‘HR, You are the Weakest Link – Goodbye’

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Less than 20% of HR leaders are strategically effective

This was a finding by the Corporate Leadership Council having surveyed 16,000-line managers. The HR people were criticised for 3 things in particular: lacking business acumen, bad workforce planning and poor engagement strategies. There are three ways to look at this data. From the HR perspective, from the line managers’ perspective, and how we change this data for the future. Let’s begin with the line manager.

A Line Manager’s Perspective of HR

‘Pink and fluffy’. Many line managers will see the HR people as the soft people. Those that deal with people. Not the tough end of sales, or production, or ‘where it all happens’. So, it’s no surprise that when asked how effective are, they reply accordingly.

The piece that the line managers are missing is that as managers of people they are the ones that make the people stuff happen…or not. When they ignore a HR briefing on people strategy or choose not to fill out HR’s succession planning template because it’s not an immediate problem, or don’t write an induction plan for the new starter, who later doesn’t perform, the root is in the attitude of the line managers to HR and, ultimately to people.

They Don’t Leave Their Jobs…

We’ve all heard the term that people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their boss. This firmly rests at the line manager’s door. People leave because they are not valued, not developed, and/or not promoted. Yes, HR need to provide the foundation, but the line managers need not only to execute it but also to value it. Not having the time to do an interview means that new people are not hired – workforce planning. And paying only lip service to the new people values initiative means that others won’t believe it either and begin to disengage.

Joining the dots between HR’s strategies and people on the ground performing is one that many have managed line managers have not made. The consequences? Not enough people to do the work and those that are doing the work would rather not. After all, engaged employees will do +20% more than they should and disengaged employees 20% less. A 40-point shift in what can get done.

This is a lesson line managers need to understand.

A HR Leaders Perspective of Line Managers

We are the company’s punching bag.

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The HR sector often views itself as the punching bag for those in the company


Line managers are too busy doing the do to get what we need done. Too busy selling, making products, and servicing clients, and our needs, which are their needs, are way down their priority list. But they’ll always be busy. It’s called having a job. To not prioritise people is short-term thinking for long-term destruction.

A frustrating existence for anyone in HR.

HR Leaders Becoming Stronger

Terry Leahy was the CEO of Tesco. A £50bn UK supermarket chain. He was famous for the turnaround in Tesco’s fortunes. During his tenure as Marketing Director, he believed that he had all the power Tesco needed to turn it around, for he had the voice of the shopper and with that no one could argue. He latterly went on to be promoted to CEO and continued to lead the way with the shopper’s voice at the heart of all that Tesco did. Tesco is now the 6th largest supermarket in the world.

HR people have the voice of the people and without people companies achieve nothing. The people’s voice is the one that HR represent. They hold the people agenda, and with that voice, they need to be heard. For HR to be heard they need credibility and influence. The latter comes from the former.

Do They Leave HR?

When did you ever see a HR person taking a stint in answering the phones in customer service? Attending a sales pitch? Or working on the production line? Rare/Never. As it is for most people who work in their own function and remain there. The reason that HR need must be seen in other departments is for two reasons; To improve their business acumen – their understanding of the business, and to show an example of being people leaders – understanding the whole business. With this initiative, HR becomes more rounded, more respected and has a louder voice. In turn, the line managers show more respect, and acceptance, and actually start executing some of the people initiatives that they so desperately need.

HR starts with you. Take the lead and take what is rightfully yours. The people’s voice, and make it heard loud and clear, earning your place as a strong link in the chain of company performance.

This article was written by Darren A. Smith for hr.com and can be seen on their website.

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