Are all managers Human Resource managers

Executive Summary

The report discusses the various aspects in relation to the question posed for the assignment – All managers are HR managers, agree or disagree? The report is placed in relation to the questions raised for and against the topic, and my thoughts on the question. The report is structured in the form of my quest to answer the questions raised with regard to the topic.

The fundamental theories concerning the topic provide some light for the discussion, followed by examination of the current trends in organisations. The other aspects discussed in the paper relate to the manager’s implementation of HR practices and its relation on employee performance, and thereby the productivity of the organisation. The effects of poor implementation of the HR practices are highlighted to comprehend all the facets of the discussion.

The conclusions are based on the aspects from the points of discussion and its relation to the effectiveness of HR implementation by managers.

The references which were vital to the development of the paper are included in order to substantiate research done related to the topic.


Are all managers HR managers – Agree or disagree?

As I read the question for the assignment, I had mixed answers running in my head. Understanding ‘human resources’ in the literal sense would refer to employees of the organisation, and there would be a person responsible for any particular section of employees, known as the manager. In this view, managers related directly with the employees, and so they needed to be ‘HR’ managers. However, the Human Resources Department wherever I worked always seemed to be busy as they dealt with all levels of the organisation, be it employees, managers, stakeholders or government, and their paperwork (or rather e-work) seemed unending.

If all managers were HR managers, why would there be a necessity of a HR department? Would it mean that all functions done by the Human Resources personnel were done by the managers themselves? Would that be feasible? Would that not restrict the day-to-day operations carried out by the manager?

If all managers were not HR managers, would all issues relating to the employees be raised to the HR department? Since managers, in most cases, have a direct relationship with their employees, would they not have to deal with all concerns related to their human resources i.e. employees? What would organisations that do not have an elaborate HR department do?

With relation to agreeing or disagreeing with the question for the assignment, the numerous questions for and against it, left me confused. So it was necessary to understand the fundamentals of the keywords – managers and HR, given by various scholars in order to take a stand for the topic.

Fundamental Views

Management & Managers

Management, according to Henri Fayol (1949) consists of seven functions such as planning, organising, leading, co-ordinating, controlling, staffing and motivating within an organisation in order to accomplish the established goals of the organisation.

Figure 1 – Manager Roles (Mintzberg 1975)

From among these, the four main managerial functions are described as planning, organising, leading and controlling. (Simmering 2010)

Figure 2 – Functions of Managers (Overton 2007)

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A manager is an individual with formal authority to make decisions and carry out the four managerial functions in order to achieve the organisational goals and objectives. Within most organisations, there are three levels of management namely top level, middle level and first/line level managers (Management Study Guide 2009). At each management level, managers require certain skills necessary for successful management. Robert Katz identified three skills namely technical, conceptual and human skills that vary as per the management level. (Katz 1974) Conceptual skills refer to the formulation of ideas. Technical skills involve the technique knowledge and proficiency. Human skills refer to the ability to interact and communicate with people effectively. (Pride, Hughes and Kapoor 2008)

Figure 3 – Management Skills (Overton 2007)

Interestingly from the figure above, although technical and conceptual skills vary greatly, human skills remain rather consistent throughout the various levels. Considering that human resources would relate only to the manager-employee interface, it could be then inferred that all managers are HR managers. However, understanding HR functions would be necessary to make the conclusion to the question.

Human Resource – Definition & Functions

Human Resource (HR) refers to consideration of employee as the most valuable assets or resources of the organisation. The inherent abilities, acquired knowledge and skills represented by the aptitudes and talents of the people employed in the organisation could be referred to as the human resources of the organisation. (Aswathappa 2008) The strategic and coherent approach to the management of these assets in order to achieve individual behaviour and performance that would enhance the organisation’s effectiveness is termed as Human Resource Management (HRM).(Oxford University Press, Ed. Jonathan Law. 2009 )

The functions of HRM are broadly classified into two categories namely managerial and operative functions. Managerial functions include planning, directing, organising and controlling while operative functions are related to recruitment, compensation, employee relations and development. (Hales 2005)

The vast scope and functions of HR brought doubts about it being incorporated with the operational activities of managers – especially line managers. For the purpose of this paper, general managers and deputy managers have been defined as strategic level managers whilst first-line level managers encompass supervisors and departmental heads.

Figure 4 – HR Functions

Current trends

Contrary to the traditional views of management, current trends indicate devolution of the HR into line management. (Gratton, et al. 1999) Restructuring the organisational hierarchy to flatter systems within the organisation has arguably contributed to the convergence of HRM and managerial practices. (Whittaker and Marchington 2003)

With the global economic crisis, ‘downsizing’ has become the trend or the need of times, where even HR departments were dissolved as a whole; this would substantiate Whittaker’s and Marchington’s (2003) finding that HR took second place in comparison to other business sectors of sales and marketing and finance.

