IntroductionThe Human Resource Management off late has been witnessing several strategic changes and one of the most important and significant one of those have been the prominence gained by the line managers in interacting and performing some of traditional HR roles. The HR responsibility traditionally executed by the line managers was to improve and encourage teamwork among employees. The changing times have seen line managers playing a more prominent role and some of the responsibilities include carrying out performance appraisal, planning the training and development of employees (Gennard and Kelly 1997).
Several of the drivers that have resulted in managements restructuring the role played by line managers include reduced cost, first hand knowledge of the day to day operational activities. Being directly involved with employees make the line managers better equipped to deal with conflicts and improving work motivation. Along with advantages, there though are a few disadvantages of this approach because of problems that could arise due to conflicting nature of work of HR and line managers, increased work load for the line managers, and lack of support from employees and HR.
Drivers of ChangeGennard and Kelly (1997) point out that the HR function’s evolution and changes in the modern organisational culture and structure attracted devolution of some administrative functions of HR to the Line Management (Gennard and Kelly 1997). The debate regarding benefits and drawbacks of this approach intensified in the 1990’s as the process of devolution started to gain momentum (Hall and Torrington 1998). There is some disagreement about the ways in which such change started; Storey (1992) suggesting that this devolution was a function of the overall instability of organisations during the 90’s when a period of unprecedented change led to many corporate change initiatives being communicated to employees by Line Managers, who thus took on an HR role (Brandl et al 2009). This can be seen both as a move forward, since the line managers always had some sort of HR responsibilities in terms of encouraging teamwork for example (Gibb 2003, MacNeil 2002), however, the new HR functions would include more HR-specific responsibilities, such as carrying out performance appraisal, planning the training and development of employees. In addition to this approach, a range of other possible change drivers in HR function have been suggested; most important of them is cost.
Companies are always aware of the financial implications of the way they do business, and including some simpler HR responsibilities in Line Management duties can reduce costs (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). Moreover, a trend towards cost-centric management has led to a need to integrate LM with HR on a day-to-day basis (Larsen and Brewster 2003). Other drivers include technological changes within HR. Advances in computing and IT mean procedures can be simplified and speeded up and hence line managers being more suitable to take over some of HR’s functions.
With devolution, decisions are being made quickly and efficiently by Line Managers rather than having to refer even the simplest personnel matter to HR (Papelexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005). The day-to-day operational HR tasks (“recruitment, appraisal, pay, health and safety, training and development and discipline” (MacNeil 2003, p. 295)) should be carried out by people who actually deal with and supervise staff on a daily basis – that is, Line Managers (Papalexandris and Panayotopoulou 2005).
These recent changes in the marketplace have led to a change in function of HR with the traditional administrative part of the HR process being passed on to Line Managers (Kulik and Perry 2008).