Line manager and HR

The purpose of this report is to outline the importance of the roles played by HR specialists and line managers in a medium size business. It explains the relationship between them in implementing the HR strategies and the problems occurred while devolution of responsibilities to the line manager. The HR strategy should consist of board themes rather than narrow perceptions. Introduction: The relationship between the HR function and line management has, of course, long been identified as important in HRM. The dominant view has been that, although the management of human resource is vital to the success of organisations, this management need not- indeed, should not- be the direct, day to day responsibility of specialist HR manager.

According to this view, it is line manager who take on new responsibilities and it is incumbent on HR managers to ‘devolve’ these to them (Graeme currie; stephan Procter, 2001, p53). Today CEOs and line managers recognise the key role of HR in helping their companies gain a competitive advantage over both domestic and foreign competitors. This competitive advantage can only result from HRM practices, which are jointly developed and implemented by human resource (HR) specialists and line mangers (Papalexandris and panayotopoulou, 2004). In this report I have explained the roles of HR specialist and line managers separately and then moved on to the integration of HR strategies. I have shown how the strategies of HR are been implemented by both the mangers and how the devolution of responsibilities helps the organisation and simultaneously creates problems.

The role of HR specialist: Throughout the 1990s, there has been a good deal of debate about the differences between Industrial Relations/ Personnel Management (IR/PM) and HRM as distinctive approaches to the management of people (Storey, 1992 and 1995; Sisson, 1994; Guest, 1995; Legge, 1995 cited in Philmore et. Al, 2006). Although there is a debate on exact definition on HRM but the main aspects of HRM is alternative frame of reference (closely linked to individual as opposed to collective forms of management), placed between organisational strategies and the way people are managed.

It is believed that it is a key to competitive advantage, an emphasis on employee flexibility, and a quality of making use of HR techniques to produce employee commitment. The role of the personnel specialist in the literature has been described as a peer among managers; in the middle; an altruistic role; a representative; an expert, and their history as one of a “struggle for status” (Anthony and Crichton, 1969 cited in Renwick D, 2000).

Tyson and Fell (1992) presented a conceptual classification of three models of personnel management ranging from a 1960s “clerks of works” (“routine” administrative), a 1970s “contracts manger” (‘interpretative” industrial relations) and 1980s “architect” (“business manager” planning). Authority in the first two models is vested in line mangers with the architect exercising integration, with architects seeking dialogue with their colleagues involving open power- broking and, on occasions, managing conflicts (Renwick D, 2000).

Integration of HRM strategies:

The factors that have impact on successful HRM integration is the role of the people who work in the HR area itself. According to Beer (1997) people working with the HR function must clearly understand how HRM is different from the older-style personnel management approach and be prepared to support the necessary changes. The new definition of HR role states that the HR manager should acts more as a business partner.

The HR professional should clearly understand how HR fits with, and supports the organisation’s mission and strategy, should also have knowledge of basic business processes. Research by Huselid et al. (1997), however, has shown that HR managers may not be meeting the challenge of this new role. These researchers found that most HR Mangers were very proficient in the delivery of professional HRM capabilities that relate to traditional technical activities. Strategic HRM capability levels, however, that support that business partner role, were lower. This latter set of capabilities ensure that human resources staff understand the connection between business considerations and HRM needs.

The research conducted in Australia by Fisher and Dowling (1999) showed that the HR managers agreed with and supported strategic HRM initiatives. The results of their study showed that as well as reporting HR title name changes, senior HR managers also acknowledged the importance of HRM involvement in strategic decisions, integration of HRM policy areas, the contribution of HRM to the bottom line and attention to communication between employees and employers (Sheehan C, 2003).

HRM integration also require big support from all the areas of the organisation. The representation of the board of directors can be critical if HR managers are asked to put appropriate input into strategic decisions i.e. integration of HRM with organisational strategic decision-making processes. Another important feature of strategic HRM integration is the devolution of HRM responsibilities to the line function.

Even if there is an increase of line mangers involved in management of Human resource but still there is some force that resist the line mangers to uptake the responsibilities of HR. The HR functions in certain areas such as IR, pay and benefits, OHS and recruitment and selection whereas line managers focus on responsibilities such as work force expansion and reduction (Sheehan C, 2003).

In line with this Currie and Proctor (2001) have suggested that rather than devolution of responsibilities, what in fact exists is a “Partnership” between HR and line mangers (Sheehan C, 2003). The role of line mangers in implementing strategies: Dalton (1950) sees the role of the manger as containing a series of dilemmas where the ambiguity inherent in the job seems to select mangers that are best able to absorb, or resolve/utilise conflict for both personal and organisational ends (Renwick D, 2000). Druker (1974) views the management job consisting of five basic operations:

1) Setting objectives; 2) Organising; 3) motivating and communicating; 4) Measurement; and 5) People development (Renwick D, 2000). The line manager is involved in day to day activities of organising ritual and ceremony, negotiations, and the processing of soft information. The line manager has inevitable responsibilities of handling the personnel and industrial relation activities, although many personnel and industrial relations specialist felt that such managers had only modest capability in industrial relations, a view reflected by many mangers themselves (Renwick D, 2000).