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What does it mean to be a Service-led HR function?

Updated: Feb 15

service-led HR Function working image

Talking with HR colleagues and customers of HR more generally, we often ask ourselves why HR has not evolved as quickly as we had hoped and expected. With all the expectations of enabling a more strategic function and delivering better insights made by Cloud technology vendors over the last 10 years, we all anticipated a much more significant shift in how we operate and interact with our business colleagues. Common explanations for the gap in what was expected and what was actually achieved are often quoted as:

  • We implemented technology but did not take the business on the journey.

  • We implemented technology but that does not address the offline activities which are still causing all the headaches they did before.

  • We implemented technology but the user experience is not consistent, and our customers don’t like the look and feel.

  • We implemented technology but have not changed our operating model to make the most of it.

  • We have not standardised our policies and processes so find it hard to optimise our technology and ways of working.

  • We’ve run out of energy and money!

Perhaps the reason does not lie in the capability of the tech, but more likely in the cultural aspects of change.

Maybe the lack of real transformation is down to one or many of these factors. Yet, knowing what can be achieved through modern technology leads me to believe that the reason does not lie in the capability of the tech, but more likely in the cultural aspects of change. And many would rightfully point out that this suggestion is not that insightful, as most HR teams start their transformation acknowledging that ‘change is the single most important thing’. So, what is causing us to start out with the best intentions and end up without seeing those delivered?

Veran have been using the SaaS Mindset™ to break down cultural change into tangible parts, with features and characteristics that can be understood, progressed and measured. Our research has shown that most organisations feel that of the 6 pillars, the one that would make the single biggest impact on cultural change is being a ‘service-led’ function.

What does service-led actually mean?

Well as you would expect... as with any good service it starts with the needs and emotions of the customer! This means asking your business colleagues for feedback, suggestions, and honest and detailed insight into their pain points. It requires us, as HR professionals, to take the time to really understand how and when our customers need to be serviced and more importantly, how the service provided by HR makes them and their teams better and more productive.

It is not enough to 'enable and improve' 70% of a process

It also requires us to understand the end-to-end steps required to deliver the service. It is not enough to ‘enable and improve’ 70% of a process – the remaining 30% could be so clunky and frustrating that it just makes the rest feel the same. The number of times I hear ‘the system is rubbish - we have to do a load of stuff in Excel still’… because the transformation ONLY enabled 70% of the end-to-end processes. We need to be a little bit braver and tackle the hard stuff. This is an interesting challenge, as it does not fit with the industry ‘norm’ of bringing in a technology vendor and their implementation team to define the work, as they will often just focus on the bits delivered in the specific tech solution.

In addition, embedding a service-led mindset requires clear rules of engagement between HR and the business. Irrespective of the level of service your business needs, be that light-touch or white glove, the roles, responsibilities and boundaries of service need to be established and upheld. Customers of HR will appreciate a service-led function so much more if they understand exactly what they are getting, how they get it and what they need to do when they get stuck. Many HR teams are inundated with ad hoc ‘stuff’ that they find hard to manage and control. Establishing a clear service culture, which reflects good customer practices and standardised processes where possible, will embed some of the behaviours and disciplines required to enable cultural change.

Cultural change is often seen as intangible and put in the ‘too hard’ box. But breaking it down into tangible objectives and actions gets us off the starting blocks and shifting the hearts and minds of colleagues across the business. If we fail to bring about the necessary behavioural and cultural change, we will continue to struggle seeing the true potential of HR and the strategic value it can deliver. Thinking about HR ‘as a service’ could be the key to unlocking some of the traditional blockers to cultural change. It’s probably no coincidence that so many HR colleagues have voted this the #1 contender to bring about cultural change!

For more information about Veran’s SaaS Mindset™ and how to action tangible cultural change, click here to arrange a 20-minute chat with one of our consultants.


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