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Apr 25, 2016 |  Historically, a manager’s responsibility was black and white: get your team delivering results. If the team wasn’t delivering, replace the talent; if they were delivering, recognize them for their service every 5 years… times are changing and managers own HR.

Today, the role of a manager is much more complicated. The talent shortage, as warned in the late 90s by McKinsey & Co., is real, and companies need people more than people need companies. When businesses do get great talent on board, sales increase by 20% – giving companies every reason to keep their people engaged. Although retaining this great talent is a responsibility that largely falls on the shoulders of managers, with managers accounting for 70% of variance in employee engagement scores, management practices still need to evolve.

I think managers are failing to realize is that they have become the face of HR-driven performance management initiatives – both good and bad. Examples like engagement surveys, employee reviews and even recognition may be spearheaded by HR, but they are driven by managers. The problem with this model is twofold: first, the HR department approaches programming at a company-wide level, not on an individual basis. Second, these programs need to scale, meaning that even though your employees work in hours, programming happens yearly, quarterly, or monthly if you’re lucky. It is up to managers to fill this void.

Here are three ways that managers can evolve beyond dated practices to supplement HR programming and work with the HR department to better relationships with their direct reports, every day.


Make HR-driven initiatives your own

The reality is that many people management practices, protocols and programs are initiated and implemented by HR. The HR team is constantly evaluating employees at large, measuring engagement and working to boost retention and happiness levels. Without an HR team, the organization would fall flat when it comes to recruiting, retaining and promoting talent that is aligned to culture and purpose.

That said, it’s your job as a manager to make HR-driven initiatives work among your own teams. While HR is evaluating the organization at large when implementing new programming, you as a manager are positioned to look at people on an individual and more micro-scale.

Consider some of the typical programs that most HR departments practice. Managers have the ability to not only adopt these programs but to also make them their own. For example, what do you do with the results of the latest engagement survey? What can you learn? Can you create a secondary poll for your team only to collect more intel? Can you have a communication rhythm with your team members so that nothing you share in their annual performance review comes as a surprise?

You’re not bound by processes that HR sets for you. Be a manager that leverages HR, but takes accountability to drive employee success. Remember, employees don’t leave your company or HR department, they leave you.


Managers need to put their HR hat on

It’s one thing to embrace, adopt and adapt HR-driven programs. But it’s another for managers to put on their HR hat. The best way for good managers to become great managers is to rise above the call of duty; this means caring about more than just the results your team is delivering. Employees come to work every day, not just the days of the year when an HR program is in motion. As a manager, what can you do every day to enable your team to be successful and show you care?  A few ideas

  • A number of your daily interactions could be improved. Communication can be improved with impactful 1-on-1 and team meetings. Make these committed meetings in your calendar and think about the content of those meetings. Create an agenda and check-in on items like quarterly goals, action items, commitments and roadblocks every week.
  • Keep each other accountable by sharing goals. Encourage accountability among the team with a daily morning huddle, where everyone shares their top priority for the day.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a way that companies regularly gauge their clients’ happiness. What about creating an NPS program with your own team? A daily or weekly temperature check where employees share a number on a scale of 0 to 5 about how they’re feeling at work is a great way to keep things transparent and handle challenges proactively.


Collaborate with the HR team

We’ve talked about how you can adapt HR programming, but there doesn’t need to be animosity or separation from HR. Collaborating with HR is important. No HR department is keen on implementing programs that go unadopted or fail. With managers’ inside intel from their closer relationships with direct reports, they are well positioned to collaborate with HR.

Sync up regularly with HR to get a pulse on what programming is in the pipeline. They can help both HR and their respective teams by pre-gauging need and interest before a new program is fully functioning. Moreover, once an initiative has been adopted and rolled out, managers can check in with the teams, solicit feedback and report back to HR – months in advance of an annual survey.

That’s not all: when managers put their HR hat on, new programs evolve that may not have considered previously. Share successful initiatives with HR and discuss the potential of rolling out an idea company-wide. I used to give a team I managed 10% of their time to work on anything else they were interested in (stolen from Google). The results were great and it was implemented company-wide.  What if you’re stuck on an idea or a problem? Brainstorm with HR about what has worked for managers in other departments.


HR can be your best friend, but not your mom that is going to wait on you hand and foot. You need to drive the success of your team and leverage HR where you can, not only be the poster-child for practices they roll out.


At your company do management and HR teams work closely together? What are some programs managers can practice with their teams regularly? Tell us in the comments.