The Manager … Key Player in a High-Impact HR Operating Model

Posted by Arthur Mazor, Gary Johnsen, Justin Clark, and Bryanna Ransom on April 16, 2018.

Often overlooked in the design of an organization’s HR operating model is the role of the manager, particularly the extent to which managers should be involved in delivering people-related services and how to equip them with the right tools and resources to do so. With research suggesting that managers account for over 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement,1 defining the people leadership expectations of managers-and helping them deliver on those expectations-is a key factor in any organization’s success, and can lead to higher ROI in terms of workforce performance, innovation, and company loyalty.

In a rapidly changing world of work with near-constant competitive disruption, organizations are eagerly searching for ways to maintain consistent growth. To identify these opportunities for competitive advantage, organizations have been looking beyond investment in their market-facing products or services and considering ways to invest in their workforce and employee experience. Leadership teams are looking to HR to play a vital role in driving business results by attracting and developing the right talent–from traditional to open talent / gig sources. Yet, while 80 percent of surveyed executives consider the workforce’s experience to be very important or important, only 22 percent consider their organizations to be excellent at building a differentiated experience.2

To help correct this mismatch between expectations and perceived abilities and enable HR to have a positive impact on business results, many organizations have been developing a “fit for purpose” HR operating model that is tailored to the organization’s strategy, working environment, and business needs. The “High-Impact HR Operating Model” aims to deliver a different type of value to the business: enabling managers with effective programs that yield a more productive, creative, and agile workforce, equipping workers with capabilities for future jobs, and building future leaders. However, all too often this effort focuses only on the shifts required of the HR function and fails to consider the shifts required of managers.

Developing managers is crucial for High-Impact
As frontline leaders, managers are critical to business outcomes, and their position in the organization deserves focused consideration. Any conversation about the role of managers within the High-Impact HR Operating Model should consider advancing the characteristics of effective managers. Some of the most important manager capabilities involve people management skills designed to drive innovation, productivity, and engagement, leading employees through change, coaching and developing employees; energizing, motivating, and recognizing employees; and driving organizational culture.

Also important in the discussion is the type of work the organization asks managers to do. While manager “self-service” became quite common years ago, many organizations still grapple with how much autonomy is right for managers in making people decisions. On the surface, most complex organizations we work with want managers to feel empowered and to focus on coaching and development of the people they lead. Yet, when decisions include compensation, performance, or succession, discussions about the need for guardrails and control return.

Engaging managers and business leaders in a collaborative dialogue about the future role of the manager and the corresponding shifts in HR’s role is critical to driving meaningful change to the employee experience. This collaborative approach between the business and HR in identifying the HR services that need to be delivered, aligning on which services managers will be responsible for delivering, and providing upskilling and capability building opportunities for managers enables managers to become equipped for their changing role.

Defining the manager role
Organizations should consider taking a fit-for-purpose approach to craft the right people leadership role that positions managers to positively impacting the worker experience as part of their broader accountabilities to drive business results. Engaging managers as part of designing the future HR operating model enables shared ownership from the start and can include:

  • Collaboratively define the Moments That Matter when managers should play an active role in the worker experience and lifecycle of processes
  • Provide experiential learning for managers to grow new people leadership capabilities
  • Equip managers with on-demand and intuitive content they can access to refresh knowledge of how they can positively impact the worker experience
  • Establish metrics to measure manager effectiveness in people leadership and impact on the worker experience

“Fit for purpose” includes manager fit
Realizing a High-Impact HR Operating Model requires a holistic vision and approach—and that includes maximizing the role managers can play. Impactful managers drive performance and cultivate innovation through their day-to-day impact on the experience of the organization’s workforce. How are you engaging the managers in your enterprise as key players in your HR operating model?

Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for HR Strategy & Employee Experience and HR Service Delivery globally. He collaborates with complex, global clients to achieve high business impact with a focus on transforming human capital strategies, programs, and services.
Gary Johnsen is a specialist leader with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the deputy leader of the HR Strategy & Employee Experience practice. He helps complex organizations design and deploy innovative HR strategies, operating models, and HR customer experiences along with enabling processes, tools, and capabilities that build the bridge between business and HR.
Justin Clark is a manager with Deloitte Consulting LLP in the HR Strategy & Employee Experience practice, focusing on Business HR and how it can drive real value for the business.
Bryanna Ransom is a manager with Deloitte Consulting LLP in the HR Strategy & Employee Experience practice, helping clients design and implement “fit for purpose” HR operating models.
The authors would like to thank the following practitioners for their contributions to this post: Lauren Seidman and Garrott Graham.


1 Randall Beck and Jim Harter, “Managers Account for 70% of Variance in Employee Engagement,” Gallup Business Journal, April 21, 2015,

2 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: Rewriting the rules for the digital age, Deloitte University Press, February 28, 2017,


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