uman Resource policies and practices in an organization ensure that the management of human resource issues is in line with the organizational values on the treatment of employees as well as ensuring that legal requirements are met. Policies provide the guidelines on how human resource issues should be handled to provide an appropriate approach to be used throughout the organisation. Practices and procedures lay down the rules for major employment issues for example, discipline, redundancy, capabilities, and grievances (Armstrong 2012, p. 553). Thus for the success of these policies and practices, senior managers and line managers should play an active role in their direction and implementation.
The managers do this by acting as advocates for the employees by focusing on their needs through listening to them, understanding their needs as well as empathising with them. They also provide leadership in the human resource functions by setting the standards for strategic thinking and corporate governance. Managers act as strategic partners in human resource planning, knowledge management and consultation, in addition to being change agents (Armstrong 2012, p. 572). Managers implement human resource policies and practices by developing human capital and managing it by preparing employees for future success. They also act as functional experts to deliver value to human resource policies through administrative efficiency such as process design and technology.
Senior managers assume the monitoring role in the direction and implementation of human resource policies and practices to the extent of upholding people management values with a practical degree of consistency. They act as formulators and monitors of employment rules by ensuring that the policies and procedures are in compliance with the human resource legislation and are effectively implemented by the line managers. This is because line managers cannot be tasked with total freedom for contravention of employment policies, health and safety legislation, and equal opportunity (Bratton and Gold 2012, p. 187).
Managers act as guardians of values that concern employees by pointing out cases of conflict between the employee behavior and company values and proposed actions. They also take the role of internal consultants and work with clients to analyse organisational problems to find effectively working solutions (Torrington, Taylor, and Hall 2011, p. 219). They develop human resource systems and processes through objective setting, team building, and organisation process.
Senior managers initiate new practices and policies for the line managers to implement through providing leadership to employees and exercising control of the major organisational human resource issues. The line managers and supervisors are tasked with handling of the day-to-day grievances that arise in the organisation and their amicable resolution to the satisfaction of all the involved parties without invoking a grievance procedure or formal disputes (Marchington and Wilkinson 2008, p. 233). Effective line managers establish effective working relations with the employees under them and the staff representation by solving issues properly before they become aggravated. They also establish and maintain a working employee relations climate for cooperation, mutuality, and trust. This climate is ultimately dependent on the behavior of the team leaders, senior, and line managers.
Anderson (2009, p. 167) states that human resources are valued assets to the organisation; thus, managers should emphasise their value by continually improving the workforce skills and competencies through training, learning, and development, as well as giving room for good employee relations to thrive. Learning and development involves acquisition and synthesis of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours through programmes, participation in events, and experience gained in the organisation, as well as coaching and guidance provided by senior and line managers in addition to self-managed learning. Learning and development is concerned with the workforce is skilled, knowledgeable, and engaged. Learning is a process, and it involves the acquisition and development of skills, capabilities, knowledge, and behaviours to an extent that employees feel that they have known something they did not know and can do it better than before.
Development entails growing employees’ ability and potential through learning experience provisions or self-managed learning. The employees progress from a lower state of understanding and capabilities to a state of higher skill level, competency and knowledge. Organisations have learning cultures to promote learning on a continual basis to enable employees to commit to “positive discretionary behaviours such as self managed learning rather than instructions, and empowerment in place of supervision (Reynolds 2004, p. 26). Reynolds (2004, p. 27) further asserts that for an organisation to create a learning culture, it must first develop commitment-raising practices amongst the employees and give them the opportunities and a sense of purpose to act upon their commitments as well as granting them the necessary support for learning.
Line managers are responsible for the implementation of human resource policies, such as learning and development and employee relations in an organisation. Senior and line managers monitor work processes and appraise employees as they engage in employee relations (Anderson 2009, p. 98). Moreover, they manage employees through the provision of the necessary skills needed for career development. Line managers also delegate some of their tasks appropriately and engage staff in meetings and other day-to-day activities that provide incentive for learning and development (Barrett and Mayson 2008, p. 68).
Further, in a bid to foster employee relations, line and senior managers are tasked with coaching and mentoring staff as well as providing constructive feedback on performance on an ongoing basis. They also manage and facilitate the release of staff to attend learning events, while providing opportunities for the employees to apply new knowledge and skills acquired at learning events and monitoring application. The newly acquired knowledge is also transferred to other staff in other departments with supervision from the line managers.
Line managers play a key role in influencing employee attitudes and behaviours as they translate the designed human resource policies into practice. Moreover, line managers recruit, train, and handle discipline issues, while senior managers are tasked with analysing training needs, running internal courses, pay, and benefits. However, while trying to carry out their roles in learning and development and employee relations policies, challenges do occur. These challenges include lack of motivation, capacity, competencies, or support. Managers may lack the desire for motivation in the form of institutional incentives (Edward, Beardwell and Claydon 2010, p. 32).
Senior and line managers could be limited by lack of training, work-related pressures, especially where managers are promoted for their technical instead of managerial skills. Moreover, the line managers may be uncertain as to what role they are supposed to play in human resources, they may lack commitment to perform their new roles (Roche 2009, p. 1-33). Legal implications for certain issues may make line managers ill-prepared as they may have lacked specialist knowledge.
However, if line managers take a greater responsibility for human resource management activities, then their roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined and understood (Bloisi 2007, 67). The personnel departments should support them by providing a procedural framework, guidance, and advice, as well as training them to acquire the necessary skills and expertise to carry out their functions.
Vertical integration incorporates learning and development strategy with the overarching human resource strategy and with business strategy at corporate and business unit levels. It emphasizes the importance of human resource management alignment with the organisation’s priorities and external context (Armstrong 2012, p. 231). Moreover, it assumes the presence of human resource strategy as a framework for designing, coordinating and steering micro-level human resource strategies in individual organisations.
However, learning and development can be done formally or informally using technology or networks. Organisations should encourage self-managed and blended learning. Formal learning is usually systematic and planned and uses structural training programmes with instructions and practices being conducted either on the job or off the job. The activities used include; mentoring, coaching, action learning, and outdoor learning (Barrett and Mayson 2008, p. 439). Employee relations involve the management of employee relationships and development of “positive psychological contracts” (Bloisi 2007, p. 230). These include employment terms and conditions, employment issues as well as provision of voice to the employees. In this case, employers deal with their workforce either directly or through the use of labour unions.
The formal approaches to management and leadership development of human resources models and theories should be based on the identification of development needs through coaching and mentoring (Anderson 2009, p. 267).
The informal management and learning development approaches use the learning experiences that managers and supervisors incur in the workplace. Managers continually come up with new ways of handling problems as they encounter challenging situations and unfamiliar tasks. Such reflective learning becomes crucial for application in future situations (Edward, Beardwell and Claydon 2010, p. 214). Employee relations cover employment relations, trade union recognition, collective bargaining, partnership, and participation and involvement in giving the employees a voice. Employment relationship spells out the extent to which collective agreements govern the terms and conditions of employment (Anderson 2009, p. 345).