How HR Can Empower Your Managers (Not Replace Them)

The role of HR often transcends its traditional boundaries, venturing into realms traditionally reserved for managers and supervisors. 

This seems especially evident in small businesses. 

It’s a common tale: Those handling HR for your small business often find themselves not just advising, but actively taking on managerial tasks like hiring, performance reviews, and even disciplinary actions. While well-intentioned, abdicating these responsibilities to HR vs. your managers/supervisors can undermine their role and weaken leadership development within the company.

Focus HR believes in a balanced approach, one that trains and empowers managers, while leveraging HR expertise to bolster, not replace, their crucial leadership roles.

HR: Building Leaders, Not Taking Over

HR, in its truest sense, should be a support system, acting in an advisory capacity to offer tools, processes and frameworks for managers to excel in their leadership roles. Core management skills like communication, decision-making, and team building can’t be outsourced. These require a personal touch and understanding of individual teams, something only dedicated managers can provide.

This is especially important for small businesses. Success relies on agility and personal connection, which can be lost if managers focus more on their operational duties and less on performing their core management leading, coaching and managing their team members.  HR should focus on equipping leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to lead their team members effectively, which includes coaching, performance reviews, corrective action, interviewing and hiring, just to name a few. To help assist managers to carry out these critical responsibilities, HR can provide a toolkit of resources including:

  • Performance Management Process & Templates: Standardized templates can streamline the performance review process for managers, saving them time and ensuring consistency across the organization. HR can also offer training on how to best use these templates effectively, including setting clear goals and providing constructive feedback.
  • Stay Up-to-Date on Regulations: HR can ensure the managers they support are updated on and compliant to employment laws and regulations that are relevant to their business. This could include workshops on topics like sexual harassment, employment classification, and workplace safety regulations.
  • Developing Company Policies: HR can help managers communicate and consistently adhere to company policies on topics like vacation time, sick leave, and social media use.
  • Communication Skills Training Programs: Effective communication is essential for managers to motivate their teams and resolve conflict. HR can offer coaching, workshops or online training modules on topics like active listening, giving clear instructions, and delivering feedback.
  • Team-Building Exercises: Strong team dynamics are crucial for a company’s success. HR can facilitate team-building exercises or recommend online resources that help managers build trust and improve collaboration within their teams.
  • Leadership Development Programs: HR can partner with external providers or develop in-house programs to equip managers with the skills they need to be effective leaders. These programs could cover topics like strategic planning, delegation, and coaching.

The Risks of Over-Reliance on HR

Abdicating or delegating managerial tasks to HR can have negative consequences.  It can create a gap between managers and teams, slow down decision-making, and hinder leadership growth. This not only impacts management effectiveness but also overburdens HR, leading to inefficiencies, higher costs and burnout.

Another big consequence of over-reliance on HR is its impact to company culture. Ultimately, the company’s culture lies in the hands of the company’s leaders. It’s the responsibility of business ownership and their managers to foster and embed company culture, not HR. While HR practitioners can enforce company policies and ensure compliance, it’s up to managers to cast a vision and communicate values to their workforce.

Furthermore, over-reliance on HR can limit HR’s strategic contribution to the organization’s success. According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management, 92% of HR leaders are overburdened by their current tasks

Small business owners can help by setting clear boundaries between management duties and HR duties. 

It’s essential that management and HR understand where one another’s responsibilities begin and end. Clearly outline what HR does and does not do. This might start with basic tasks such as payroll, hiring, and onboarding. Establish clear delineation of responsibilities when it comes to recruiting, interviewing, hiring, performance reviews, disciplinary action, professional development, etc.

.A Partnership for Success

Focus HR advocates for a collaborative partnership model with clear roles for HR and managers.  Managers take the lead on daily team management, communication, performance feedback, and conflict resolution to foster positive employee performance and relations.  HR provides the framework, tools, and training to support these activities, focusing on compliance and policy development to mitigate employee-related liability. This provides an effective, balanced approach.

Invest in Your Leadership, Invest in Your Future

Small businesses thrive when they leverage both effective management and strategic HR support. By recognizing the distinct, yet complementary roles of HR and managers, small businesses can unlock their full potential, creating a dynamic and responsive environment primed for success.

Let Focus HR guide you in building a robust foundation for your business.  Together, empowered managers and strategic HR support can create a thriving and successful business.

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