Performance Management
6 min read

5 ways HR teams can help develop their managers

Sophia Lee

Writer, Culture Amp

Reading Time: 6 minutes

As the department that oversees all culture and people-related functions, it makes sense that Human Resources (HR) plays a major role in developing good leaders. However, despite the wealth of knowledge and resources held by the team, HR still remains a largely untapped resource by managers. 

In this article, we explain how HR and people teams can proactively offer support to managers and cover several key areas where they could play a major role. Doing so not only opens up more avenues for cross-team collaboration, but it also helps managers of all experience levels succeed in their positions. 

Why should HR support managers? 

Research shows that managers have a direct impact on employee engagement levels. This makes the manager’s role critical when it comes to keeping employees happy and wanting to stay with the company for a long time. However, this is a big ask and a lot of responsibility to put on one individual. Managers recognize that they can’t do everything on their own, and 90% report wanting to become better managers and needing support, coaching, and resources from HR to help them.

In addition to managers’ desire for HR support, there are multiple other reasons why this partnership is highly beneficial. Both sides have something to offer the other; while HR has access to resources that managers need, managers have insights into day-to-day employee sentiment and feedback that HR may find valuable. Additionally, managers and HR tend to have many overlapping goals – whether related to performance, retention, or well-being. So it benefits both parties when HR helps managers and ensures those joint goals are met. Here are a few key areas where HR can be especially helpful: 

1. Training opportunities

Few people are born natural leaders. Just like any other skill, it takes training and practice to become a great manager. Unfortunately, more than half of managers report that, while they want to improve their skills, they aren’t provided with the tools to do so. This is where HR can step in. Given that HR teams are the gatekeepers to learning and development (L&D) opportunities for their organizations, they have the ability to connect managers – especially those who are new to the role – with key trainings. These can touch on many different skills, from brushing up on communication skills to learning how to give actionable feedback.

That said, training opportunities shouldn’t only be reserved for new managers. HR can also help experienced managers become more effective leaders. For instance, let’s say one of your managers is feeling overwhelmed because their team just scaled rapidly. You can offer training on how to manage diverse teams or recommend a course on how to maintain productivity while overseeing a larger group. In short:  where possible, try to serve as the bridge between managers and the resources they need to succeed. 

2. Performance reviews

The HR team is ultimately responsible for overseeing performance reviews. However, in order for the process to be successful, managers must be aligned on the implementation. This requires HR and managers to work hand-in-hand. What does this look like in practice?

First, HR should explain exactly how performance reviews work, provide guidance on how to give direct feedback – especially since 37% of leaders report being uncomfortable with giving direct feedback about their employee’s performance. The team can also share tips or resources to improve the performance review process. Inversely, managers can give HR insight into performance reviews,  where they’re working well, and where they could use improvements. This mutually beneficial partnership ultimately helps a company create a performance review process that’s engaging, effective, and genuinely useful to employees. 

3. The employee experience 

Designing a powerful and consistent employee experience can have a significant impact on many aspects of an organization such as engagement, retention, recruiting, and even the bottom line. However, creating this type of unified employee experience is a huge team effort that requires the buy-in of HR, managers, and team members involved in any aspect of the employee experience.

Let’s look at onboarding as an example: onboarding is a key part of the employee experience and when done right, it has been shown to improve new hire retention rates by 82%, and productivity by 70%. A unified onboarding team will make a huge difference in being able to deliver the experience you want. At Culture Amp, many people are involved in onboarding a new Camper, from managers to people operations members to onboarding coordinators and beyond. Getting everyone aligned with the process and sharing the responsibility has helped our teams create a more engaging and scalable onboarding process.

4. Goal setting

Goal setting and goal alignment are critical to organizational success. A recent study found that companies that more closely align goals across their organization enjoy much higher levels of financial success. Another study found that setting goals leads to a typical increase in employee productivity that equates to $9,200 for people with an average salary of $50,000.

Given that HR teams and managers have shared goals, it’s essential that they work together to make sure those goals are aligned. HR can help managers set SMARTER goals by providing more clarity and context. For instance, if a manager is trying to establish team goals around retention, HR has access to existing data and benchmarks that would help ensure the goals are realistic and attainable. Similarly, managers can make sure the goals they set are contributing to broader HR and people operations objectives.

5. Employee challenges

Unfortunately, managing employees doesn’t come without the occasional obstacle. This is an area in which HR can be tremendously helpful to managers and enable them to navigate complex issues they may not have previous experience with. These challenges can range from managing low-performing employees to compliance issues around to employee benefits. 

HR and managers can also work together and be proactive about the culture challenges employees might face. Say a manager notices that their team is starting to show signs of burnout. The HR team could work with them to introduce effective wellness programs to combat this problem before it becomes a widespread issue across the organization.  

HR can play a huge role when it comes to helping managers achieve their goals, and doing so will ultimately benefit everyone involved. While managers are encouraged to reach out to HR when they need support, there’s a lot that HR teams can do to step up and proactively offer their support to anyone in a leadership position. We encourage you to follow the five tips we outlined above to strengthen your relationship with managers at the organization and to come up with additional ways to support one another.

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