Every manager is an HR manager first

Does that mean line managers with people skills can render HR managers obsolete?

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Businesses are changing. Many successful companies treat their line managers as entrepreneurs, who are not just responsible for delivery but are also given the freedom to make their own decisions. As a consequence of this empowerment, these line managers are able to perform better.

However, there is one more factor that these successful managers depend on — their teams. Managers cannot achieve their goals without the support of their team members. Clearly, they need skilled people around them to attain success.

Let’s take the example of a commander. How successful can a commander be on the battlefield, if he doesn’t earn the trust of his soldiers? The success of the commander will depend on how much of a people’s person he is. After all, it’s not an easy task to order your people to go and risk their lives. You need a high level of motivation for that.

Back to the corporate world, when managers —be it function heads or CEOs—need to achieve an uphill task, they need the support of their team.

“For a manager to be successful, she needs to know her people; their needs, aspirations and challenges. The only way to do that is to own her team’s engagement, motivation, learning and career development,” says Rattan Chugh, chief people officer, Times Internet.

Abhijit Bhaduri

“All managers perform HR-related work, to a certain extent, but an HR is a specialist guy with great expertise and education, who also performs duties such as dealing with employee issues and compensation and benefits, and handles the complexities of an organisation.”

Just take the case of a young assistant manager in a tea estate or a graduate engineer at a plant. This young manager has to get work out of people who are probably his/her father’s age. This is far from easy.

Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre, says, “Whether a line manager or an HR manager, one has to learn to share power. In doing so, one doesn’t lose power, but graduates from execution to authority.”

Companies must realise that the people management skills of managers need to be enhanced from time to time for the smooth functioning of the department, and also for better output.

David recalls how at Gujarat Gas, the Company had organised a workshop in collaboration with IIM Ahmedabad, for its line managers. The objective was to equip them with leadership skills, help them set goals and ensure employee engagement.

Balachandar N

“An organisation without an HR manager will end up in a chaotic situation, with no clear authority to look into recruitment, compensation and generally maintaining order and balance.”

Before the workshop, employee satisfaction was at 42 per cent. Post the workshop in 2005, it went up to 72 per cent, and subsequently to 87 per cent in the following year.

He shares that the workshop was a great way to enhance the efficiency of line managers equipping them with certain leadership qualities, which ultimately resulted in overall employee satisfaction and productivity.

If line managers should try and become great people managers, what role will be left the HR managers to pay? Will they be rendered obsolete?

Not all. In fact, the line managers and HR managers will have to work in sync for the better functioning of the department.

Ideally, there should be one HR manager for every 100 to150 employees. One shouldn’t forget that the line manager also has the key responsibility of performing the functional tasks along with managing people.

Emmanuel David

“Whether a line manager or an HR manager, one has to learn to share power. In doing so, one doesn’t lose power, but graduates from execution to authority.”

There could be smaller companies which can’t afford to hire full-time HR professionals. For them Chugh offers a piece of advice,“there should be a small HR function comprising of subject matter experts while the delivery of HR services could be part of line managers duties. HR function is such scenario functions as an advisor”.

Balachandar N, group director- human resource, Café Coffee Day, agrees that line managers are also responsible for people. Yet, he is quick to add that an HR manager is the architect of an organisation, who trains line managers on several important work-related things.

“An organisation without an HR manager will end up in a chaotic situation, with no clear authority to look into recruitment, compensation and generally maintaining order and balance,” Balachandar says.

Concurs Abhijit Bhaduri, founder of Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates, “All managers perform HR-related work, to a certain extent, but an HR is a specialist guy with great expertise and education, who also performs duties such as dealing with employee issues and compensation and benefits, and handles the complexities of an organisation.”

Rattan Chugh

“For a manager to be successful, she needs to know her people; their needs, aspirations and challenges. The only way to do that is to own her team’s engagement, motivation, learning and career development.”

The functions of HR managers are not entirely different from that of other managers. HR is a managerial function, which assists managers with recruitment, motivation and maintaining employees within the organisation. So, all managers exercise HR functions irrespective of their department and level, considering the high level of human relations.

Ultimately, getting results through people is the name of the game. Therefore, it is extremely important for managers to possess adequate knowledge of handling HR in order to become effective managers and achieve maximum productivity. This applies to all companies across various industries.

HR professionals will have to assist and guide line managers consistently to achieve the strategic goals of the organisation.

Therefore, it will not be wrong to conclude, that every manager is an HR manager first.

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