Here are suggestions that experts say should help you improve shared services.
Focus on customer satisfaction. When customers gripe or resist change, sometimes they have reasons that need to be addressed. But you won’t know what’s up without meaningful metrics that tap into their needs. “Let’s not just measure what’s easy; let’s measure what’s right,” says Dave Ulrich, a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. Some, such as the HR professionals at Gilead Sciences, do so.
“We survey the people who use our services—employees and managers— on the responsiveness, accuracy of the information provided, the courtesy of people and overall satisfaction with the transactions,” says Les Gill Sr., director of HR shared services. He wants 90 percent of the ratings to be “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” and has reached that target consistently for two years.
Sean Nelson, GPHR, SPHR, vice president of HR shared services for ACCO Brands, doesn’t use a typical satisfaction survey, but looks carefully at complaints.
Accenture, a large outsourcer with more than 30 clients who each employ 10,000 employees or more, regularly collects satisfaction data, says David Gartside, head of the HR Consulting Practice at Accenture in New York.
Select staff carefully and foster continuous feedback. Assess staff members to determine their potential and skill sets. Look at rotation programs. How committed are you to training and developing staffers for the centers of excellence, business partner and service center roles? Evaluate competencies, advises Dwaine Stevens, SPHR, Nissan’s senior manager of training and development in Smyrna, Tenn. “As roles change in-house, and with outsourcers and consultants in the picture, staff may need to become proficient in new skills.”
Support the service center. Help staff members solve their problems constructively. Business partners who intercede for customers may be contributing unnecessarily to noise in the system. “We teach our business partners the process of helping people to change,” Nelson says. “In the beginning, they help people by leading them by the hand. Then they show them the process, and finally, let them do it themselves.”
Encourage synergy. Expect HR professionals on three sides of the shared services triangle to work together. At Sunoco Inc., Jeff Zeleny, senior vice president and chief HR officer, sees the business partners and center of excellence experts working in tandem to serve the business units. “If there’s a labor issue, I hold the business partner and the centers of excellence labor expert responsible for the outcome.”
Expect business partners to rise to the task. Every day, there are crises that HR professionals have to deal with. That will never go away. But the business partner’s job is to “balance the urgent and the important,” Zeleny says. “I expect our business partners to handle daily problems and to sit at the table with their key clients. To have credibility with line executives, they’ve got to understand the business. And each business is different. What’s right for McDonald’s or GM may not be right for Sunoco.”