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The Carval HR Software Blog

Getting managers to manage HR tasks & preventing back-office creep

Posted by Emma Clare

08/04/15 15:01

This blog post looks at the issue of getting managers to take responsibility for HR-related tasks: that is getting them to see that this is a fundamental part of their management responsibilities and not them "doing HR's job for them".

Many of the HR professionals that we speak with's number one challenge relates to conflicting pressures on their time. There is so much to be done on a daily basis that it is sometimes hard to push ahead with the project and strategic work that they want and/or have been asked to do.

There are three over riding reasons for the time pressures on HR managers and administrators:

  1. Back office creep: Line managers not completing processes and submitting the associated data in a timely fashion.This results in the HR team spending valuable time chasing people up, or even ending up doing things themselves. (The old "Sorry, I'm really busy, would you mind just..." phone call to a kind-natured and long-suffering member of the HR team.)
  2. Lack of integration: Having to record information in lots of different places, be that software systems, spreadsheets or databases. It takes ages and leads to...
  3. Problematic reporting: Getting hold of meaningful information on which to base strategic decisions is always going to be a challenge when you don't know if the data is up to date and accurate (see point 1) and it's stored all over the place (see point 2).

(Read more on the benefits of HR system integration here.)

So what should managers actually do? One good answer to this question comes from the late Peter Drucker, whose name that stands out above all others in the century-long history of management studies. Mr. Drucker divided the job of the manager into five basic tasks. We'll look at what these tasks are, the associated processes...and how to provide managers with ways to complete them that are sufficiently straight-forward and time-efficient as to minimise objections. 

1) Managers should set objectives

The manager sets goals for the group, and decides what work needs to be done to meet those goals.

Key tasks:

  • Translating company and departmental goals and targets into objectives for individual employees.
  • Communicating these effectively and ensuring that they are met. 

Making sure they get done: 

Typically objective setting will be part of your company's performance management or appraisal process. Goals are often set annually, six-monthly or quarterly.

Send reminders: Send the manager a reminder that this process needs to happen approximately 1 month prior and provide them with any supporting documentation that they will require.

If you use HR software then this process can usually be automated using workflow facilities. For example, the system can be set to send an automated email, with attachments if required, to a manager and to the employee, a set period before that employee's review date. 

Record the objectives that have been set along with the date of the next review: This needs to be done in a way that makes it easy for the manager, the employee and HR to review the objectives that have been set. 

Manager and employee self-service will make getting managers to manage this process much more straight-forward. Following a meeting the manager can record the goals discussed, the employee can agree or challenge them online and then HR can review everything within their integrated HR system.

HR portals also enable employees to be actively involved in monitoring their own performance and personal development: people can review their goals online and monitor their progress against meeting them, including recording professional development or CPD activities. This ensures performance management is an ongoing process that actively benefits the business not a tick box exercise reserved to once a year.

Spot any problematic managers and deal with them accordingly: Having a workflow set-up in your HR system to take care of the reminders and chasing is part of the solution, however some managers may still require intervention. Bottle-necks will be much easier to spot if you are alerted to them - and this can also be defined as part of the process. Your HR skills can then be put to good use identifying any underlying issues and addressing them - rather than focussing on administration.

2) Managers should organise. 

The manager divides the work into manageable activities, and selects people to accomplish the tasks that need to be done.

Key tasks:

Ensuring that people with the necessary skills are available to do the work that needs to be done. There are two elements to this:

  • Ensuring employees with the right skills are employed - through recruitment or training if necessary.
  • Ensuring they are available - by planning and communicating working patterns and managing holiday and absence.

Making sure they get done:

If the workload of a department changes significantly then it may well be that a manager will need to work with HR to recruit additional staff. However assuming a more static environment managers need a straightforward way to look at the employees they already have, check they have the right skills and rectify this if not and then make sure there are enough of them available to cover the required work at any given time.

Skills: A self-service portal can allow a manager, and the employee themself, to review existing skills and qualifications, available training courses, be they external or internal, and to request training. Further levels of online authorisation can be included if required. If the business uses an integrated HR and training system then the whole booking process can be automated to a large extent. It will only take the manager a few clicks of a mouse rather than several calls and emails to accomplish the task of getting an employee on a training course.

Absence: The management of just about any type of absence can be pushed-out to employees and managers via self-service HR software, however holiday is definitely the most popular.

