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HR functions: Line versus staff authority

“All managers are, in a sense, HR managers, since they all get involved in activities like
recruiting, interviewing, selecting, and training.”
-Gary Dessler

Yet most firms also have a human resource department with its own human resource manager.
How do the duties of this HR manager and his or her staff relate to "line" managers' human
resource duties?

Before going over to answer this question we should know that HR managers are in most of the
cases even now in this modern world generally staff managers. They are responsible for advising
line managers (like those for production and sales) in areas like recruiting, hiring, and

one major company outlined its line supervisors' responsibilities for effective human resource
management under the following general headings:

1. Placing the right person on the right job

2. Starting new employees in the organization (orientation)
3. Training employees for jobs that are new to them
4. Improving the job performance of each person
5. Gaining creative cooperation and developing smooth working relationships
6. Interpreting the company's policies and procedures
7. Controlling labor costs
8. Developing the abilities of each person
9. Creating and maintaining departmental morale
10. Protecting employees' health and physical condition

In small organizations, line managers may carry out all these personnel duties unassisted. But
as the organization grows, they need the assistance, specialized knowledge, and advice of a
separate human resource staff.

The human resource department provides this specialized assistance. Thus an HR manager
will perform three distinct functions:

1. A line function. An HR manager possesses a line authority over his own department to
accomplish the task and roles assigned to each employees of the department. And since
the majority of the decision is trickled down from the corporate level, he actually exudes
such power. His suggestions also are taken as orders.
2. A coordinative function. An HR manager is also a coordinator of all the decision, activities
in the personnel area. This is referred to as functional control. Whatever policies,
procedures and objectives are set for the HR manager implements employees in the
3. Staff functions. This is basically an advisory role played by the manager whereby he only
assists line managers, but that doe not mean his advice shall be taken finally. It all
depends on the discretion of the line manager. Such a function involves assisting on areas
such as, training, evaluating, rewarding, counseling, promoting, and firing of employees,
etc.) many a times HR managers also update the line managers as well as top
management regarding the current trends and new methods of solving problems .
Thus we can conclude that there are certain areas, which are solely left on the Managers
prerogative. While there are many areas where a kind of cooperative responsibility by both
the HR manager and the line manager is required.

Please refer to the table for the differentiation between each responsibility


division of
between line
and staff.
I Assist job analyst by listing specific Write job description and job
Recruitment duties and responsibilities of the job in specification based on input fro
and selection question explain to HR future staffing department supervisor
needs and sorts of people needed to be Develop personnel plans showing
hired. promo table employees.
Descry” human requirements” of job so Resources of qualified applications and
HR can develop selection tests. engage in recruiting activities aimed at
Interview candidates and make final developing a pool of qualified
selection decision. applicants.
Conduct initial serving interviews and
refer feasible candidates to department
II Orient employees regarding the Prepare training materials and
Training and company and job and instruct and train orientation documents and outlines.
development new employees. Advise CEO regarding development
Evaluate and recommend managers plan for managers based on CEO’s
developmental activities. stated vision of firm’s future needs.
Provide the leadership and Serve as resource for providing
empowerment that builds effective work information regarding how to institute
teams. and operate quality improvement
Use the firm’s appraisal forms to programs and team building efforts.
appraise employee performance. Develop performance appraisal tools
Assess subordinates’ career progress and maintain records of appraisals.
and advise them regarding career
Assist HR by providing information Conduct job evaluation procedures
III regarding the nature and relative worth aimed at determining relative worth of
Compensation of each job to serve as the basic for each job in the firm. Conduct salary
compensation decisions. surveys to determine how other firms
Don the nature and amounts of are paying the same or similar positions.
incentives to be paid to subordinates. Serve as a resource in advising line
Decide on the package of benefits and management regarding financial
services the firm is to pay. incentives and pay plan alternatives.
Develop. In consolation with line
management the firm’s benefits and
services packages including health care
options and pensions.
IV Establish the day to day climate of Diagnose underlying causes o f labor
Labor mutual respect and trust needed to discontent with an eye toward
Relations maintain healthy labor management anticipating with the sorts of moral and
relations. Consistently apply the terms lead to unionization efforts.
of the labor agreement. Train line managers regarding the
Ensure that the firm’s grievance process interpretation of contract terms and the
is functioning in a manner consistent legal pitfalls to be avoided during the
with the labor agreement and make final union organizing effort
decisions on grievances after Advise managers regarding how to
investigating same, handle grievances and assist all parties
Work with HR in negotiating the in reaching agree regarding grievances.
collective bargaining agreement.
V Keep the lines of communication open Advise line management regarding the
Employee between employees and managers so communication techniques that can be
Security and employees are kept abreast of important used to encourage upward and
safety company matters and have a variety of downward communication.
vehicles they can use to express Develop a unfair treatment process and
concerns and use to express concerns train line managers in its use.
and gripes. Analyze jobs to develop safe practice
Sure employees are guaranteed fair rules and advise on design of safety
treatment as it relates to discipline, apparatus such as machinery guards.
dismissals and job security. Promptly invest accidents analyze
Continually dire employees in the causes, make recommendations for
consistent application of safe work accident presentation and submit
habits. necessary forms to occupational safety
Prepare accident reports promptly and and health administration.

In summary, as Dessler remarks, “HR management is an integral part of every manager’s job.
Whether you’re a first line supervisor, manager, or president, whether you’re a production
manager sales manager, office manager, hospital administrator, or HR manager, getting results
through people is the name of the game.”