Evidence from two recently released reports shows that many HR teams feel they are struggling to be effective due to being under-resourced, overworked and undervalued.


HR team members have cited the problem of being kept busy simply dealing with day to day issues brought to them by managers who do not have the skills to deal with people problems on the ground. These managers require intensive support and coaching which takes up a great deal of time for HR teams, robbing them of the opportunity to undertake strategic and developmental work.

This in turn leads to the perception from high level management that this is their sole purpose and that the HR team are not capable of adding value.

The HR Maturity in Multisite Operators report shows that organisations do appear to be reacting to this, with research from AHRI and CCH cited in the report showing that in recent times many organisations have sought to give more employee relations responsibilities to line managers in order to take pressure off HR staff. Conversely, an article in Forbes stated that around fifty percent of large companies now outsource all or part of their HR function.

A further report from the Hay Group has shown that line managers are increasingly seeking help from Google rather than contacting their HR teams for support, with twenty percent of line managers surveyed admitting to this practice as they felt HR staff did not readily provide the information needed. With the report also providing evidence of HR staff seeing managers struggling to apply their people management training in the workplace, it is apparent that the issue is serious and is not set to quickly disappear.


There are a number of ways in which to tackle the problem; the skill gap of managers is an important issue raised in the reports, which can be addressed with more comprehensive, practical training for new managers or those promoted from within. Effective, regular communication of policies, procedures, legislative updates and factsheets can also assist in the continued development of managers’ knowledge and skills.

However there are still risks associated with line managers dealing with HR matters and therefore it is important that appropriate HR support remains available.

As noted in the Forbes article, it is important for organisations to find the solution that works best for them. For multi-location organisations, such as those featured in iHR’s survey, this may mean relieving the pressure through engaging an HR support service provider to deal with managers’ issues in the first instance. HR support services not only provide the immediate, everyday support and coaching managers need but can also address the further challenge of having up to date knowledge of state legislation which may prove difficult for a centralised, overworked HR team. With thirty six percent of HR directors surveyed by the Hay Group saying that managers expected an immediate response to HR queries, on call advice is undoubtedly important.

Other organisations may wish to look at HR partnering options and project-specific support. This may be particularly helpful in situations where the necessary knowledge or experience does not exist within the team and during high risk, high stress situations such as enterprise agreement negotiations, redundancies or change management.

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