How Leaders and Managers Can Leverage HR

Updated Apr 12, 20224 min
How Leaders and Managers Can Leverage HR

How Leaders and Managers Can Leverage HR

Caroline BantonUpdated Apr 12, 20224 min
How Leaders and Managers Can Leverage HR

Companies are struggling to find workers in a tight labor market, and new hires are demanding more from companies in terms of compensation, incentives, benefits, and work conditions. The C-suite is now turning to HR for solutions.

This article will explain how the work of human resource leaders has come to the forefront of corporate strategy and decision-making. We'll examine the role that HR can play in helping leaders build high-performance workforces and review how managers can leverage the initiatives of their HR departments to improve the employee experience.

A Sea Change in Worker-Employer Dynamics

In early April 2022, Amazon workers voted to form Amazon’s first-ever labor union. They were led by Chris Smalls, a worker who was fired for complaining about pandemic working conditions. Fifty other Amazon warehouses may follow suit. Amazon is the second-largest employer in the United States, and the formation of the labor union marks a turning point in the power dynamics that have so long favored the employer.

Since the COVID pandemic, companies have been struggling to find workers, and HR executives are focusing on ways to recruit and retain workers. The switch to remote work has also left companies scrambling to accommodate worker needs in terms of technology, HR practices, and flexibility in work arrangements.

Organizations and business leaders need new systems that are flexible and responsive. These systems must be connected, automated, and economical. HR leaders are effecting change management and helping managers implement new initiatives. Here’s how managers can leverage HR.

How HR Serves Managers and Leaders

One goal of leaders and managers is to build motivated, engaged, and happy teams. HR professionals do more than just recruit staff and manage talent; HR also helps clarify the purpose of the work that teams do. HR can emphasize a team's value to the organization and create a company culture conducive to engagement and productivity. HR can set the tone so that managers can reinforce the messages to their teams. Here are some key roles of HR.

Communicating the Brand

A company’s brand is huge when it comes to attracting talent. HR managers are learning the importance of communicating the purpose and business strategy of the organization to employees and prospective hires. Younger generations, particularly, want to feel like they are making a difference through their jobs, so conveying a socially and environmentally friendly image through social media and websites is a focus of forward-thinking HR departments.

To give an example, Scania, the commercial-vehicle manufacturer, holds an annual “Climate Day.” The company stops operations for one hour to hold sustainability training which underscores the company mission of shifting toward sustainable transportation systems.”

Setting Incentives

HR can change the compensation and incentives that motivate employees by responding to staff needs for fair compensation, flexible working arrangements, adequate health care, and even childcare. These components help managers to empower their staff and improve the employee experience. Happier staff are valued, which keeps them motivated to stay, improving retention rates.

Professional Development

The HR department can create professional development programs (PDP). PDPs involve assessments of current staffing needs, which can help managers and organizations identify skills gaps and better manage their human capital.

Through PDPs, staff can create a clear plan for their advancement with benchmarking and goal setting. For managers, PDPs are a way to prevent employees from jumping ship and moving to a competitor. According to McKinsey & Company, many organizations will need to reskill and upskill significant portions of their workforce over the next ten years if they are to achieve their desired business outcomes. Performance plans are a win-win for everyone.

Employees can be reskilled so that managers have better-equipped staff with strong and targeted competencies. Reskilling can include traditional learning (training, digital courses, job aids) and nontraditional learning methods (enhanced peer coaching, learning networks, mentor programs).

Microsoft has incorporated open learning days, informal social learning opportunities, and learning data to reinforce the critical skill sets of its workforce.

For more on professional development programs, read “How to Build a Professional Development Plan For Your Employees

Performance Management

Performance management is an HR function that can help managers with employee engagement. Performance management systems are antiquated in many organizations, and they need to be restructured and automated so that analytics can simplify and optimize the process.

Human resource leadership teams are finding ways to ensure more frequent performance dialogues between staff and managers and use relevant metrics to measure improvements.

For more on performance management, read “How To Lead a Performance Review.”

Leadership Development

Great teams need competent leaders. HR departments are realizing that investing in their talent means nurturing great leaders from within. Leadership development programs are important for managers if they are to properly lead teams and effectively administer performance management initiatives.

Recruiting Talent

HR managers are integral to recruitment. HR teams develop strategies that incorporate analytics, branding, marketing, and automation for onboarding so that the best talent is sourced and engaged for the long term. HR can also help managers to decide what staff they need to hire and what functions can be outsourced or filled by temporary workers or contractors.

When Should Managers Go to Their HR Department for Help?

It’s no longer the case that human resource management is an administrative function that managers only go to in the event of a personnel crisis or because they want to hire someone. The relationship between a manager and HR should be an ongoing business partnership.

Bottom line: the two should support one another in their aligned goals. On a daily basis, HR is the overseer of existing policies and procedures, the emergency responder, a strategic partner that provides a framework for shaping the organization, and a mediator to step in when conflicts occur. But, from a higher-level perspective, HR is a change agent.

But there is another reason that managers should leverage their HR department, and that’s to reduce legal risk. HR has better subject matter expertise when it comes to the law. A manager may be correct that an individual employed for only four months is not eligible for medical leave requested under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, but the manager may not know whether the employee may be eligible for leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a state leave law, or the organization’s policies or practices. 

HR also needs to be apprised of alleged cases of sexual harassment, discrimination, or unfair dismissal.

When managers report certain occurrences to HR, it strengthens their partnership in maximizing legal compliance and minimizing legal risk. Reporting requirements are critical to creating a culture where employee rights are respected and protected.

What’s the Best Way to Contact Your HR Rep?

A manager can contact their HR Helpdesk if there is one, and it is best to write an email outlining the situation and the assistance required.

Line managers have the best understanding of an organization because they are involved in the day-to-day operations. By partnering with HR, they can set policies and strategies that will have a meaningful impact on business results. Therefore, managers should consider HR their strategic partner and use them for their vision and expertise.

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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