There has been a seismic shift in what executive leadership expects from HR regarding business strategy support, and HR leaders are doubling down on shared services to help them refocus their resources and put greater emphasis on delivering enhanced customer service and better talent strategies, initiatives, and programs.
At the same time, employees increasingly expect HR to deliver a consumer-grade experience similar to what they receive from leading brands, according to a recent research report.
Regardless of whether they are selling a product or a service, organisations rely on their employees to deliver a positive experience for their customers.
“Since the workforce plays a pivotal role in driving the success of the company, it logically follows that services should be delivered to employees in a similar fashion,” said Aon Hewitt’s Driving a Customer-Centric Employee Experience Through HR Shared Services report.
It found that, increasingly, organisations are recognising the need to innovate and deliver enhanced service to both their internal and external customers.
As a result, HR is seeking to deliver a consumer-grade experience in every interaction throughout the employee lifecycle.
“Yet many HR models are decentralised and siloed, leading to problems with scale, integration, and lack of consistency in delivery, process and supporting infrastructure,” it said.
“These barriers hinder organisations in their effort to deliver a frictionless experience.”
As a result, HR leaders often find themselves engaged in low-value activities, preventing them from serving as strategic advisors and drivers of growth and innovation.
“This is a clear indication that in-house-developed applications cannot provide the same level of functionality as leading case management solutions”
The global research report, which took in companies from the US, Asia, Europe, South America, Australia and Africa, found that routine transactions top the list of processes in scope for personnel administration and compliance, with nearly all companies using a shared services model to deliver employee lifecycle processing (96 per cent), employee personal data maintenance (95 per cent), and employment/salary verification (90 per cent).
A significant percentage (84 per cent) of companies are also employing shared services to handle new hire onboarding (coordination of the entire onboarding process across support functions from HR, to IT, to facilities, etc.).
Many organisations struggle in this area (resulting in a poor new hire experience) however, organisations that combine a shared services model with effective case management technology to coordinate across business support functions are finding that employees are able to get productive sooner.
A high percentage (84 per cent) of companies are also employing shared services to handle HRIS support, and this is likely being driven by the growth in SaaS human capital management (HCM) system adoption, as traditional IT roles and alignment for HRIS systems shift into HR.
Mark Souter, HR product sales lead for ServiceNow, said that while HR shared services have been in place for decades, the maturity of the service is still seen as a major area of development.
“HR shared services, HR helpdesks and ‘HR connect’-type services are still largely being managed with unsecure, unstructured tools, relying on generic email inboxes (for example, ‘AskHR@company.com.au’), telephone calls and MS Excel spreadsheets,” he said.
“Alternatively, they may be using software that is not dedicated to, or fit for, HR purpose, such as a customer service or IT service management tool.”
Souter said there is an opportunity for HR in this to continue to position themselves as not only a strategic part of the business, but also as a terrific service provider – not dissimilar to a customer service organisation.
“The great ‘employee experience’ that HR leaders and their executive team are looking to achieve, is built on a foundation of service: the right answers and support, from the right contact, using the communication channels people use outside of the workplace (like SMS, chat, IM, telephone calls and not solely email),” he said.
“Managing a transaction is quite different to offering and creating an interaction and experience”
The Aon Hewitt report also found there was a growing demand for full-function HR-specific case management systems to effectively track issue resolution and measure effectiveness of an HR shared services function.
In fact, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of companies have deployed such a solution.
Organisations that have not implemented rich portals and case management systems are more likely to report that they have failed to achieve the results they expected from deploying HR shared services.
“This is a clear indication that in-house-developed applications cannot provide the same level of functionality as leading case management solutions, resulting in difficulties in meeting delivery capability goals and cost objectives,” the report said.
Souter suggested that if an HR practitioner has their day-to-day activity primarily driven by an email inbox, with tactical “issue/response” inquiries, they probably aren’t fully operating at the strategic level they aspire to, or the business requires of them.
Another gap can often be found in trying to use a HCM or HRIS system/s that manage(s) talent programs, transactions and multiple records of references (HR and non-HR alike), to deliver HR services.
“Managing a transaction is quite different to offering and creating an interaction and experience,” said Souter.
“It’s the interaction beforehand with people, which ultimately creates and sets the transaction.
“HCMs are great for talent and recruitment management and HR core records of reference. “HR service delivery is great for creating and managing the interactions and workplace (not just HR) employee service experiences, just as we see in a fantastic customer service experience.”
Souter said HR is managing these employee interactions typically through multiple emails, telephone calls and MS Excel.
“A great enabling technology experience is about the right tool or interface finding someone – not someone having to find the right tool(s),” he said.
“Avoid the ‘black hole’ of a generic email inbox and other unstructured ways to deliver service”
There are a number of drivers for implementing a HR shared services model, which include a blend of bankable and non-bankable benefits which ultimately allow the right HR roles to focus on the areas that count for the business they are absolutely part of.
“The drivers include efficiencies around a hard-dollar cost of HR services, making it #EasyForEmployees to access HR assistance and the scalability of the HR organisation,” said Souter.
Auckland Council, which employs some 11,000 workers, moved from an HR culture absent of a holistic process view which lacked ownership and accountability, to a tiered HR shared service model.
After a 12 week implementation of ServiceNow, Auckland Council achieved a 93 per cent SLA achievement, 55 per cent of cases closed on the first attempt and 76 per cent of cases becoming self-service transactions, while employee satisfaction rates increased from 36 per cent to 94 per cent.
For organisations looking to undertake a similar journey, Souter said HR leaders should apply a true customer service lens to HR service.
“Offer your internal customers transparency and a personalised contextual experience on who is looking after the request, a real-time status of such and guide them through their ‘moment that matters’,” he said.
“Avoid the ‘black hole’ of a generic email inbox and other unstructured ways to deliver service.
“Ensure the HR team who are providing the HR service have a great experience too, by offering them simple and easy ways to understand the history of their internal customers’ other interactions with HR, to avoid the answer-shopping that can arise from employees and managers.”
It is also important to measure the cost of HR service provided, by different channels and how that cost is being reduced and the improvements in service levels offered.
“Only offer access to specific policies/knowledge bases that are easy to find and relevant to the employee’s job, location and place in the organisation,” he said.
“Survey and track the feedback and responses from the interactions the shared services team receive and then use that message to create excellent PR for HR, illustrating how HR is truly strategic and offers an amazing employee service experience.
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