Sutherland and Conwell (2004) say that "soft skills management places an emphasis on employees and motivation as a means by which productivity and performance may be achieved" (Sutherland and Conwell 2004). The soft skills of the line managers have always been a substantial part of the job and have now been connected to motivation with the emergence of the devolution approach to management.

A key part of taking on 'people' skills requires an understanding of the role of 'tacit' knowledge and how to communicate it (Nonaka, 1991). Tacit knowledge is knowledge which is not part of conscious awareness but which represents a high level of skill. It can be either of a type which can be articulated to others easily (e.g. the position of letters on a keyboard) or that which is harder to pass on as it has to be 'learned' (e.g. touch typing). The task of passing on the tacit knowledge of employees is therefore a greater challenge to line managers but because of his or her close relationship with employees the chance of being aware of it and teamwork is greater than with the traditional HR department (MacNeil 2003).

The need for more involvement with people is therefore clear. It has further been suggested that people become demotivated at work not because they are unhappy with pay or conditions but because they become frustrated with the lack of organisational recognition or with the lack of opportunity for developing within the organisation in terms of their skills and experience (Hay 2002, Gibb 2003). It therefore becomes clear that job satisfaction and motivation under the new conditions needs to be maintained in employees and this function is now being passed on to the Line Managers. Therefore, it is important to describe what the Line Management role needs to be to foster higher motivation among the employees.

Problems with the new proposed Line Manager Role

A number of problems with the new tasks and responsibilities of Line Managers has been noted, although one way of approaching these is to see them as areas which can be improved. Problems fall into a number of distinct areas.

Are Line Managers qualified to do the new role?

The new role puts a much greater emphasis on solid communication levels and strong relationships between Line Managers and their stakeholders. However, difficulties with both may arise and these can appear in different ways. The Line Manager may fear disputes with their staff regarding decisions made about performance, pay and career development (Cunningham and Hyman 1995). They may be reluctant to take on role of learning facilitator, and personal personality clashes might impact upon employee training. Relationships between employees and management may not be as neutral as is possible with a dedicated HR department (Gibb 2003).

Problems are also common between HR and LM. Cunningham and Hyman (1995) stress the inherent difficulty in attempting to transfer an HR vision to employee relations. Moreover, HR can give poor advice to management. The relationship between HR and the line can be marked by lack of clarity. To what extent does LM influence the development of HR strategy, for instance? Papalexandris et al (2005) argues that this lack of a two-way process can be frustrating for Line Managers (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005).

There can also be an assumption on the part of HR that line managers are more technically competent and knowledgeable than they in fact are, and that the HR function can be picked up by simply doing the job. This can lead to a lack of training offered by senior management and hence to poor performance (Brewster and Larsen 2000, MacNeil 2003).

Another problem, highlighted in a study by McConville of middle managers, was a lack of trust between middle and senior management which meant that the middle managers felt powerless to exert any influence over higher levels of decision making (McConville 2006). Cunningham and Hyman (1999) found in addition that there was evidence for poor leadership from HR and a low quality of advice given to LM. Training was also poor, with little ongoing development to help LM integrate personnel aspects into their role (Cunningham and Hyman 1999). Further tensions arose because of conflicts between line and HR over the precise lines drawn between their functions (Renwick 2003).

Moreover, perceptions of the new role of a LM can further vary between HR and a LM. It has been suggested that HR managers are more positive than line managers about the benefits of devolution for the organisation in terms of both employee satisfaction, motivation and overall organisational performance ( reference). There is also a difference between the way the LM and HR see the reasons for devolution, with HR seeing the benefits for individual departments whilst a LM will see the exercise as primarily one to cut costs (Kulik and Bainbridge 2006). Furthermore, a LM perceives their skill set very differently than do HR. A study shows, for example, that Line Managers viewed themselves as good at all aspects of HR including recruitment, personal relations, training and appraisals, while HR saw the line managers as much less able in all respects (Cunningham and Hyman 1995).

In general, HR Managers usually identify themselves more as part of the organisation as a whole. They also believe that Line Managers do more HR work than they in fact do (Maxwell and Watson 2006). Additionally, HR believe they support a LM more than a LM believes they are supported by HR. HR also believe that a LM puts up barriers to integration (LMs do not think this); and that LMs are less competent at HR than LMs believe themselves to be (Maxwell and Watson 2006). These areas of disagreement can lead to less trust between the two groups and hence to a deterioration in performance and integration (Maxwell and Watson 2006). Wesselink distinguishes five areas of difference in belief between the two functions: desire (LMs and HR want different things), capacity (LMs spend less time on HR than HR think they should), competency (LMs believe themselves to be more competent at HR than HR think they are), support (HR think they give sufficient support to LMs: LMs disagree) and policies and procedures (LMs think them unclear, HR disagree) (Wesselink 2008).

LM's work load - will there be enough time for staff motivation?

The LM work load will increase with new responsibilities and the need to balance other demands of the job with new role. This can lead to a resentment of HR and reluctance to get involved with HR work (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). Maxwell and Watson also identify heavy work loads and job pressure as a major source of problems with devolution (Maxwell and Watson 2004) as does Renwick (2003). Whittaker and Marchington (2003) suggest that time constraints mean that LM do not have time to attend in full to 'people management' issues, tending rather to concentrate on the day-to-day running of their department and solving problems as they appear . The shortage of time and consequent pressures upon LM is particularly problematic in the public sector where there is added pressure from having to implement policies originating with government while also dealing with professional bodies standards, monitoring and also the increasing commercialisation of the sector (McConville 2006).

