Devolution of HR activities to line managers

Devolution of HR activities to line managers
Devolution of HR activities to line managers

Devolution of HR activities to line managers

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Evaluate the devolution of HR activities to line managers in relation to its impact on the HR profession and for organizational effectiveness.

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Devolution of HR activities to line managers

In many organizational settings today, line managers are involved very much in human resource management (HRM) processes. Over the last several years, business organizations have had to make crucial cost-cutting decisions, including passing to line managers the tasks that are commonly carried out by HR personnel (Maxwell & Watson 2010). This devolution may enable an organization to sufficiently function at a minimal level of operation. The decision of giving line managers more responsibility for an extra number of complex tasks calls for serious evaluation and the organization should consider the disadvantages brought about by working without a human resources team.

Devolvement or devolution is of major importance for the development of strategic HRM. Generally, a number of scholars have identified devolution as being one of 2 crucial constituents for developing strategic Human Resource Management within business circles, the other constituent being the integration of Human Resource Management into the corporate framework (Perry & Kulik 2010). Through the devolution, HR practitioners are freed up from human resources activities. Devolution of human resources activities to line managers is done as a result of various reasons. These reasons are: as an alternative to outsourcing the organization’s human resource function; to accelerate decision making; to place responsibility for human resource management with the managers who are most responsible for it; to provide a more inclusive approach to human resource management; and to lower costs (Brewster & Larsen 2010).

Freedman (2010) studied the changing role of senior HR managers as well as the new business demands which they were facing over and above their old jobs of employee welfare and administration. She hypothesized that line managers may start assuming some facets of human resources functions as part of a complete management role – personnel management, which is the old functional speciality, is fading as HRM become a facet of general management (Freedman 2010). According to Brewster and Larsen (2010), devolution is driven by organizational as well as effectiveness criteria. It is believed widely that responsibilities within an organization have to be located at places that are appropriate and this implies more and more with line managers instead of specialist functions (Brewster & Larsen 2010).

Expectations about the role of line managers in human resource development are changing as organizations are seeking to make the HR development function more strategic and leaner (Reichel & Lazarova 2013). By devolving some HR activities to line managers, line managers are given more ownership and the HR personnel are allowed more time for strategic activities. In addition, this devolution enables the organization to cut costs. The devolution of Human Resources activities to line managers may improve the quality of people management or performance of the organization. In general, for personnel functions to be effective, there needs to be good cooperation, consultation as well as team working between the human resources managers and line managers. As a result of the devolution, an organization would have a closer relationship between workers and line managers with faster decision-making and more effective resolution of problems in the place of work (Maxwell & Watson 2010).

The devolution also provides the line managers of the company with an opportunity of engaging with everyday people management decision-making, whilst human resources specialists could work on attaining closer alignment of a company’s processes and systems with the corporate goals, whilst remaining aware of external environmental changes. Even so, the shortcomings associated with this devolution are: the devolution may bring about confusion as well as conflict with line managers and human resources specialists; and the line managers would need to be provided with more support by HR professionals to allow them to effectively assume new human resource responsibilities (Perry & Kulik 2010).


Brewster, C., & Larsen, H 2010, Human resource management in Europe. The International Journal of Human Resource Management 3(3): 54-61

Freedman, A 2010, The changing human resource function. International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 12(5): 54-59

Maxwell, G & Watson, S 2010, ‘Perspectives on line managers in human resource management: Hilton International’s UK hotels’, International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 17, 6, pp. 1152-1170, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2015.

Perry, E & Kulik, C 2010, ‘The devolution of HR to the line: Implications for perceptions of people management effectiveness’, International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 19, 2, pp. 262-273, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2015.

Reichel, A, & Lazarova, M 2013, ‘The Effects of Outsourcing and Devolvement on the Strategic Position of HR Departments’, Human Resource Management, 52, 6, pp. 923-946, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2015.

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