Devolving to the line – How do people managers really enact HR?


This project will investigate the devolvement of human resource management (HRM) to the line. The devolvement of HRM to the line refers to how HR departments are delegating certain HR responsibilities to line managers. Experiences of line managers in performing their HRM responsibilities and the complex people management challenges they encounter will be gathered.

In doing so, the study addresses calls from scholars and practitioners for a greater understanding of line manager decision-making when implementing HRM practices and their need for support and development to better perform their role.

Specifically, the project will examine the experiences of managers “in the lower echelons of the management hierarchy with immediate responsibility for their subordinates’ work and performance” (Purcell and Hutchinson, 2007: 4). This is because of their closer proximity to workers than senior managers.

The project is funded by the CIPD – The Professor Mick Marchington Research Grant.

Research overview

Rich in-depth data from semi-structured interviews will provide novel insight into the role of line managers and the context factors shaping their experiences within the broader work and employment system in which they operate. Specifically, the project will focus on two sectors - financial services and manufacturing.

The project has three main research objectives:

  • To understand how line managers experience the devolvement of HRM to the line, including the challenges they face when implementing specific HR practices
  • To explore how line managers are supported and developed in their people management role
  • To identify practice implications.

Publications and outputs

  • 2023 CIPD Annual Conference Evidence Lab Speaker "Devolving to the line’ – How do people managers really enact HR?' 

Contact: Dr Emma Hughes