Friday January 24 2014

Who ensures high productivity at work?

By Hannah Magoola

Productivity and profitability are common measures of business success. Top management is always keen to realise benefits from optimum people performance by profit margin. The bottom line really counts.

So whose job is it to ensure employees deliver maximally? We commonly think: “Management” or “HR.” Yet top management is often detached from day-to-day employee behaviours and although HR is the ‘people department’, their knowledge and skills are best leveraged to enhance the organization’s people policies and practices. The responsibility for achieving optimum people performance, therefore, lies with the line manager.

Larry Holm, MD at the People Performance Group, says: “Many line managers, not all, think that HR is about hiring, welfare and measuring sick days; not a strategic function. Instead of leveraging HR technical expertise for strategic advantage, it is sometimes used for administrative tasks that line managers find boring or ‘too soft’. However, HR is about structures and tools that optimise performance.”

Line managers sometimes feel that doing performance management means “those HR people make us do their job”. Thus people issues fester and when HR is inclined to give managers a nudge in the right direction, they are seen to be interfering. Whether this dilemma is a matter of ignorance, organisational politics or a reflection of a culture ‘lost in translation’, it explains major human capital challenges organisations face.

Research by UK-based Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) posits a model that drives performance as a function of ‘ability, motivation and opportunity’ (AMO). If organisations have enough people with the right skills, experience and knowledge who are motivated to apply their abilities and have choice and discretion in how they do their job; they are more likely to tap into their employees’ discretionary effort.

HR architecture
This AMO model is at the heart of strategic HR management and forms the HR architecture that maximises human contribution by designing workable policies in these three areas designed to contribute to the achievement of business strategies. Line managers are critical in sustaining the HR and performance link through application of these HR policies.

Unfortunately, this group is many times neglected or taken for granted. At times, they themselves push aside the responsibility because “those HR people should do their job”. On occasion, this view is reinforced when top management reasons that “line managers are too busy doing real work” and “what do those HR people do, anyway” or requires HR to implement policies that may not necessarily engender engagement.the consequences of this choice.