What If We Didn’t Ask Function Experts to Manage People?
Recently we’ve met with client after client who are struggling with the same thing – people management.
The people management skill levels of line managers is generally low not just for our clients but it is a widely recognised skills gap overall in the UK. People management is a skill and it’s one that needs to be learnt and continuously improved in the same way as any other skill that an individual needs in order to be able to perform their role.
This is so frequently overlooked though. You have a great technical employee who is fantastic at what they do. You promote them to a position where they need to manage others and it all starts to go wrong. You end up losing a technical genius and gaining a pretty incompetent people manager. Sound familiar?
Through research it has been identified that the key role within the organisation for achieving business success is that of Line Managers. People managers hold significant keys to employee engagement, discretionary effort and overall performance. So how can this problem be addressed?
1. What are the Common Solutions to People Management?
We are often brought in to our clients’ businesses to try and find the ‘cure’ to this management challenge and develop the people management skills in people who often are promoted to managerial roles due to their excellent technical expertise.
We do know that interventions, such as introduction of management training programmes, various behaviour frameworks, working on the culture of the organisation to affect how line management is viewed by everyone, do work. But we have also seen the amount of investment that they require both in terms of time and finances.
We have seen managers trying to get to grips with the responsibilities that they wish they didn’t have, having to have conversations that they wish they didn’t have to and having to invest the time and effort in developing skills that they wish they didn’t have to develop.
It seems like there is no alternative to this long and painful process of converting technical experts into people managers who would rather neither do it nor develop the skills to do it.
2. Could Organisations Better Utilise Their Professional Experts?
Businesses have for a long time now understood the concept of utilising external talent/expertise should there be a lack of such insight in the workplace.
Businesses hire HR professionals because they have the expertise and insight into good management practices and these professionals end up spending their time training/coaching and supporting technical managers with people management. So a professional comes into a business to offer advice and support to others on how to do something that they are trained in doing.
Why would a business use an expert in that way? Why not just get them to do the job?
What if we looked at this from a different perspective through a comparison. Let’s say we hired a Finance professional and used them to oversee the running of the finance function in the business. However, they themselves would do very little ‘finance work’ but we would have other teams undertaking the actual finance work. So in this case we would have customer service team doing the actual financial work – various calculations, keeping and filing information, recording expenditures, etc.
In this scenario, you have a full time Finance manager who spends their days constantly training/coaching the customer service team on the financial processes and then resolving issues when they do go wrong.
Such a set up would be completely ludicrous and would make no business sense whatsoever. However, this is exactly, how HR professionals are utilised in the business.
3. All Business Functions are Considered on their Own Merits, So Why Not People Management?
All businesses start off with a handful of people who all undertake to do at least 3 different functions in their roles – a business owner, a sales person, a cleaner and office manager, etc.
As the business grows the requirements for differentiating and separating the roles and having designated individuals looking after distinct parts of the business becomes essential to support business growth. However, people management never gets to become a separate business unit of professionals who undertake that activity within the business.
I guess what I am saying is that – since the issue of people management is such a big one, perhaps it is time to explore some alternatives to how we want to go about it.
4. Is There Really an Alternative for Function Experts Managing People?
What if we treated people management (HR) as an expertise that needs to therefore be carried out by the professionals in the field. What I am talking about is letting HR professionals (people management professionals) line manage people in the organisation?
Well just imagine your managers being able to focus on the business and continue excelling in their expert roles whilst all of the people management responsibilities are actually undertaken by People Managers hired for this purpose.
For majority of our clients this might sound like a nice idea but they are not in a position to hire more people to just line manage their employees.
5. Outsourcing Line Management
Imagine outsourcing your people management responsibilities to external professionals that actually specialise in managing people and getting the best out of them.
Imagine telling your managers that they no longer need to deal with regular supervisions, absence management, look at people’s development (discuss training, etc.) or ever deal with any issues with underperformance or any conduct matters.
I bet that would be a day when your managers would get the hugest smiles on their faces and would once again be able to focus on the actual parts of the job that they love!
At Lighter HR, we always look at ways to help our clients even if that means thinking beyond what has been the traditional norm of doing business as we know it. People management is what we know, what we enjoy and what we are passionate about and so we are here to seek ways of letting you utilise on this expertise.
If you think that this might be the solution that you have been waiting for, why not give us a ring on 0203 319 1649 and one of our consultants will gladly explore with you a new way of managing your people.