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Connect with line managers and open the firm up to HR:

To play a lead role in organizational effectiveness HR must first gain manager’s trust
(Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, November 8, 2004)

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For HR professionals, the greatest opportunity for influence lies in performance consulting- helping to diagnose problems and develop solutions. Because HR crosses every business function, the HR leader has a unique perspective, perfect for the delivery of this key strategic service. It’s also what CEOs would like HR to be doing. So why aren’t managers clamouring for HR’s expertise to help them and their departments be more productive?

Line managers have other priorities and, as far as they are concerned, HR has its collective head in the clouds. Line managers won’t accept HR’s direction on more strategic issues until HR can:

• Provide flawless delivery of core services like payroll, compensation and benefits and basic HR transaction processing.

• Demonstrate to managers that it understands what it’s like to walk in a mile in their shoes and actually deliver HR-specific programs and services that contribute to improved results and make line managers’ jobs easier.

• Practice what it preaches. How many HR teams talk about what a phenomenal leader they have? How many HR leaders can say they use every HR program they have introduced, with their own teams?

HR needs to better understand line managers and their priorities. To begin, HR needs to listen to line managers and find out about their day-to-day challenges. HR will hear how managers are expected to deliver today’s business results while participating in forums that define the future direction of the company. Operating in increasingly complex matrix organizations, HR needs to spend more time with colleagues in other departments to ensure the entire business system is working effectively.

Managers have stressed-out staff. Employees try to balance the demands of work and home. And just when those hundred e-mails have been responded to and they’ve figured out how to meet the challenging expectations of customers and employees, another organizational change happens, perhaps an acquisition or restructuring, and chaos strikes again. These managers need HR’s help to make their lives as easy as possible. They need HR to help them put more time back into their days.

HR then needs to invite feedback about managers’ experiences with the HR team. They should be prepared to hear stories like these:

  • “Last week there was a problem with payroll and a few of my employees were deducted double benefits premiums. HR told them they would be reimbursed in their next pay. They need that money today, not two weeks from now. This problem took hours of my time – time I didn’t have.”
  • “I went to HR looking for help with a problem employee. They told me I couldn’t fire the employee for at least another few months until I work through the entire progressive discipline plan over the next two months. Two more months of substandard performance jeopardizes my ability to deliver business results. Why can’t they just tell me the risks in acting now and help me craft a way to do so that minimizes the risk?”
  • “I’m tired of having to send my employees on training programs I didn’t ask for and I don’t need. What a waste of time and money.”

Routine questions? Perhaps, but unless HR shows a willingness to connect with line managers on what matters to them, then buy-in on HR’s initiatives will not come.

Once HR hears and understands the challenges faced by the company’s front-line managers, and once it hears employees’ frustrations with HR, the HR team needs to make some changes to what, and how, it delivers to the business. The plan should be reviewed with the managers to ensure it’s on the right track.

HR can also gain line managers’ trust and demonstrate its commitment to add more value to the business by engaging each department in one-on-one discussions to help managers with their immediate needs.

For instance, HR can talk with the head of sales about the challenges the department is having meeting sales targets. They can discuss the trends in the results and HR can offer insights on why they might be off track. Because it has a unique, cross-functional perspective, the HR professional can share what she has heard from employees. HR can help identify the root causes of a problem and help find solutions. HR can engage with the service department – and other departments – about ways to improve the customer experience. HR has seen the customer satisfaction surveys and should have an understanding of what levers need to be pulled to improve results. Above all, HR needs to stop trying to introduce the latest, sexiest program that came out of the last HR conference – the one that got HR (and only HR) all excited. Unless of course, it’s the best way to contribute to solving the organization’s primary business problem and HR can demonstrate the direct link.

Karen Todd is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant. She can be reached at 416-284-6752, karen@karentodd.com , or visit www.karentodd.com


Other Articles by Karen Todd
Considering a move to reduced work hours?
Published in The Briefcase Diaries column at www.weewelcome.ca  February 14, 2006
Lessons learned from bad HR bosses
Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, May 9, 2005
Next to the CEO, the leader of the HR function can be the most influential and important person in an organization.
Creating a culture of feedback
360-degree feedback can be a way of life, not a program you impose
(Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, September 13, 2004)

Executive Assistants must use power, influence wisely
(Published in the Executive Assistant Update newsletter – December 2004)

Tell employees why they’re not getting promoted
Feedback can help staff avoid bitterness and maybe even get the next posting
(Published in the Globe and Mail, Career Section, September 15, 2002)
“Once Upon a Time…”
Tell a Story Instead

Published in York University Human Resources Student Association’s
The Network Newsletter, Edition 2, March 2005)
Planning an Employee Meeting:
Model the future you’re trying to create
Mat Leave not Mat Left
Published in The Briefcase Diaries column at www.weewelcome.ca , November 25, 2005
Where Has Common Sense Gone?
A Grocery Store Service Saga
Ditch the Cape, Supermom
Published in The Briefcase Diaries column at www.weewelcome.ca,  October 7, 2005
Is Working From Home For You?
Unexpected Choices
(Published in the Canadian Down Syndrome Society Quarterly Newsletter, Winter 2005, Vol 18.1)
Please be Balanced: A Parent’s Ask of Healthcare Professionals
Published in the Ontario Association on Developmental Disabilities’ Journal on Development Disabilities
Vol 12 No 1

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