Line managers not keen on HR

I am an HR advisor for a large UK company and my role is to provide HR
expertise to managers in the business. In practice this means correcting
mistakes, fire-fighting, trying to avert costly legal cases and handling
administration in the knowledge that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done at
all. The reality seems to be that managers are not interested in HR. There is
no enjoyment left in the job for me and I’m concerned life is the same in every
HR department. Is it time for me to get out of HR?

Victoria Wall, managing director, Victoria Wall Associates

While it is unfortunate you have experienced the negative impact of devolving
HR responsibility to the line, try not to lose faith in the benefits of this
strategy. Many large organisations have successfully changed their line
managers’ perception of HR by making them accountable for managing human

To do this successfully, senior management must communicate the importance
and value of using HR experts, and the negative impact an incorrect decision
can have on the company from a human, commercial and legal standpoint. I would
advise you to remain in HR but work within a company that links its business
plan to its HR strategy and has real board commitment.

Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS Consultancy

It is my experience that many companies are unsuccessful at devolving HR to the
line. The usual reason for failure is the lack of training given to those line
managers in people skills. Another issue is the reluctance of the organisation
to use the performance management process to ensure a key part of the line
manager’s role is undertaken to an acceptable standard. It is usual for a role
definition/job description to outline the percentage time the line manager
needs to spend on HR issues. If these are not being undertaken, then that part
of their salary is being taken under false pretences.

Regarding your career, are you in a position to influence the effectiveness
of devolving HR management to the line? If not, then move on to a more
enlightened organisation.

Philip Spencer, consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

It sounds as though your role has become highly reactive to the point that
you pick up the problems and issues caused by the line managers in the
divisions you support. If mistakes and errors are commonplace it suggests your
expertise could be used in coaching line managers on best practice.

You also state that HR does not feature high in all managers’ priorities.
Again this could be an issue addressed via one-to-one coaching or the
facilitation of workshops raising the profile of HR and value it adds.

You could seek a fresh challenge with an organisation that values HR or
requires an HR function to be developed. Both provide a reasonable level of
project work that will rejuvenate your enthusiasm and drive in HR. Also look at
smaller organisations, which may offer you more autonomy in a role and
therefore greater challenges.

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