26 - On the Future of HR Shared Services, a conversation with Emma Leonis
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In this episode, Benoit Hardy-Vallee talks with Emma Leonis, Executive Director of HR Transformation at LACE Partners. She leads LACE’s thought leadership into the future of HR service delivery and operating models, with recent reports including ‘The Future of HR Shared Services: Becoming People Experience and Solutions Experts’ and ‘HR on the Offensive’.
Even before the pandemic, the role of HR and the importance of people really came to the forefront at the C-suite level. COVID accelerated change beyond belief
HR shared services: A lot of HR functions will be structured around the traditional Ulrich model, with Centres of Excellence, HR Business Partners (providing the day-to-day strategic advice to the business leaders) and shared service teams, traditionally an administrative role - data management, document management, query management, issue resolution for employees and line managers.
With digital technology evolving and increasing in its capabilities, particularly over the past few years (not just from a core HCM platform side, but also from the service delivery elements), the way you interact on a day-to-day basis has been evolving, and that has enabled, according to Emma, different ways of working within shared services.
This evolution started to challenge some of the traditional perceptions around what the role of shared services. Yes, shared services have an administrative position, but as we want to evolve the overall objectives of our HR function, we want to step up more. We want to be at the centre of driving value and driving change in business. That means we need to look at what we do and how we do it. And therefore, with digital, enabling new ways of working as well, it does pose a fascinating question, which is what should the role.
Lace Partners spoke to 25 different organizations from 1500 employees all the way up to multiple thousands across multiple geographies and industries.
If HR is evolving and becoming more strategic, what about the "administrative" part of HR? The role of Shared Services can develop through using digital, freeing up capacity to do certain things within the shared service team that enabled them to take on more roles than some of the specialist teams or even the business partners were doing.
Some organizations in the research had started to build what we've called in the report the people manager advisory team. On a day-to-day basis, these teams provide more strategic support, including information related to grievances and disciplinary actions. For instance, coaching brand new line managers - understanding what they need to do. In some organizations that might be the role of a business partner, there's no right or wrong approach
That was a relatively new capability and a mature capability in some of the organizations in the research. And then others looked at the skills required.
If you don't have the budget to invest in those things, what can you optimize? How can you evolve some of the critical skills needed to start challenging the status quo? It is difficult to change behaviours and mindsets, not necessarily just skills. Still, the challenge comes in finding individuals who really can put themselves in the shoes of the person they're speaking to.
We also need individuals who are curious because there's always a different way of doing something. We know change is constant, and the HR function needs to embrace change and ambiguity, people willing to learn, bring the outside in, and ask, why are we doing this? Sometimes that individual doesn't come from a traditional HR background -they might come from customer services or contact centres.
What about the differences between the HR business partners and the Shared Services? We have heard about the strategic HRBP for years, and many are. Still, we should be rebranding the role as a people consultant- consulting on the people plan, the required solutions, and then getting others to help deliver that—the workforce plan, talent and succession planning, managing organizational transitions and people insights. Not too many are needed - everything else could either be delivered by specialists (COE) or shared service teams. They should become people experience and solutions experts since you have strategic business partners already. A shared service leader will want to break down some of the silos with the legacy specialist teams or COE; They deliver outstanding solutions, but they tend to act in silos and might not have things as quickly as required to meet the business needs then.
If you evolve the role of shared services, they can drive the people to experience because they are the day-to-day face of transactions.
In some organizations, talent acquisition teams sit within a shared service function because they're starting to break down those silos
Any shared function has to be cost-effective – it is a given expectation. But with new expectations come new metrics. Nearly 70% of organizations said they did have a formal performance dashboard and KPIs (quality, time to hire, call abandonment rate, payroll accuracy). Just under half of the organizations had employee experience measures, plus their operational effectiveness measures. Many organizations will use the net promoter score.
With the pandemics, shared services teams had to rethink some of the processes, for example, that they might be supporting around onboarding. It's a complex process to get everyone to come together around.
Some organizations picked out onboarding as an example of a "make or break" from a shared service side and HR as a function overall. Those that have done it well (flipping everything to virtual and changing some of the processes in onboarding) have found that what made it successful is that everyone came together across functions. This highlights that employee experience is not just the remit of HR – every part of an organization impacts someone's experience and onboarding.
The perception of shared services changed because of the number of things those teams have been dealing with – technology, remote work, etc.
Ultimately, a successful shared service must be based upon understanding human intervention. You can digitize, but when someone is in need, all they want to do is speak to someone. From a cost-effective side, you can't have high touch for everything; but being clear on where those critical moments for that human interaction are and making things feel personal, but equally not personalizing them to the nth degree.
This is an opportunity to understand what is it that makes the difference— it's probably only a handful of things, and if we get them right, the world is your oyster
It will be a balance of personalization through innovative technologies to figure out what to do and solve problems faster, and personalization in the sense of speaking to a person who can solve your issues.