We have structured elaborate change management plans and programs, housed in HR that have, in effect, taken away the responsibility of managing from the line managers. Imagine a HR function in which we are routinely relied upon for the strategic value we bring to the table, the organization relies upon us to guide them in designing effective change programs based on a stream of continuous dialogue, to expand the organizations capability and capacity to innovate, and to provide genuine predictive data that drives business results. This vision is achieved by some and within the grasp of all.
How many times has this happened to you? A supervisor calls with a panicked tone saying they need to speak to you immediately. Quickly you realize there is not an actual “emergency”- they want to know what to do because they have a staff person who has been late for the past three days. Or, how about this one? A supervisor calls you with frustration in their voice- he/she wants to fire someone immediately, they simply cannot tolerate the employees’ poor performance any longer. You check the latest performance review to find they were rated six months ago as a superior performer. This is a result of the disempowering effect of a paternalistic HR function.
Ask these questions and start to eliminate disempowering policies. Do we actually need a three-page policy to address attendance? If there are policies you want to retain, make certain they can be clearly explained. How do they address a specific business need?
Now I know what you are saying- the organization hired managers for their technical expertise, not their leadership skills so that is why we are in this predicament. There is some truth to that statement, but we need to stop shifting the blame and accept that we have not taken the lead in helping managers and supervisors learn to lead. Instead we have become used to them coming to us and asking for HR to lead them in handling the most routine management situations. We have not taught them how to manage, nor have we given them permission to do so.
This process begins by examining your end to end process. I hate to oversimplify, but lets start here: hire people managers who actually have people management expertise and leadership potential. People who actually believe that leading others and leading change is their job, not the job of HR.
Augment this by establishing a timeframe to bring other people managers up to speed, either through a performance objective, training, development, or mentoring. Remember, it is actually not their fault they were hired into a position that does not match their skills. Give them the skills, hold them accountable.
Each time a people manager contacts HR to ask us to enable them by actually doing their job, we are disempowering them.