Line managers: sapping HR or creating space for action?

HR is under pressure to add value. Some suggest line
managers have the most contact with the organisation’s staff so they are best
positioned to deal with HR.


Hence over recent years an increasing devolution or
assignment of these activities to line management has occurred. In the UK, line
management responsibility for pay and benefits rose in about one in five


There has also been a 40 per cent increase in line managers’
responsibility for recruitment and selection, and a 45 per cent rise in
training and development. Industrial relations and adjustment of workforce
levels have risen between 20 and 25 per cent. It suggests line management
responsibility is on the increase for HR across the board.


Arguably, HR’s challenge now is to focus on maintaining the
overall coordinating role of HR strategies, which produce guidelines within
which line management can operate effectively.


In the UK this seems to be happening. The HR department
alone, or sometimes in consultation with line management, retains the primary
responsibility for strategic decision making for a wide range of HR activities.


The story is different in Europe. In Sweden, for example,
line management is responsible for strategic decision-making on recruitment and
selection in three-quarters of organisations.


Similar variations can be seen across Europe. In Bulgaria,
Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, line managers call the shots –
underlining the increasing role which it is playing in HR.

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