Does your HR shared services center need a local HR presence?
by Jolene Nicotina January 17 2019
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Setting up an HR shared service center (HRSSC) has many benefits. For one, it can help an organization be more efficient by centralizing and streamlining certain tasks. HRSSCs also play a big role in transforming the employee experience. With the right technology, this operating model allows HR to provide employees with the ease and immediacy they’ve come to expect in today’s service world.
When setting up an HRSSC, one thing to consider is whether to maintain a local HR presence, and if so, what the roles and responsibilities will be. Having local HR representation allows HR to be close to their customers so they can quickly detect and resolve issues on the ground. But in some cases, a local HR presence may not make sense for the business. During a PeopleDoc panel discussion moderated by Hélène Marguin, Senior Manager, Processing Payroll, Althea, global HRSSC leaders from Bureau Veritas and EDF share how they approached having local HR representation within their global shared services center.
Maintain an HR presence to detect problems
At Bureau Veritas, the workforce had increased from 5,000 employees in 1992 to 65,000 across 140 countries in 2013. This growth, which happened both organically and through acquisitions, was the driving force behind their decision to use an HR shared services operating model. They started by implementing a central HRIS alongside PeopleDoc's HR Service Delivery platform.
Within Bureau Veritas’ HRSSC, wherever there is an HR Business Partner present for a region, an HR Assistant is there to assess the temperature on the field. This role can quickly defuse potentially problematic situations. The HR Assistant is also responsible for the fundamental tasks that keep the organization running smoothly. Fernanda Ribeiro, VP HR, Operational Excellence and Organization, Bureau Veritas, says having this presence on-site is essential because, "We do not want to see an employee worry about his pay slip instead of the business." This is why, according to Fernanda, technology is a means to an end, not a total solution. An HRSSC doesn’t completely absolve the need for offline communication.
The lesson: Determine the scope of the HRSSC upfront as well as the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. According to Hélène, HR shared service center and local HR are not mutually exclusive terms. However, this approach requires proactive planning and coaching. When setting up an HRSSC, determine the scope of the center and its roles. Will it perform all transactional activities? Will it respond to employees "live" or set up digital communication channels? Will there be a local HR presence in every region, or only some? Once these questions are clarified, the work doesn’t stop there. With time, as roles change and secondary workflows are created, responsibilities can become unclear. Be sure to evaluate and update them regularly.
Redefine the role of managers
EDF’s HRSSC serves 66,000 employees. When they decided to set up the center, not all locations would have a local HR presence. This decision inevitably raised concern among department managers. They feared they would end up having to do the work of HR. They didn’t have the training to take on this responsibility—nor did they have the desire to. EDF needed to correct this perception among managers and assure them that their work wouldn’t be as involved as they thought.
They began by redefining and clearly affirming what managers were expected to do and provided adequate training. The second step was to ensure that the HRSSC translated to greater efficiency and, in reality, wouldn’t leave managers inundated with work.
For the first few years, EDF created a rich front office with wide times slots for office hours. They also created workflows for employee requests that came in by phone and email, and used the PeopleDoc HR Service Delivery platform to let employees independently find HR info in an employee knowledge portal. When employees need further help, the platform lets them digitally submit a request to HR. The number of phone requests declined the more PeopleDoc was used by employees. In 2015, there were 75,000 phone calls—by 2018, that number was reduced by more than half.
The lesson: According to Fabien Lerays, VP Customer Services EMEA, PeopleDoc, when there is change, there is fear. Not only among managers, but also employees who fear losing proximity to HR. For an HR shared services operating model to succeed, HR must adapt their messaging to the right audience, whether it be managers or employees. Once the project is launched, continue to reassure people. Communications should take an empathy-based approach that generates trust, even from a distance. From a technology perspective, look for platforms that allow you to personalize service for different employee types based on their role, location, work agreement, etc. This gives their experience a human touch, even when HR isn’t physically near.
Whether your HR shared services center has a local HR function or not, it all boils down to trust amongst employees and managers alike. According to Fernanda, “When setting up an HR shared services center, it is not a question of winning the trust of employees, but rather one of not losing it.”
Jolene Nicotina is the Content Marketing Manager for North America at PeopleDoc, Inc. She works on making sure HR professionals have all the latest information they need related to HR service delivery, HR technology, and PeopleDoc, Inc. Prior to PeopleDoc, Jolene worked in marketing communications for the healthcare technology industry.