How to break down the HR-supervisor wall

Friction often exists between HR and supervisors because those front-line bosses don’t fully understand your HR role … and they may hold certain stereotypes about your department.

Sure, supervisors have heard your list of do’s and don’ts (don’t discriminate, do fill out time sheets, etc.). But they may not see you as a strategic partner to their departments, and that can make it difficult to implement any new HR initiatives.

Advice: Set the stage for HR-management collaboration with an “HR for managers” meeting. Explain how key HR functions practically benefit managers and their departments.

1. HR function: Ensuring compliance with anti-harassment and discrimination laws. Explain that compliance enhances the organization’s reputation among potential job candidates. Stress that legal claims and lawsuits hurt their department’s reputation, the company’s bottom line and their own career path. Remind them that some laws allow managers to be personally sued for their employment law mistakes.

Manager benefit: Compliance helps managers avoid impediments to career advancement, and encourages job candidates to perceive the organization as a place where they want to work.

Difficult People D

2. HR function: Managing and tracking compensation and benefits. Explain that HR and managers should work together to make sure employees are paid at levels that are fair, consistent and in compliance with wage laws. Make sure they understand your overtime rules and current law on exemptions. Last year’s Ledbetter Fair Pay Act made this even more important because employees can now reach back many years to sue for pay bias.

Manager benefit: In addition to the legal threat, pay protests can crush morale and turnover. Work with managers to conduct annual comp and benefits reviews for each employee as part of his or her review.

3. HR function: Hiring and recruitment. Use a checklist to clarify supervisors’ roles in the recruiting, hiring and orientation process. Explain what HR will do and what bosses are expected to do. Teach them the legal do’s and don’ts of interviews. Create a formal employee referral program that encourages workers to actively seek out new staff.

Manager benefit: Supervisors are more engaged in finding and choosing employees who can contribute to the profitability of their departments.

4. HR function: Overseeing compliance with conduct, ethics and performance policies. Explain that early and ongoing communication between HR and managers is the key to preventing and resolving issues involving employee violations.  

Manager benefit: Managers expedite the process of dealing with problem employees, minimizing the impact on department morale.