Google more useful than the HR department

2013

The relationship between line managers and their HR departments often seems to play out like a soap opera. Everyone, it seems, has an HR horror story and we've probably all comes across one of those now-familiar calls to abolish the HR department once and for all - complete with thousands of comments for and against.

The latest instalment in the saga comes courtesy of management consultancy, Hay Group, whose survey of 50 HR Directors and 200 line managers in the UK is another reminder that that there is still no love lost between the two parties.

One clue as to just how far opinion of their HR departments has fallen is that four out of 10 of the line managers Hay Group surveyed said that they find Google a better source of information than their HR team and almost six out of 10 (58 per cent) feel that the process for hiring, promoting and resource planning is convoluted and inefficient.

Half of managers said that they don't get adequate support from HR to be a good manager and a similar proportion think that their HR team is slow to respond to requests. A further four out of 10 go as far as to say that HR actively block them from making decisions themselves and two thirds believe that HR closely guards information and data.

For their part, HR Directors argue that cost-cutting has left their departments over-stretched. Almost all (94 per cent) the HR Directors surveyed said that their department has been reduced with almost a third (30 per cent) seeing their teams reduced by up to 25 per cent.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of HR Directors said that dealing with day-to-day enquiries from line managers takes up to a third of their department's time, adding that managers expect immediate responses to queries and are unforgiving if the process takes longer.

As a result, almost four out of 10 (38 per cent) of HR Directors agree or strongly agree that their team spends too long "hand-holding", preventing them from taking a more strategic view. And the overwhelming majority (94 per cent) of HR Directors believe that empowering line managers to make people decisions ought to be as top priority.

"HR policies provide a strong framework for managers and their employees to act in a way that supports the overall business strategy. The challenge, as we can see from our research, is how to translate this meaningfully to the frontline without stifling or controlling.," said Hay Group's David Smith.

That's a sentiment strongly echoed by many of the managers surveyed, more than half of whom agreed that they could make better, faster decisions if the HR team shared more information and was more open and responsive.

"Activating the workforce by putting more information into the hands of managers is the answer to this challenge," David Smith added.

"By relieving the pressure on HR and harnessing new technology to give managers access to the information and support they require at their fingertips, HR will start to partner more effectively with managers across their business."

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