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Managers are getting more HR duties as companies focus on recruitment strategies.

Few contest the benefits of planning ahead, but corporate Canada’s current focus on attracting and retaining talent for the future could be having an affect on employees today: mainly, more work.

That’s the perception in some cases, anyway. “We’re noting that a lot of organizations want to shift the human-resources department from being strictly operational and tactical to truly being a business partner and strategic,” says Debra Horsfield, the organization effectiveness practice leader for central Canada at management consulting firm Watson Wyatt.

The reason? The country will be short about one million workers by 2016, and nearly three million by 2026, forcing HR to spend more time figuring out how their companies can cope and still continue to grow, and providing “less servicing and hand-holding with the line people,” according to Maurice Dutrisac of Mastermind Solutions, a Toronto-based management consulting firm. “This structural shift can be disconcerting for line people who have always relied on HR for servicing on people issues.”

No wonder some Canadians perceive their workloads to be increasing. While 55% of employees say their workloads are reasonable, just 48% indicated they have the proper resources to do their jobs, according to Watson Wyatt’s research. The most recent survey of employee attitudes did not delve into this issue specifically, but it might have something to do with the changing role of the HR department.

“It’s not like organizations are going to allow their HR head count to grow,” says Phil Townsend, a partner in the performance management practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Toronto. “They’re going to have to find some way within the organization to delegate those tasks.”

Van Zorbas, a senior manager with Deloitte in Toronto, says the shift should be viewed in a positive context. “A manager has greater insight as opposed to more workload, so he or she can manage employees a little bit more closely,” he says. That’s particularly true when it comes to performance management and the hiring of new employees. “Managers need to get closer to their employees to help keep them, because they’re such important assets as the labour shortage comes on.”

When such large shifts in duties occur, corporations must ensure responsibilities are properly delegated. “In many organizations, it’s not really clear to managers that it is part of their job to manage people,” Horsfield says. Managers need to be trained and rewarded for these tasks, otherwise they will feel unfairly burdened.

A good manager should certainly know how to hire and interview appropriately, give feedback to employees and help groom them for higher positions within the company. “It’s HR’s job to provide the training for these things, not to actually do it,” Horsfield says. “And that’s where a disconnect can happen.”