Managers perform evaluations differently depending on where they sit

Posted on 13/09/13.

(picture: flickrcc)

Different internal stakeholders evaluate the capabilities of the human resource (HR) departments of subsidiary units differently, depending on where they are located, the research shows.

– More specifically, we compared how Corporate HR Executives (typically located at headquarters) and unit General Managers (co-located with the HR department in the unit) evaluated how well the HR department of the particular unit did their operational HR tasks, explains professor Adam Smale.

– We found that the unit general managers' evaluations were on average higher than those of corporate HR, and argue that this is because they are co-located with the local HR department. This is both due to them having more hands-on experience of the activities of the HR department, and also – and importantly – because HR departments put in more effort to fulfil the expectations and interests of those people with whom they are in daily face-to-face contact, regardless of reporting line.

Research also indicated that different stakeholders look at different things when they evaluate how "good" HR departments are. General managers (because they are co-located with the local HR departments) make their evaluations based on personal experiences. Corporate HR Executives, on the other hand, base their evaluations on comparisons with other HR departments. Since, due to being located elsewhere, they only have intermittent personal contact with each HR department, their evaluations can be more easily biased by "weight" (the HR departments of bigger units are perceived as more capable) or "voice" (HR departments that manage to draw more attention to themselves are perceived as more capable).

– One practical implication of the study’s findings is that if departments or individual managers want to be seen as "good at what they are doing", they need to focus on "showing" their abilities to local stakeholders, and "communicating" their abilities to stakeholders located further away, Smale explains.

Professor Adam Smale from the Department of Management is the co-author of an article, “Explaining stakeholder evaluations of HRM capabilities in MNC subsidiaries”, forthcoming in the top international business journal, the Journal of International Business Studies.