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People Matter Blog

Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

Stop talking, start doing when it comes to Building Capability

Improving the business manager’s HR capability is critical to the future success of HR

Is it time to stop talking and start doing when it comes to letting the business do HR?

I’ve been working with clients to improve HR service provision for over 15 years, in that time we spend 99% of the time talking about process standardisation, efficiency savings, re-structuring and then, as is customary, make a passing reference to how we really must increase the people management skills in the line. Maybe now is the time to figure this one out.

Why coach managers to be better partners of HR and how can we do this?

The role of the manager in a business will vary according to organisation size, type and culture. Some organisations expect the manager to be self-sufficient, others are handheld through HR processes; some see the value, others don’t; some have large teams to manage and motivate, others have a small team; some are based with their teams, others are not and so I could go on. Suffice to say, we cannot consider all managers to be the same they have different needs, capability and motivations. Therefore HR must be flexible in terms of how we work with them and recognise any capability building has to be appropriate to the individual or area of the business.

Why invest time in building their capability?

We need to invest time and effort to help our business managers to be better HR partners. They are often the first point of contact for most employees in discussing an HR matter. They are critical to championing change and getting the buy-in and support whilst sense checking what will work and knowing what won’t.  Undertaking the upfront transactional activity correctly frees up HR to do the strategic thinking. Proactively seeking answers to their own question and answering questions from their teams  enables them to be an advocate for HR and for the business. It also reduces the people risk implications of non-compliance and improves the quality of information being captured at source.

 Also, by understanding more about HR and building their capability, it helps in turn, for them to be better customers. They can articulate the service provision they do need from HR; the art of the possible.Building  manager’s capability gives them more time to do their job which in turn drives business performance. After all once HR have a clear ‘mandate’ they are more likely to be able to deliver successfully.

How to do this?

To my mind there are a couple of changes and activities that will really improve what HR asks of the business manager. 
  • Let managers know simply and clearly what is expected of them and show them what good looks like. 
  • Build their skills and knowledge easily and quickly through simple to use toolkits, where possible incorporating it in to learning already there. 
  • Show them the value. Let them know what is in it for them such as, more time to focus on their role, the ability to play a more active role in determining the service provision they want, better access to information and credibility amongst their peers.
In order to truly achieve the art of the possible, in the future we will need our business managers to be more capable and to be true partners to HR. It will help HR to maintain business relationships and no longer  feel detached from the business, provide a more value-adding service and allow the business manager to feel more informed, to be a better qualified decision maker and to act as a champion of change.

About the author

Claire Melbourne
Claire Melbourne
Claire is a Managing Consultant in our Employee Transformation practice. A highly experienced HR professional spanning both the public and private sectors, she has led on a number of HR Transformation and Business Change projects. Areas of interest include People Change, Connected Workforce, Workforce Mobility and Talent Management.
3 Comments Leave a comment
Great blog Claire- you make a really good point. We also need to remember that the line often has seriously more practical people management experience that many professionals in our industry. I recall being asked to coach a line manager with 20 years field experience about HR policy when I was a 23 year old new grad to HR who had never managed anyone! It worked as (after a bit of a false start) I recognised his expertise and asked him to tell me what he thought, then share what best practice looked like and have an open discussion abouts the pros and cons and potential areas of risk. I also think you need to be really integrated into the business area to make sure your advice and capability building is routed in a thorough understanding of the speicific needs of that environment, otherwise your interventions lack the credibility they need to really make a difference
Hi Claire, I think that line managers are often the critical cog in the wheel when it comes to actually living HR processes e.g. performance management, talent spotting, hiring and firing and in my experience there is a huge chasm of experience and competence ranging from experienced and competent to inexperienced and incompetent to more worryingly experienced and incompetent. My question really concerns the role of the HR Business Partner in educating their aligned function/part of the business managers. What are your thoughts here in the role of the HRBP?
Instinct tells me that they are key to helping and supporting their business managers and their time investment can only benefit HR; my caution would be that they remain advisor, a signpost for help and refrain from the doing and plugging the capability gap.

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