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Author's profile photo Andrew Labute


No one should undervalue the importance of Dave Ulrich’s studies when discussing the evolution of the Human Resource function. Thousands of companies worldwide have acknowledged and adopted the now famous three Pillar Model, which organized HR into the client facing HR business partners [HRBPs], the process re-thinkers in the Center of Excellences [CoE] and the Shared Service Centers [SSC] to gain global scalability and effectiveness.

Without taking any hoorays away from this great model, reality (as well as technology) advanced and – honestly said – Dave’s classical model was outpaced by practice – the traditional separation of roles is no longer state of the art!

In my opinion here is why: The Business Partners picked up more services, as their clients were expecting an increased and strategic service level, the CoE think tanks took over operational work, while the SSC integrated consultative Services and tasks which require more cross-functional collaboration across all HR. This called for a revised HR Operating Model to keep customer satisfaction high while handling sophisticated and intricate issues noiselessly for the clients.

The problem statement could be framed like this: While we in HR are faced with complex, distinct and highly personal problems we need to shield our clients from this complexity and at the same time we cannot ignore the “H” in HR. Apple (some also say Leonardo Da Vinci) said: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. In the spirit of a true service function, our consumers should simply not be bothered by what it takes to deliver a service or answer. It should all just be done – magically, seamlessly, fast and with a human touch. Needless to say, that all of this change must not interrupt our operations – anytime. That is why SAP HR began the HR Run Simple program and part of that was the creation of the HR Advisor role.

When I joined this change journey in 2016 the new HR Advisor role had just been designed, and discussions were just beginning around implementing the role within SAP Global HR Service Delivery. They were positioned as a virtual, personal, geographically agnostic and immediate interaction channel for first- and mid-level leaders. If a case can’t be solved via Self-Serve or Service request and if it requires collaboration between several functions in Human Resources or a consultative service then the case is forwarded to the HR Advisors team. So that managers don’t feel like they are just a “number”, the HR Advisors always reach out directly to our consumer via Skype and Webcam to steer them through the process towards a solution, discussion or answer. From that point on, the consumer will just have this one point of contact for this case. While in the background the HR Advisors partner with all functions in Human Resources to solve the issue.

We tested the new HR Advisor model in Canada, as it is predominantly English speaking, all Board Areas are represented, and its size was manageable. Next were the Nordics, to see if and how we can support multiple countries. It was followed by Brazil to understand the effects of non-native-English speaking managers and then UK-Ireland to increase volume and check for scalability. Last but not least was Greater China to test the model on a large consumer base which was also non-native-English speaking. It is an exciting journey to be a part of and lead as the Global Head of the HR Advisors. Initial pulse checks proof us to be on the right track. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is at an impressive 9.5 YTD, while our Net Promoter Score (NPS) is at a stunning 86.6 YTD. Surely we cannot claim success just yet, or become complacent with what we have achieved: We will continue to drive adoption of the Model, increase our Service Level, evaluate what works and what doesn’t. As with the implement of any large-scale model like this the final test will come in a few years from now, when we can claim that the new operating model has become a part of how we do business in HR at SAP.

For the record, I am so proud of my global team of HR Advisors, who I am fortunate to lead: Jessica O’Neill, Yvonne Fandert, Beng (Maria Venessa) Masangcay, Stefanie Fischer, Clara Hong, Eva Jiang, Ivy Low, Shipra Chaudhary, Junko Takahashi, Yongli Zheng, Iben Birch Jensen, Tanja Cramer, Karl-Heinz Obert, Annette Ferdinand, Catalina Popovici, Antoine Zschunke, Anna Khapilova, Stefania Schiavello, Cordula Prien, Monica Williams, Tara Rupacz, Joao Machado, Lynnette Suzadail, Andrea Cheng, Jenny Páze Castillo

We Deliver HR Services to People

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