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Say you’re part of an overworked two- or three-person HR department that struggles to keep up with basic administrative duties.

Advances in HR self-service technology and the need to cut costs are pushing some organizations to transfer basic HR duties to their management team. But you may be leery of turning over some duties to managers because senior execs may be tempted to cut the HR staff.

Best bet: Use supervisors to assist in HR, but be smart in what you choose to delegate.

“You will see an increase in productivity and attitude among employees and managers, and you will have more time to get involved in business strategy,” says Keith Greene, VP of member relations for the Society for Human Resource Management.

It’s important not to hand over any aspect of HR to managers entirely. Instead, take a “consultative, business partner approach,” advises Greene. Coach managers to make sure they understand the rules and purpose of the approach.

Which HR duties to share? Managers can help with the following areas:

  • Hiring. “Don’t let managers get away with saying, ‘I have a requisition for a job. Fill it,’” says HR consultant Mike Losey, former SHRM CEO. Ask managers to provide written details about the experiences, knowledge and skills that candidates must have. Require written questions to help HR screen potential candidates for the manager to interview.
  • Performance reviews. Train managers to do performance reviews independently. Allow managers to do employee evaluations without “prefiling” them with HR for its review.
  • Recruiting. Managers can share recruiting duties at schools and conferences. Train managers on what they can and can’t say to candidates to avoid liability
  • Training. Managers can suggest training programs and help design them with help from HR. Train managers to do as much routine training as possible.

What not to share? Delegating areas that require HR expertise could create liability problems for your organization.

Those areas include: creating compensation and pay programs, sexual harassment and discrimination training, tracking and implementing workplace laws and regulations, checking references, benefits administration, and diversity planning and administration.  

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