•  Lack of partnership between HR teams and line managers stifles effective management
  • Managers find HR guarded and slow to respond
  • As a result, four in ten managers state Google is a better source of information and support than their HR team
  • Vast majority of HR Directors recognise empowering managers as the key to improving performance
 The relationship between line managers and their HR colleagues is under increasing strain, according to new research from global management consultancy, Hay Group.

HR teams are feeling stretched. Almost all (94 per cent) HR Directors state that their department was reduced as part of company cost-savings. Three in ten (30 per cent) experienced particularly deep cuts with teams reduced by 11-25 per cent.

At the same time, line managers are leaning heavily on their HR teams. More than two thirds (68 per cent) of HR Directors believe that dealing with day-to-day enquiries from line managers takes up to one third of their time.

As a result, over a third (38 per cent) of HR Directors agree or strongly agree that their team spends too long “hand-holding”, preventing them from taking a more strategic view. And the overwhelming majority (94 per cent) of HR Directors believe that empowering line managers to make people decisions is a top priority.

However, currently almost half (44 per cent) of UK managers feel disempowered and a further 50 per cent do not agree that they have adequate support from HR to be a good manager.

David Smith, consultant at Hay Group comments: “At a time when HR departments are already stretched, many are struggling under the additional weight of frequent enquiries from managers – from questions about pay and recruitment to development and process.

“Building a stronger alliance with line managers is therefore a key concern for many HR Directors, as they strive to adopt a more strategic role in business.”

No love lost

Despite their frequent contact, there is little sense of partnership between managers and HR teams, with almost two thirds (64 per cent) of HR Directors stating that line managers expect immediate responses to queries and are unforgiving if the process takes longer.

However, the tension comes from both sides as almost half (48 per cent) of line managers find that their HR team is slow to respond to requests. A further 40 per cent feel that HR actively block them from making decisions themselves and two thirds (66 per cent) say that HR closely guards information and data.

In addition, a substantial number (58 per cent) of line managers feel that the process for hiring, promoting and resource planning is convoluted and inefficient.

As a result, 41 per cent state Google is a better source of information than their HR team.

Switching on

The message from line managers is clear: the majority (56 per cent) agree or strongly agree that they could make better, faster decisions if the HR team shared more information. 46 per cent state that HR needs to be more responsive and open in order for them to work effectively together.

More than one in ten HR Directors globally (14 per cent) cite slow adoption of technology as a key challenge.

David Smith adds: “HR policies provide a strong framework for managers and their employees to act in a way that supports the overall business strategy. The challenge, as we can see from our research, is how to translate this meaningfully to the frontline without stifling or controlling.

“Activating the workforce by putting more information into the hands of managers is the answer to this challenge. By relieving the pressure on HR and harnessing new technology to give managers access to the information and support they require at their fingertips, HR will start to partner more effectively with managers across their business.”