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How much do you value people management?

Today’s blog is a follow on from a previous piece written by LACE Co-Founder Cathy Acratopulo after LACE Partners’ annual people_tech event in October. In the previous blog (which you can find here) Cathy talked about the capability of people managers, whether ’good people management’ is defined and what support is provided for line managers to become better people managers.

As people progress through organisations to more senior positions, most are expected to take on the management of others.  For some, this is a natural extension of their role which they embrace and enjoy. For others, particularly people in more technical or functional roles, this may be a less welcome side effect of promotion. To address this challenge, some organisations have separate career paths to allow individuals to focus on roles managing others versus functional specialism, but this approach is in the minority.

So, for the majority of organisations, it therefore would make sense to assume that people management capability is a significant factor to consider when looking at individual performance and promotion.  However, when we asked our people_tech guests whether their criteria for promotion included people management capability as a core requirement, half of them answered ‘no’. It was observed that, for more junior positions, an individual may not have yet had the opportunity to demonstrate their people management capability e.g. for a team leader role, but hopefully they will be exhibiting the type of behaviours that show their potential to manage others. For more senior positions, it seems that people management capability is often not explicitly considered at promotion points. Perhaps it is assumed that, once someone has reached a certain level in their organisation, they know what they are doing. However, our data and experience would lead us to conclude that is often not the case. Unless being an effective people manager is seen as a valuable capability in an organisation, and therefore a critical input to performance and promotion decisions, there may be little incentive for line managers to change.

What is HR’s role in improving people management capability?

Who is accountable for addressing the people management challenge? HR has a huge dependency on line managers to manage their teams effectively.  The business also needs effective people managers to drive engagement and productivity. If line managers do not feel confident when people managing, HR may be required to 'hold their hand' during situations that ideally they would manage on their own. Similarly, if line managers are not trained in how to address particular scenarios well (e.g. underperformance, harassment or bullying), HR and the organisation may end up paying the price with high numbers of employee relations cases along with the associated financial, public relations and employee engagement consequences.

On this basis, it would seem there is a clear business case to invest in people management capability.  But is HR accountable for ensuring line managers can people manage effectively?  When we asked our people_tech attendees, the answer was not clear cut. This question sparked a lot of debate: most attendees felt that HR should enable good people management by providing the tools and support for line managers.  But there was also a recognition that the organisational leadership had a role in ensuring line managers can people manage.  However, whilst we acknowledge there is a shared responsibility across an organisation, unless one function or individual is ultimately accountable it is unlikely that much will change.

In conclusion, we believe HR should embrace their role in improving people management capability. They have the greatest vested interest as they spend time addressing the implications of poor people management every day. Without effective people managers, HR is limiting its impact as a function.  And the business will not benefit from the positive impact of excellent people management on individual engagement and performance. Hence why, when we work with HR directors to transform their functions, one of our first questions is “what do you think of your organisation’s people management capability…”

If you would like to talk to any member of the LACE Team about people_tech or how LACE Partners could help you with your own HR transformation programme, then get in touch today on +44 (0) 20 8065 0310 or email info@lacepartners.co.uk. If you’d like to connect with Cathy you can do so on LinkedIn here.