Company Culture
6 min read

Tips to make managers your best culture champions


Sophia Lee

Writer, Culture Amp

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Every HR team is familiar with the experience of strategizing a new initiative for employees, pouring in resources to bring it to life, and excitedly rolling out the plan…only to have the program completely flop. Even if the original vision was great,  HR doesn’t necessarily have the individual relationships or day-to-day interactions with employees to localize change effectively – let alone scale it. But what most HR teams may not realize is that they already have allies they can turn to for help: managers. 

Why managers are your best culture champions

Managers can serve as powerful facilitators between HR teams and employees. Managers have the most direct relationships with employees and therefore the most influence. This makes them the perfect people to act as culture champions and amplify the initiatives that are introduced by HR. So the question is: why isn’t this already happening at most organizations? 

Unfortunately, the HR and manager relationship has a history of tension, with a tendency to roadblock each other. While it’ll take time and work, HR can learn to encourage managers to amplify HR’s initiatives and help them understand what the team is trying to accomplish. We’ll explain how to start taking steps in this direction below. 

Tips on how to work with managers in HR functions 

Whether your team wants to introduce a new wellness initiative or change up the way you conduct performance reviews, you’re going to need the support of your managers to see widespread adoption. Here are tips to get managers on board with HR’s vision: 

1. Bring managers into the fold early 

It’s challenging for managers to play the role of culture champions if they don’t agree with your approach. And the fact that 58% of managers believe that procedures for hiring, promoting, and resource planning are convoluted and inefficient indicates that this is more common than we might think. For managers to be enthusiastic about amplifying HR efforts, they need to understand and generally be aligned with your decisions. To accomplish this: 

  • Tap into the expertise of managers. Managers have their ears to the ground when it comes to employee sentiment, and are privy to their frustrations and concerns. You should take advantage of their unique perspective to inform the decisions your HR team makes. This ensures your programs are aligned with employee needs and shows managers that they’re being heard and appreciated. 
  • Include managers in the decision-making process. Of course, this has to be done within reason. It’s unrealistic to bring managers in for every HR conversation, and it’s also not a good use of anyone’s time. However, with high-impact programs where the participation of managers is critical to its success, bring them into the conversation early and let them have input into the process. This creates more buy-in and increases the likelihood of program adoption among employees.

2. Share resources openly  

If you want managers as your allies, it’s essential to be open with them – not only in communication but also in knowledge sharing. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening at most organizations, which is why 75% of managers believe that HR keeps information and data “close to its chest.” In other words, managers don’t feel like HR is arming them with the information they need to act. It also means they aren’t able to have relevant conversations with employees. This is a huge problem, but can be addressed in a few ways: 

  • Involve managers in the feedback process. When distributing surveys, get managers involved where it makes sense. For instance, ask managers to submit questions that they want employees to answer – this will generate data that’s truly valuable for them. HR should also give managers access to any data that’s relevant to their teams. This empowers them to start strategizing next steps instead of waiting on HR to take action. 
  • Decide on next steps together. Once everyone has access to the information, managers and HR can work hand-in-hand to bring initiatives to life. One way to start the collaborative process is to host a focus group with managers to review results, make sure everyone interprets the data in a consistent way, and decide on next steps. Understanding exactly how and why certain decisions were made will help managers prepare for conversations with employees and better scale any new programs you introduce. 

3. Adopt shared goals with managers 

It can feel like HR and managers are constantly butting heads. Usually, this is a lack of communication and alignment rather than an actual divide. That’s why we encourage HR teams and managers to agree on shared goals to help them move in the same direction. When both sides are in harmony, managers will be much more likely to help localize changes. A few tips to accomplish this: 

  • Clearly define responsibilities. When agreeing on shared goals, it’s important to make sure everyone knows what they’re responsible for. This creates a clear sense of ownership and reduces the chance of conflict. Also, understanding what’s on each other’s plates can encourage feelings of compassion and appreciation for the work that’s getting done. 
  • Make the goals measurable. It’s also important to attach tangible metrics to each goal. This provides an objective way to measure progress, and it also ensures accountability on both sides. Metrics serve as a reminder of the overall intent of a specific program or initiative to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Empower managers to make people decisions 

Research shows that 88% of HR directors believe that empowering line managers to make people management decisions should be a key goal. But 51% of managers don’t actually feel empowered to do so. Clearly, there’s a gap between what should be happening and reality. Here are some suggestions on how to close that gap:

  • Hand over the keys. Sometimes, HR teams can feel protective of their projects. After all, it’s something they’ve invested a lot of resources in and want to make sure it’s a success. While this is understandable, it’s important for HR to understand that they need the support of managers to actually scale their programs within an organization. So, while challenging, they need to learn how to hand the keys over to the managers and let them drive the initiatives at the employee level. 
  • Allow the space to make mistakes. Just like any other employee, managers should be given the space to make mistakes and learn. Sometimes they’ll run into hiccups, and that’s okay. Treat these mistakes as a learning experience instead of a reason to not empower managers to make people management decisions. 

By tapping into your managers as a way to progress HR’s strategy – instead of viewing them as an obstacle – you’ll be able to accomplish so much more for your organization. Use our recommendations to shift your relationship with managers into one that elevates them as culture champions. 


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