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The role of line managers in people management

In absence management, as in employee management in general, the role of the line manager is pivotal.  In this article we explain why.We work with clients to improve attendance and achieve better management routines and most often the key to success rests with the line managers. The greatest of absence improvement plans and initiatives can achieve little unless you have the necessary skills and buy-in among line managers. As a report by CIPD on Leadership reiterates, “line managers are under constant and increasing pressure to ‘be leaders’ – improve organisational performance while supporting individual employee needs”.

The same report by CIPD goes on to explore in more detail how line managers themselves view their role. The top 5 qualities ranked as key characteristics for a successful manager were:

  1. Allow people to play to their strengths
  2. Good at motivating the team
  3. Know when to adapt management style to individual team member
  4. Expert in technical aspects of the job
  5. Ensure team meets deadlines and financial targets

All these qualities, bar one, read as if they were extracted from the HR guidebook for good people management. That, of course, is excellent although knowing what is needed to be a good manager is different from actually being one.

Returning to the odd one out, though, number 4 or ‘being an expert’ is not relevant to good management. Of course, it is usually necessary in order to perform in the job in general but expertise in the subject matter is not the key to being a good line manager. Line management is a subject matter in its own right and to excel at it, one needs to understand people and know quite a bit about many areas that have traditionally fallen under the ‘HR’ umbrella. It is by no means an easy task.

On the bright side, only 10% of the respondents ranked number 4 as a key quality, which shows that the majority agree with the sentiments above. It is still common, however, to see managers who have been given their role because they are good at what they do, not necessarily because they’re great with people. To add to that, according to the CIPD figures, only 36% of new line managers get training as a matter of course, 51% of employers offer training ‘sometimes’ and 12% never. It would be great to see ‘line management’ regarded as a job of its own, one that requires proper training and skills just like the ‘actual’ job!

If you’re looking to improve your line manager training or want to offer support to those new to absence management, Honeydew’s tailored management training courses could be just the thing. Speak to us to find out more!