HR Essentials

Friday, May 31, 2013 - 08:18

By Leon Gettler

More individual employees or teams are now directly reporting to line managers. With companies cutting back on HR departments, line managers are picking up more HR responsibilities. Like for example, providing coaching and guidance, undertaking performance appraisals and dealing with discipline and grievances. They also often carry out tasks such as recruitment and selection or pastoral care in conjunction with HR. What should managers know about HR?

More managers these days have to get their heads across concerns such as benefits, pay, company policies and training. They also have to know how to handle paid vacations, paid leave for illnesses and other health matters, pension plans and employee investments. They might need to settle conflicts between employees or between employees and their managers as well as grievances filed against the company by employees. Once upon a time, this was very much the job of HR managers, now more line managers are picking it up.

Leaving HR to managers has its risks. Business consultants say often managers only know they have their HR wrong once they have a problem. At that point, it is usually harder to resolve. It’s more stressful and costs the business more than necessary. In some instances, fines and costs could easily sink a small business. They say HR needs to be viewed as an insurance policy. Getting it right will add value to the business, but getting it wrong could cost you your business.

Laura Schroeder at Human Capital League has a few useful tips for what they should do:

1. talk to people about what they want, and help them achieve career goals
2. be flexible
3. be human, not a robot
4. give regular feedback,
5. be appreciative and recognise great performance
6. address poor performance and try to tailor ‘rewards’ to what individuals value
7. help people play to their strengths and finally,
8. don’t wait for people to come to you – get out and talk to them.

Those are the basic things that good HR people do.

Mark Smith at Management Issues tells managers he learned a lot about HR getting down on the shop floor with employees.

“I learned that a week wasn’t nearly enough time to get good at every job, but I was able to grasp a few key things quickly. Second and third shift workers are often out of sight and out of mind. In many cases management was oblivious to the most basic challenges faced by workers every day. Attention was needed in specific areas that could not be seen from an office. From this experience, I gained a profound respect for the people making products and talking to customers.

“In addition to learning a few things about the experiences of our employees, there were tremendous benefits to this eye opening experience. Most importantly, I received an abundance of respect from employees around the company. I made lots of mistakes in front of employees and admitted them. Owning up to your own mistakes is a great way to build trust.

“As a human resources director, I learned insights about the kind of people I would hire, but most importantly relationships were established that could be built upon for the future. The handful of opportunities that I have had to spend a day in the life of an employee has been invaluable to my development as a human resource professional and manager. By taking the time to work side-by-side with rank-and-file employees, I earned trust and respect which made my life as a manager go much more smoothly when managing change became a priority.”