Keys to great HR Shared Services

I’ve been lucky enough to work with two different organizations during the formation of their HR Shared Services team.  I’ve gotten to see what works and what doesn’t.  Since we at Dovetail are nothing if not sharing individuals, I though it worth reflecting on those lessons.


What Works


The biggest key to a successful implementation, not to mention ongoing operation, is to build the HR Shared Services team out of existing HR personnel wherever possible.  This serves a couple of purposes.  First, it keeps your organizational knowledge and experience on the team.  Unless you have found a way to translate your tribal knowledge into a robust, searchable knowledge base, all that information could walk out the door.  Second, it helps you avoid the perception that the only reason to move to an HR shared services model is to cut headcount and only hire inexperienced and inexpensive call takers.  Even if this is far from the truth, just the perception can reduce buy-in from the organization.  Keeping your team intact is important, especially while you are transitioning to a new operating model.


It is also a great idea to dedicate a person or team to oversee HR technology, especially as it applies to the team.  There will be a myriad of options, some of which will be new and dynamic.  Not having ownership of the systems will put you at risk of failing to take full advantage of your investment, missing critical updates, and a weak partnership with the vendor teams.  We work in the space, and often know it as well as anyone else you might talk to.  We love serving as a resource, and having a primary contact who knows the details of your technology platform will go a long way in keep the relationship strong.


What Doesn’t Work


Aside from the obvious mirror image activities of the items above, there are a few tips I’ve learned from watching others try (and fail) to implement HR Shared Services.


One of the least successful attempts involved pushing the “tier one” work to a call center, but without taking the time to educate that team on the major initiatives taking place in the organization.  The HR Shared Services team was seen as a group of call takers, not part of the overall functional structure.  Those team members were quickly disillusioned and disengaged, leading to high turnover and poor service.  By making them part of the plan and the long term solution, especially by way of succession planning and a career path, you can turn that team into a deep, robust talent pool.


Also, trying to staff an HR Shared Service group with call takers bereft of HR experience is a recipe for disaster.  That team will become, by design of course, the first stop for any employee with needs.   Aside from policy and guideline answers, they need to have the knowledge to be able to make decisions on the fly and provide great service to your employees.


While handling these issues won’t guarantee success, your odds of building an effective team are greatly enhanced by making sure you have the right tools, the right team and the right mindset when putting it together.


Have other tips?  Feel free to leave thoughts in the comments! 

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