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An important part of HR’s role is to provide various services to employees, managers, recruits, retirees and contractors.  In the “olden days”, HR generalists were jacks-of-all-trades – helping to fill out paperwork, ensure compliance with legal requirements, administer benefits programs, assist with recruiting and other talent management activities such as performance, compensation management, learning, etc.  HR practitioners became increasingly specialized at the same time that HR management was asked to address cost pressures.  Like their colleagues in Finance & Accounting, the HR practitioners put shared services centers in place, typically in locations where low-cost, skilled labor could be deployed.  Administrative tasks were handed off to these centers.  A tiered process was typically deployed to allow for initial triage and handling of routine issues and escalation of more complex ones.

As time went on, moving services to low-wage locations was not sufficient to continue to address cost pressures and meet service quality goals, so technology was increasing looked at to provide help.  Multiple communication channels were used to report issues – phone, email, tickets and faxes were the common ones. Call center technology was used to enable the ticketing, escalation and tracking of these issues and Service Level Agreements were put into place for accountability.  Document repositories were used to store employee handbooks, scripts, regulations and other information for the representative’s reference. Paper records needed to be accessible to representatives who might be deployed in various locations across the globe. Customer satisfaction was monitored using surveys.  As the routine tasks were mastered, increasingly complex business processes were moved under the umbrella of shared services. When self-service transactions and portals became more widely available, they were incorporated into the service delivery scheme as well.  These so-called Tier 0 services allow the employee or manager to answer their own questions, being directed to the shared services center only if they need additional help. Because of the way that service delivery evolved, the tools deployed were typically cobbled together to meet the needs as they arose:

  • Multiple channel enablement for communication with the center  – email, phone, fax, portal, self-service, chat, etc. ·
  • Ticketing – often using a system borrowed from IT
  • Documents and document repositories – Knowledge bases, employee policies and handbooks, benefits guides, paper files, procedural manuals ·        
  • The HR application (or applications) and its data
  • Customer surveys
  • Reporting – using spreadsheet tools such as Excel to pull in data from disparate systems and then PowerPoint or equivalent applications to present the information to management
  • Self-service applications, like Employee- and Manager Self-Service
  • Portals and content delivery, again pulling from multiple sources

Here is a picture of what this looks like, from the point of view of the representative who assists the employees and managers:

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Due to the nature of this hodgepodge of systems, a lot of effort and energy typically goes in to tying the systems together, developing manual procedures, providing multiple sign-on IDs and copying and pasting data all around, Shared services representatives need to be trained on all of these systems.  In addition to tracking the actual tickets, or cases, there is an operations management aspect to this work – someone has to figure out how best to staff the center and allocate the work on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, taking the cyclical nature of work into account.  And with reporting typically happening after the fact, shared services operations management has to rely on its staff’s intuition to detect trends or else wait until the end of the week or month. Tune in to my next blog later this week, where I will show you in detail what one of these typical cobbled-together systems looks like.  In the meantime, feel free to check out the E-Book for the Shared Service Framework for HR if you are interested. 

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