The growing role of people managers in human resource management

SEPTEMBER 18 — After many years in human resource (HR) and business transformation consulting, along with senior management corporate roles and understanding the landscape of Malaysia in human resource management (HRM), we decided to launch a Postgraduate qualification in Managing People and Employment Relations.

With this experience we observed that many managers needed to enhance their human resource and people management skills, which has led to reduced productivity, low employee morale, increased attrition rates and a significant increase in wrongful dismissal claims in Industrial Relations Court by employees against businesses costing in excess of MYR245million between 2014-2018.

Commonly known that HRM is a function within an organisation concentrated on employee attraction, engagement, development, retention and directing personnel within the organisation. HRM deals with issues related to compensation, performance management, organisation development, safety, wellness, benefits, employee motivation, workforce planning, disciplinary management, training etc.

Furthermore, HRM plays a strategic role in supporting and advising people managers (line or business unit managers), enhancing workplace culture and environment, and it has become an influential partner in the strategic development of an organisation and gaining competitive advantage in an ever challenging business landscape.

Some organisations believe their HR needs are catered for by outsourcing recruitment, payroll and perhaps L&D. However, the focus on HRM moves considerably beyond recruitment and payroll, to also coordination and measurable impact of the employee activities on the job.

Companies that strive for success in the Malaysian economy need managers to be adaptive, resilient, quick to change direction with strong internal customer service skill set. Within such an environment the effectiveness of HRM and people management skills are crucial to business success.

The past few years have with the growth of organisational structures; and HRM has grown to be a task that has to be effectively managed by every level of management in an organisation and not just a sole responsibility of the Human Resource department.

Role of human resource department in human resource management

The Human Resource department plays a strategic and operational role, that ensures that an organisation’s ‘people plan’ meets current requirements and that the organisation can identify, plan for and meet future organisational staffing and capability needs and they anage the flow of staff in, up, through and out of the organisation. They manage HR policies, documentation and processes, which regulate employer and employee behaviour (such as legal compliance, ethical practices, meritocratic decision making, job performance, and terms and conditions of service). Also ensuring that staff are appropriately trained to fulfil their work responsibilities and realise their potential.

Role of departmental managers in human resource management

Proactive people management requires close collaboration and ongoing dialogue between the HR department and departmental managers. Departmental managers are those managers to whom individual employees or teams directly report and who have the responsibility to a higher level of management for those employees or groups. They perform technical duties while taking on some managerial functions, from both their department and the human resource department.

There are often specific ‘people needs’ found within individual departments in an organisation, which cannot be addressed solely through a generic or service-wide approach, to HRM, by the human resource department. Where a company has only a service-wide ‘one size fits all’ approach, to HRM, individual departments will be unable to take responsibility, for identifying and addressing their people problems. It is not about replacing the vital role, of service-wide human resource management of the HR department; instead, it is about adding to and complementing this framework. It is only through strong relationship management and close collaboration, between professional HR managers and departmental managers, in individual departments that such a model can function successfully.

A supervisor’s role in HRM is majorly that of setting the strategic course for the department to improve company performance through active people management in areas such as misconduct management, performance management and workforce utilisation and optimisation.

From experience; some main areas in which department managers execute (albeit human resource manager may design the processes, they cannot be delivered by HR managers directly). The department manager’s role is therefore crucial in some respects to:

Recruiting and Intake — supervisors take-on human resources duties in job hiring functions, such as identifying the need for workers or specific skills to improve departmental performance. Companies also implore the technical expertise of the managers in the interview group ensuring the incumbent has a good and clear understanding of the role, requirements and deliverables.

Training and Guidance — supervisors participate in the human resource functions of orientation, induction and on the job training. The handoff of new personnel from HR to supervisor usually happens during or post organisational orientation.

Development and Retention — Supervisors carryout evaluations on existing employees, or only provide data to HR for evaluation purposes — the timeliness of this is key to effective people management. As the first level of management, supervisors are usually the contact point for employees on issues relating to the human resource department. They carry out Job coaching and may be responsible for implementing disciplinary steps in the absence of HR staff.

Other essential areas in which departmental managers play a crucial role in HRM includes, performance appraisal, employee engagement (technically and how easy is it for employees to relate with their line manager), employees’ welfare and work-life balance, recognition (the extent to which employees feel their contribution is recognised), and communication (particularly encouraging or reinforcing alignment with business goals or core values).

Having gained first-hand insight on the lack of quality people management skills and HRM practices by managers in organisations, as a great pitfall that leads to low productivity in many organisations, and managers end up blaming the human resource department. My first-hand experience of the past decade within various industries shows the growth of organisational structures whereby HRM has grown to be a principal role and responsibility that has to be effectively managed by every level of management in an organisation and supported by the guidance of the human resources department. It’s essential for every manager and supervisor to hone good people management skills alongside their technical expertise, developed by taking a few professional people management development programs.

As highlighted earlier the first in Malaysia a Postgraduate qualification with SHRM assessment for managers to professionalise themselves in handling and dealing with matters related to staff misconduct, staff performance management, workforce planning, documentation and the employment law. Giving the necessary training and qualification for supervisors in significant aspects of Managing People and I recommend it as a lasting solution to poor personnel management for Supervisors or Departmental Managers across any organisation.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

* Associate Professor Dr Roy Prasad is the Dean of the School of Business Accounting and Management at Genovasi University College.

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