The introduction of flatter organisations resulting from heavy job-losses could be traced back to the early 80’s of Hewlett-Packard. There was an intensification of managerial responsibilities and predominantly people management claimed most of the efforts of the managers. (McGovern, et al. 1997) In the current scenario, the increasing ‘de-layered’ organisations (Torrington, Hall and Taylor 2004) would overly emphasize the necessity of all managers to integrate the HR functions of recruitment, training, monitor performance and provide appropriate appraisals. (Marcic and Daft 2008)

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Line managers and Direct interface

Theoretically, managers may not be able to incorporate all the functions of HR but line managers have always been the direct control over the ‘human resources’ under their responsibility. The flatter organisations have not diminished the human skills required as seen in Figure 3, but on the contrary are a necessity to engage in good people practices, which is as important as implementing personnel policies. (Lowe J 1992) The direct relationship of the line managers with the employees favour the implementation of the HR practices by the managers themselves rather than other personnel. (Sisson and Storey 2000)

Research conducted by Bath University for CIPD (2009) found that line managers played a pivotal role in implementing HR practices and policies. People management practices such as induction, training, performance appraisal, employee communication; work-life balance and employee recognition were exercised significantly by the line managers. As discussed in the research, the people management processes can be designed by the HR personnel, but would be implemented most effectively by the managers. (Hutchinson and Purcell 2003) In order to assess the immediate effectiveness of the HRM, scholars such as Dyer and Reeves (1995) and Becker et al. (1997) suggested monitoring of employee performance which would be the factor affected directly.

Performance and HR

In an ultra-competitive marketplace, it would be necessary to maintain a productive and competitive workforce to achieve organisational success. Successful organisations are reliant on managers’ competence to attain and maintain high levels of individual job performance. (Hosie 2009) Employee performance is maximized through motivation which would be associated with the manager. According to Dyer and Reeves (1995) rigorous selection mechanisms and ample training opportunities along with incentives such as peer pressure to perform, monetary and non-monetary rewards – increase employee motivation.

Commitment is another factor that would boost employee performance. Organisational commitment is highly dependant on employee assessment of the level of support from the management. (Sharkie 2009) Managers in IBM are expected to be responsible to the development and satisfaction of employees. Surveys, career planning, performance appraisal and compensation utilized by line managers encourage employee commitment to the organisation. (Marcic and Daft 2008)

Effective implementation of HR practices in organisations such as in IBM, would lead to greater employee motivation. As discussed by Gillespie and Mann (2004), that the trust subordinates place in the leader is directly proportional to motivation that would lead to better employee performance.

Consequences of ineffective application of HR

In the decentralisation of HR processes, line managers are often tasked with responsibilities of setting the agenda, dealing with workplace issues and providing direction to employees. As discussed by McGuire, et al. (2006), a conflict between the organisational and individual values of the manager, could lead to a ‘trust deficit’ between the employees and the manager. (Renwick 2003) Decreased workplace happiness would lead to diminished employee performance, which would cost the organisation heavily in both productivity as well as having to pay higher compensation and insurance claims for the health conditions of employees. (Lyubomirsky, King and Diener 2005) (Hosie 2009)

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The negative effects of poorly applied HRM practices accentuate the requirement for greater knowledge in HR practices for all managers. It would be possible to design programmes for managers that would enhance the understanding of HR, such as Esprit employed within Hilton (UK) Hotels. However, the two main barriers line managers faced while incorporating their HR role were heavy workloads and short-term job pressures. (Watson, Maxwell and Farquharson 2007) These add to the findings of Renwick (2003) relating to the constraints for managers in effective management of HR such as lack of time, lack of ability or knowledge in HR practices, and distractions from general managerial operations.

Other than improper implementation of HRM practices and its complications within the organisation, Earnshaw et al. (2000) found that without HR expertise even large organisations could face legal challenges. This would emphasize the necessity of efficient HR systems and constant guidance by HR specialists.

Considering the various factors, as suggested by Jackson and Schuler (2000) a partnership approach through a ‘triad’ approach of HR specialists, managers and employees would allow effective integration of HR activities into the work of line managers. However, if line managers and HR are to work in partnership to improve organisational performance, a minimum number of experienced HR specialists would be required. (Ulrich 1998)


The discussions throughout the paper have led to a few conclusions. The functions of HR and managers are not entirely different from each other, but noted by Aswathappa (2008), HR is a managerial function with assists managers with hiring, motivating and maintaining employees within the organisation. Line managers implement most of these HR roles as they are in direct contact with the ‘human resources’ of the organisation. Effective HR implementation would lead to greater employee motivation and thereby productivity. However, lack of understanding and poor execution of HR practices could cost organisations heavily ranging from employee productivity to legal action.

According to Dave Ulrich (1996), HRM encompasses the roles of being an employee champion, administrative agent, a strategic business partner and assisting in change management. HR departments in most organisations are concerned with the former two roles, and in which case, one could conclude that all managers are HR managers. However considering the complete scope and roles of HR, it would not be apt to agree that all managers are HR managers.

It could be then, concluded that all managers exercise HR functions irrespective of their department and level considering the high level of human relations. It would be extremely important that they have adequate knowledge in handling HR in order to become effective managers and achieve maximum productivity, which is essential for all organisations across varying industries. HR professionals would have to assist and guide line managers consistently in achieving the strategic goals of the organisation. Effective coaching to line managers on HR practices and policies would allow HR professionals to take on the vital roles of being a strategic business partner and play an effective role in change management. (Gaskell 2007)

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