How activating the relationship between HR and the divisions can impact police performance
Organisation and Police strategy, however well conceived, can succeed only when it is effectively implemented. Critical to that implementation is HR, its directors and teams.
These are the people who translate strategic decisions made at the top of the SLP into policies and procedures that guide police officers at every level towards strategy-aligned actions.
Getting this right can have profound and far-reaching effects on police performance and effectiveness.
But it is no easy task. Conflicting priorities, old-fashioned protocols and mutual frustration all conspire to hamper relations between HR and the division managers and head, to no-one’s benefit.
‘Activating’ the division – strengthening relations between HR and division managers so that the latter act autonomously but within the framework of SLP HR policy – offers a radical new way out of this unprofitable impasse.
This report looks at how the HR–division manager connection can be improved.
It draws on research among division managers and HR that indicates both the willingness and the necessity for a new approach to their relationship and working methods.
The Problems Are Clear - So Is The Solution
Keenly aware of these potentially damaging undercurrents, consultants recently conducted research among the two camps in an attempt to quantify opinion. While they can make uncomfortable reading, its findings also offer clear pointers towards a far more constructive, cooperative future for HR and division managers alike.
One of the most obvious factors to emerge from the research is that HR teams are feeling the strain. As cost-saving cuts bite, many HR departments are losing headcount and/or budget, with the ratio of their people to total employees steadily decreasing.
At the same time, HR can feel over-burdened by everyday requests and queries from division managers. One third of HR directors estimate that their team spends up to one third of its time dealing with such matters. Nearly half (43 per cent) agree or strongly agree that this is too long and is preventing them from taking a strategic view.
Adding to their woes, as 71 per cent of HR directors see it, division managers expect immediate responses to queries and are unforgiving if the process takes longer.
The feeling is mutual
Unsurprisingly, the research found that division managers take a somewhat different view. Around half of them (48 per cent) feel that HR teams are slow to respond, with more than one third (39 per cent) of them even stating that the rumor mill is a better source of information and support.
Even higher numbers (75 per cent) consider that HR keeps information and data close to its chest.
Many HR directors (58 per cent) think that the procedures for hiring, promoting and resource planning are convoluted and inefficient. Some (34 per cent) feel that HR actively obstructs them from making decisions themselves.
Towards a new togetherness
Given the problems identified by so many HR directors, it is small wonder that an overwhelming majority (88 per cent) of them agree or strongly agree that empowering the divisional managers to make autonomous people management decisions should be a key goal.
On the other side of the divide, 51 per cent of division managers feel un-empowered. In light of their comments about HR performance, they too would likely welcome any move to increase their independent authority.
For the consultant researchers, these findings go to the heart of both the problem and the solution. Reinventing the HR-division manager relationship – something called for by managers and HR directors with equal passion – promises to open the way for a more collaborative, more productive way ahead.
Threats and promises combine to make the time right for change
Donor demands, budget constraints and skills shortages all pose distinct risks. And a new generation of managers has its own exacting demands. But these trends amount to a golden opportunity for HR and division managers together, to deliver real strategic value to the SLP and its organisational performance.
Accelerating international relations and expanding cross-border operations are fast transforming the landscape for government, its leaders and employees, including police officers. Traditional hierarchies and reporting lines will soon be redundant, if they are not already. The old, top-down exercise of empower is making way for a new, highly collaborative approach.
HR directors and their division managers must now be prepared to work in closer cooperation with culturally, generationally and geographically diverse teams. Trust is a key factor here. When information and authority flow in all directions across an organization like the SLP, individuals need to be entrusted more than ever with the tools to act on their own initiative.
HR teams cannot be constantly available to handle a stream of everyday queries and requests from multiple time regions – nor is this the best use of HR resources. Understandably, HR directors themselves prefer to be active rather than reactive; not mere process executives but strategic partners in the organization.
Here-and-now decisions needed
A third and equally potent factor is the continuing – and escalating – ‘war for talent’. As African countries continue to suffer skills shortages, attracting, developing and retaining good officers becomes increasingly challenging. Police leaders must learn new ways to understand and motivate their teams. The potential delays involved in referring back to HR risk losing valuable opportunities to recruit or retain key personnel.
In this new climate, it is vital that HR and division managers forge new methods of productive collaboration. HR must learn to trust managers with the right resources and authority to secure the talent, skills and behaviors they need to deliver results. Division managers – closer than HR to their officers and better placed to develop and reward them – must be equipped to make decisions on the spot, in the here-and-now.
New generation, new demands
A more fluent working relationship between HR and managers goes a long way towards meeting the expectations of a new generation of officers. For them, it’s a twenty-four-hour digital world in which the boundaries between home and office are dissolving.
An always-on, instant access, stakeholder-style experience is now an essential ingredient of both work and leisure, whenever and wherever they take place. Speed and functionality are expected to be as readily available at the desk as they are on the sofa. Instant access is not a luxury – it’s a basic right.
The same younger generation of managers takes a more individualistic, independent, self-directed approach to their professional lives. Particularly important to them is the freedom to act with greater autonomy and flexibility than their predecessors ever did, which in turn calls for HR to allow them a quick and easy route to the necessary information and tools.
Organizations are therefore confronted with both a threat and a promise. Cater for the demands of this generation or lose the very talents that are essential for success. Equally, nobody wants to keep the bright and the brilliant at the cost of complete anarchy on the ‘shopfloor’. HR does have an important view on how to organize things.
Reinventing the relationship between the division and HR is key to engaging all of the energy and ability of a new generation without losing control.
3 People power where it matters most
Accountable independence and authority for division managers
HR and line managers agree: the power to act decisively on people management issues must be extended from the central HR function down the division to managers.
For this to be achieved, HR will need to relinquish a degree of control and entrust line managers with tools to manage their people better, while retaining its role as sole guardian of employee data.
Managers, for their part, must (if they do not already) accept a new level of accountability for everyday staff operations, within a policy framework defined by HR and, ultimately, police corporate strategy as a whole.
This is the essence of activating the division. In this way, HR policies can be leveraged to influence employees’ perceptions and behavior, and to galvanize the entire police organization.
Activate to accumulate
Closer relations with HR give division managers the power to act and helps them perform better. When they perform better, so do their teams. And when that happens, both HR and the SLP stand to benefit.
HR and Division managers: best of both worlds
Difficulties with relations between HR and division managers are not new. And solutions have not been easy to come by, until now.
Consultants believe that technology – ironically, one of the key factors driving the need for change – offers huge potential to reinvent the relationship for the better. It can provide HR with a solution that helps the police organization achieve its objectives, while setting them at the forefront of change.
This is the vision behind the performance management processed backed by by technology - providing the missing link that puts strategy-aligned authority and tools directly into the hands of division managers, within a policy framework set and monitored by HR.