Article on Hrm

Topics: Management, Human resource management, Human resources Pages: 25 (8774 words) Published: February 25, 2013
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ER 25,3

Line manager involvement in HRM: an inside view
Douglas Renwick
Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK


Received September Keywords Line management, Employee relations, Strategy, Human resource management 2002 Revised December 2002 Abstract Although line managers have always been involved in managing human resources Accepted December 2002 (HR), it is within human resource management (HRM) that their involvement has been placed centre-stage as a core element of an HR approach. This article reports findings from 40 interviews with line managers on their experiences in handling HR work that has been devolved to them, from a study of three different UK work organisations. The study finds that significant organisational benefits and costs exist from involving the line in HR work. The article concludes that participation of both line and HR managers in HRM needs to be re-assessed, as line involvement in HRM is a problematic initiative for organisations to adopt.

Employee Relations Vol. 25 No. 3, 2003 pp. 262-280 q MCB UP Limited 0142-5455 DOI 10.1108/01425450310475856

Introduction The involvement of line managers[1] in human resource management (HRM) has always been noted in the literature (Guest, 1987; Legge, 1995; Storey, 1992), but in recent years the line have been seen to play a more prominent role in HRM due to more HR work being “devolved” to them (Brewster and Larsen, 2000; Currie and Procter, 2001; Guest and King, 2001; Storey, 1992, 2001; Ulrich, 1997, 1998, 2001). Although devolution to the line in the UK is low compared with other European countries, and the dominant pattern across Europe is of sharing human resouces (HR) work between HR and the line (Brewster and Larsen, 2000), WERS ’98[2] notes that line managers outnumber employee relations specialists in the handling of employee relations (ER) issues at British workplaces (Millward et al., 2000, pp. 52-3). The rationale of why line involvement in HRM has come to the fore in recent years is seen by Brewster and Larsen (2000) to have five main elements: to reduce costs; to provide a more comprehensive approach to HRM; to place responsibility for HRM with managers most responsible for it; to speed up decision making; and as an alternative to outsourcing the HR function (adapted from Brewster and Larsen, 2000, pp. 196-8). Other authors note the different roles that line managers should now play in organisations and the reasons for them. These include ideas that line managers “are now expected to do more of their own HRM” and “can benefit from crosstraining in HR processes” (Mohrman and Lawler, 1998, pp. 443-4); that the line “should lead the way in fully integrating HR into the company’s real work” (Ulrich, 1998, pp. 125-6); and that the line adopt a “partnership” approach between HR, line and employees to manage HR issues – “an HR triad” (Jackson and Schuler, 2000, p. 25).

The possibility of increased line manager involvement in HRM surfaced in the British and American literature from the mid to late 1990’s on in the form of “partnerships” being formed between HR and the line (Eisenstat, 1996; Hutchinson and Wood, 1995; Ulrich, 1997, 1998, 2001), to “add value” and “deliver results” for organisations (Ulrich, 1997, 1998). The costs and benefits of devolution initiatives were also detailed at this time (Storey, 2001; Storey and Sisson, 2000)[3]. The thinking here is that the line should engage in HR processes which span “boundaries outside the organisation”, where “they have freedom to experiment rather than being excluded from decision making” (Currie and Procter, 2001, p. 57). Other academic HR literature at the turn of the millennium started to discuss the issues and dilemmas that surround line...

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Standards Conference, University of Warwick, July, Institute of Personnel and Development, pp. 1-12 Marchington, M. (2001), “Employee involvement at work”, in Storey, J. (Ed.), Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, Thomson, London, 2nd ed., pp. 232-52. Marsh, A.I. (1971), “The staffing of industrial relations management in the engineering industry”, Industrial Relations Journal, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 14-24. Marsh, A.I. and Gillies, J.G. (1983), “The involvement of line and staff managers in industrial relations”, in Thurley, K. and Wood, S. (Eds), Industrial Relations and Management Strategy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 27-38. Millward, N., Bryson, A. and Forth, J. (2000), All Change At Work? British Employment Relations 1980-1998, as Portrayed by the Workplace Industrial Relations Survey Series, Routledge, London. Morhman, S.A. and Lawler, E.E. II (1999), “The new human resources management: creating the strategic business partnership”, in Schuller, R.S. and Jackson, S.E. (Eds), Strategic Human Resource Management, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 433-47. Redman, T. (2001), “Performance appraisal”, in Redman, T. and Wilkinson, A. (Eds), Contemporary Human Resource Management, Pearson Education, Harlow, pp. 57-95. Rollinson, D., Hook, C., Foot, M. and Handley, J. (1996), “Supervisor and manager styles in handling discipline and grievance: part two – approaches to handling discipline and grievance”, Personnel Review, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 38-55. Sisson, K. and Storey, J. (2000), The Realities of Human Resource Management, Open University Press, Buckingham. Sparrow, P. (1999), “Is HRM in crisis?”, in Schuler, R.S. and Jackson, S.E. (Eds), Strategic Human Resource Management, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 416-32. Sparrow, P. (2003), “The future of work? Practical and theoretical considerations”, in Holman, D. (Ed.), The New Workplace: People, Technology and Organization, Wiley, London (forthcoming). Sparrow, P.S. and Marchington, M. (1998), Human Resource Management, Financial Times/Pitman, London. Storey, J. (1992), Developments in the Management of Human Resources, Blackwell, Oxford. Storey, J. (2001), “Human resource management today: an assessment”, in Storey, J. (Ed.), Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, Thomson, London, pp. 3-20. Thornhill, A. and Saunders, M.N.K. (1998), “What if line managers don’t realize they’re responsible for HR?”, Lessons from an organization experiencing rapid change, Personnel Review, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 460-76. Tyson, S. and Fell, A. (1995), Evaluating the Personnel Function, 2nd ed., Stanley Thomes, Cheltenham. Ulrich, D. (1997), Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results, Harvard University Press, Boston, MA. Ulrich, D. (1998), “A new mandate for human resources”, Harvard Business Review, JanuaryFebruary, pp. 124-34. Ulrich, D. (2001), “The evolution of a professional agenda”, Financial Times, Mastering People Management, Vol. 15, pp. 2-3. Yin, R.K. (1994), Case Study Research, 2nd ed., Sage, London.
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Further reading Armstrong, M. (1998), Managing People: A Practical Guide for Line Managers, Kogan Page/The Industrial Society, London. Brewster, C., Harris, H. and Sparrow, P. (2001), “On top of the world”, People Management, 25 October, pp. 37-42. Buckingham, M. (2001), “What a waste”, People Management, 11 October, pp. 36-40. Drucker, P. (1999), Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. Hope-Hailey, V., Gratton, L., McGovern, P., Stiles, P. and Truss, C. (1997), “A chameleon function? HRM in the 90’s”, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 5-18. IRS (2000), “Human resources consulting: friend or foe?”, IRS Employment Trends, No. 698, pp. 7-11. Kelly, J. and Gennard, J. (2001), The Effective Personnel Director: Power and Influence in the Boardroom, Routledge, London. Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A.W. (2002), People Management and Development, 2nd ed., Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, London. Richbell, S. (2001), “Trends and emerging values in human resource management: The UK scene”, International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 261-8. Scullion, H. and Starkey, K. (2000), “In search of the changing role of the corporate human resource function in the international firm”, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 11 No. 6, pp. 1061-81.
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