Employees can review balances and book holiday for their manager to authorise via an email alert. The manager doesn't need to investigate whether the employee has sufficient holiday, or who else is on holiday at the same time, the system will tell him there and then. No calls, emails or paper-shuffling. Just a simple click or two.

Management of sickness can also be managed via HR workflows and self-service. Once a manager knows an employee is off sick then they simply enter the details into self-service rather than emailing or calling HR. The system can be set to automatically prompt managers and/or employees to provide documents, carry out back to work interviews etc in line with company policy. 

Working patterns: A myriad of working patterns and practices exist but in most instances this process entails defining the roles that need to be filled, finding employees with the right skills to fill them, communicating working patterns to them and then checking everyone turned-up when they were supposed to and paying them accordingly.

This is quite straightforward when people work the same hours and times every day. It is a big job when they do not. A big job for managers and also for the payroll team.

There are a range of tools that will simplify this process for all concerned. For example Rostering software can automatically create schedules of suitably qualified and available employees, text their shifts to them and alert the manager to any issues that require manual intervention.

Time and attendance systems will look at the hours an employee is scheduled to work and alert managers to any anomalies for investigation, approval and ultimately seamless transfer to an integrated payroll system.

Timesheet software can allow employees to record what they have been doing and when, for easy authorisation by a manager and then to payroll and/or billing.  

3) Managers should motivate and communicate

The manager creates a team out of his people, through decisions on pay, placement, promotion, and through his communications with the team. 

Drucker also referred to this as the “integrating” function of the manager.People Together-3

Key tasks:

Sharing plans, new developments, business wins and highlighting and rewarding peoples’ efforts.

Making sure they get done:

Technology can never replace the decision making process but can certainly enable communication, especially when teams are geographically dispersed or people work remotely. 

HR systems enable you to send tailored communications to employees or groups of employees really easily so are a great way of keeping people in the loop. This could be via email, texts, or employee self-service delivered via the web or mobile apps. 

This is a great way to share plans, and for people to understand how corporate goals translate to their own and those of their colleagues.

Self-service HR software can simplify record-keeping and authorisation for decision making. Managers can request changes of salary, special payments and changes to working times quickly and easily. An audit-trail is kept and where payroll software is integrated associated updates can be made here too, ensuring speed and accuracy of payments.

On the topic of payments, while most people can tell you what their salary is, they may not be able to draw to mind the full value of their remuneration package quite so easily. A good employee self-service portal gives staff access to their remuneration and reward statement and enabling people to see their contracted package easily helps in retention.

Read: 5 tips for using self-service HR software to improve employee engagement.

4) Managers should measure

The manager establishes appropriate targets and yardsticks, and analyzes, appraises and interprets performance.

Key tasks:

Goal setting and monitoring. The business objectives that have been translated down to individual employee level should be regularly reviewed to ensure everything stays on track. 

Making sure they get done:

HR self-service enables managers and employees to review goals online and monitor progress against meeting them. This ensures performance management is an ongoing process that actively benefits the business not a tick box exercise reserved for once a year.

Where key performance indicators are identified, such as reducing absence levels for a particular team, managers can also be provided with reporting facilities to securely interrogate live HR data for their people.

5) Managers should develop people

With the rise of the knowledge worker, this task has taken on added importance. In a knowledge economy, people are the company’s most important asset, and it is up to the manager to develop that asset.

Key tasks:

  • Retention of existing employees.
  • Growth of existing employees to meet business needs.

Sometimes new challenges mean the skills requirements for a role change, or performance issues highlight a need for additional training. But often employees that have been with your business for a while can simply feel that they are starting to stagnate. Developing new skills to enable these members of staff to grow their existing role or move along a career path will keep them engaged and aid in retention.

Making sure they get done:

Putting employees in control of their training and development programme has great value – both in terms of engagement and also reduction in HR administration. HR self-service allows an employee to view and contribute to their personnel record by recording and monitoring Continuous Professional Development activities, updating skills, and requesting training to improve performance via an integrated training module.

With a great set of training and new skills under their belt, the last thing you would want to risk is an employee heading off to pastures new. Self-service portals can be used to highlight career development opportunities within your business or group. If you use HR software with integrated recruitment software it will be straightforward to post vacancies within the business in order to attract internal candidates on-line which in turn allows the employee to move forward within the company.


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