Delegating transactional personnel tasks to line managers

Dealing with pushback and getting managers to actually manage

Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl 

There is no question the HR profession has changed in recent years. HR in most organizations has now transitioned from a transactional, process-oriented function focused on hiring, firing and planning company picnics to a strategic manager of the company’s talent, custodian of organizational culture and corporate strategist for the organization’s people. 

Because the HR function has increasingly been streamlined due to cost-cutting, outsourcing and technologies such as manager and employee self-serves and compensation decisioning tools, managers themselves are often being asked to perform transactional tasks previously handled by someone in HR. 

The problem is many line managers and executives don’t necessarily want HR to be more strategic. They frequently see the HR department as less effective than it used to be because it isn’t providing the same level of support it did in the past. 

There may also be a tendency in some HR departments to want to jettison tasks perceived as “transactional” in favour of more strategic, value-added activities. Yet, this could result in throwing away the baby with the bathwater. 

Not every HR practitioner can or should function at a truly strategic level, and few business leaders outside the profession are likely to care that HR has decided it wants to be “more strategic” or that the HR function thinks certain tasks are beneath them. Managers just want HR to help them fill job vacancies, provide training, design a competitive compensation package and manage employee performance. 

Delegating administrative tasks 

Because so many business leaders and line managers fail to understand the role of the HR function and because they often view having to handle administrative tasks on their own as a negative change, such work cannot simply be “dumped” on managers without providing the necessary training and support and the rationale behind the offloading of personnel transactions onto them. Proper change management is required. 

Delegation cannot happen without first equipping managers to handle the tasks in question. They also need to understand why they are being asked to perform such work — and the reasoning cannot simply focus on how HR has become more strategic. Ideally, there should be something in it for them, such as enhanced reporting capabilities, increased confidentiality, fewer errors and shortened timeframes to complete activities. 

Dealing with pushback 

Because managers and supervisors are so busy these days, they often give pushback when asked to process personnel transactions formerly handled by human resources. But the reality is entering some basic information into an online tool is likely to be less onerous than filling out a paper form and taking it down to HR for processing. 

It may help to explain such realities to them, as well as some of the other advantages listed above. Explaining the necessary timelines and providing an overview of other new types of programs and services provided by the HR department in lieu of previous transactional-type support can also be helpful. 

Getting managers to actually manage people 

Managers frequently look to HR to have difficult conversations on their behalf and often lack the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed decisions relating to their direct reports. Nevertheless, the frequently repeated maxim that “to some extent every manager is a human resources manager” is truer now than ever before. 

Many managers seem to want to avoid the work of actually managing people. They often believe someone in HR should be doing the dirty work of rejecting unsuccessful candidates and having difficult conversations relating to performance management, compensation and employee terminations. However, managers know their own employees best and are in the best position to manage their teams on an ongoing basis. 

The human resources function in most organizations is tasked with helping to build managerial confidence and capability. Because HR practitioners only play a coaching and consultative role and are really there to build and support the framework for various people management initiatives, they need to equip and empower managers to make the right decisions when it comes to managing their employees and rolling out HR programs. 

Nevertheless, because human resources management is part of every manager’s job description, they should know something about recruitment, coaching, training, performance management, change management and employee terminations. One resource HR practitioners can use to help train managers in these areas is Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources, co-authored by my fellow Canadian HR Reporter blogger Claudine Kapel.

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