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SLA Rule Perspectives & HR Service Delivery – Part One

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Today’s post is the first in a two (or more) part series.  In working with HR Service Center leaders, we are often called upon to assist in building HR metrics dashboards, which very often include Service Level Agreements (SLAs).  For anyone who isn’t familiar with the concept, an SLA is essentially a promise to your employees or customers that the HR Help Desk will resolve their issue in a defined time frame.  The HR Service Center team is then measured on their performance against this metric.  The time allowed for that resolution may be defined as an overall number or, usually, a variable number based on a combination of data elements, such as case type, location, priority, employee position, method of submission or other organization-specific items.

Kane Frisby, our Chief Strategy Officer, and I were discussing SLAs recently, and have found we have slightly different views on the way changes in SLA expectations could be handled by the organization.  We thought it would be an interesting exercise to share them here, and see where it takes us.  For the purpose of this discussion, we are taking the approach that the SLA is built on time to close a case.  (In truth, I think we both believe that in an HR Service Center response time is much more important than closure time, but that’s another post).

The question begins with an example of a change in target.  A case is submitted and tagged as a four hour SLA, meaning the HR Help Desk has four working hours to resolve the issue.  After two hours have elapsed, it is discovered the case has been incorrectly identified, and in truth should have been assigned as an eight hour SLA.  If this is corrected, how much time is remaining, six hours or four?

My approach is to look at time elapsed from the employee’s point of view, as they would be the customer of this process and, as we know, the customer always defines value.  So I am more interested in the remaining time to meet the expectation that has been set for that employee’s issue.  So I would respond that the remaining time would be six hours.  The incorrect assignment at the start of the case should be transparent to the employee.

This seems like an easy answer until you look at the situation in reverse.  If an eight hour SLA is assigned incorrectly, and after two hours it is discovered that the target should really have been four hours, how much time is left?  Two hours or four?  By the same logic, two hours would remain.  If the mistake was discovered after four hours, then the time remaining would be zero.

This is all based on the idea that your SLA targets should be logic driven.  Targets are defined through a combination of issue type, severity, and location, for example.  They should be objective, not subjective.  If this is true, then the problem with a changing target lies in the failure to correctly identify the target in the first place, not in the team’s execution.  Might this lead to missed targets, as in the second example?  Yes.  Is that fair to the team?  Perhaps.  But it certainly shows where the process of identifying the issue correctly and assigning the proper SLA up front is either working or needs to be reviewed.  With objective rules in place, the client/employee should know the target before they submit the issue, and therefore have their expectation set accordingly.  Hitting that target is the primary objective, and failure to do so because the target was misidentified is a great indicator that your identification process needs to be reviewed.

Want to read Kane’s take on another approach?  Check it out here!  I think you’ll find the topic is one that is worth discussion in your HR Shared Services team as well!

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