It can be argued that HR and LM operate from fundamentally distinct viewpoints with different priorities, which can also lead to conflict and problems. Line Managers are typically very involved in the day-to-day running of the department, reacting to issues as they arise. They can resent the need for staff to take time off for training and resent the need to take such a personal viewpoint, perhaps dealing with their own problems with home life for example. The characteristic LM approach can mean less opportunity for staff development. While a separate HR department is focused upon learning and staff training, line managers have more than one focus, so, for example, if the department is short-staffed any training and development might be put to one side. There would be a pressure to deal with short-term problem rather than address the long-term solution (Gibb 2003).

Considering that LM's may not be qualified to do the new HR support role (e.g. motivation), in order for the role to be effective, strong HR support would be required. However, there is some evidence that Line Managers feel less supported by HR than they would ideally like (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). Some LM perceive HR specialists to be out of touch with reality, both in terms of LM function and with the business as whole, feeling that they base their decisions on principles that have little to do with either the nature of the industry or the problems faced by the line. HR are further seen to frustrate Line Management with legal constraints or union issues; to be slow in acting, wanting to go into a great deal of detail before anything is done; and to prefer theory over practice with a particular liking for the type of theory that fails to translate well or quickly into practical action (Whittaker and Marchington 2003). They are seen to live in something of an 'ivory tower', their remoteness underlined by they preference for intranet communication and email over person-to-person contact (Whittaker and Marchington 2003).

A further area of concern is skills. LM lack the specialist skills of the HR department (Whittaker and Marchington 2003) also Renwick (2003). Hence the quality of training in the organisation might fall. Neither are line managers as good at evaluating training materials or delivery (Gibb 2003). Line Managers can also be suspicious of HR specialisms, dismissing their ideas as 'faddish' or, on the other hand 'just common sense'. They downplay the need for HR systems, and this can lead to inconsistencies in approach and function (Whittaker and Marchington 2003).

Theoretically, how can Line Manager's lack of training be overcome?

Studies have suggested that as power is devolved to the line, the new relationship between HR and LMs does indeed work as a partnership, with most line managers reporting the existence of such a partnership between their departments and HR, with HR taking on a support role (Whitaker and Marchington 2003). While there might be challenges in establishing a partnership between HR and the line manager, and the line manager and their employees, the existence of a 'synergy' between them clearly enhances a companies function and should be encouraged (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). Partners are interdependent and share information and workload as well as vision and objectives. The aim is to provide a seamless experience for the beneficiaries of partnership (Glasby and Littlechild 2004, Axelrod 2004, Seidle 1995). The following study will take the following aspects of partnership as key:

  • collaboration/working together as a team (sharing work, information and power),
  • shared vision and objectives,
  • motivation and commitment.

Ulrich is one of the most vocal proponents of a partnership approach. He writes primarily of the need for HR to work as strategic partners, but also discusses the need for partnership between HR and LMs. He identifies four key roles for HR - 'partner in strategy execution'; 'administrative expert'; 'employee champion'; and 'change agent'. Of these four roles, the first is overtly identified as a partnership relationship, but the third can also be seen as fostering a partnership approach. For Ulrich, the focus is firmly upon employees and their needs in order to increase their commitment, motivation, retention rates and capabilities (Ulrich 1998, Lammergaard 2009). Ulrich's (1998) views on partnership and HR will inform the background to this research study and will inform the structure of the questionnaire. ( Defenition of partnership needed here)

variables involved in an employee-employer exchange, before we proceed to define in-equity formally. Having defined it, we shall analyze its effects. Finally, such evidence as is available will be presented in support of the theory. Throughout we shall emphasize some of the simpler aspects of inequity and try to refrain from speculating about many of the engaging, often complex, relationships between inequity and other phenomena, and about what might be termed "higher order" inequities. In the exposition that follows we shall also refer principally to wage inequities, in part because of their importance and in part because of the availability of methods to measure the marginal utility of wages (Adams, 1961; Jeffrey & Jones, 1961). It should be evident, however, that the theoreti- cal notions advanced are relevant to any so-cial situation in which an exchange takes place, whether the exchange be of the type taking place between man and wife, between football teammates, between teacher and stu-dent, or even, between Man and his God.


From the literature review the following conclusions can be made and they will be then compared to the findings of the data analysis. First and foremost, the devolution of HR functions has both advantages and disadvantages (Renwick 2003, Maxwell and Watson 2004, Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). There is an approach suggested by Ulrich (1998) that envisions devolution as a multi-level partnership used to minimise the disadvantages of the devolution and to maximise its benefits. Various studies underline the importance of interpersonal skills for the boosting of employee motivation, job satisfaction and performance (Gibb 2003, Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005, MacNeil 2003, Hay 2002, McHugh et al 1999). The literature has also found that in order to achieve motivation, a large number of personal/individual variables will need to be taken into account. The proximity of Line Managers to the employees gives LMs a higher chance of achieving the desired motivation. Finally, it was also found, that the devolution process is likely to be complex and due to the lack of the emperial work in this specific topic, it can not be said that it will be successful.