Today, anything we want or need—movies, food, car rides, information—is available to us within seconds, without having to think twice about the process behind it. But when we walk into work that level of service is noticeably absent. 

For employees, finding HR-related information, such as the PTO policy that applies to their location, is nowhere near as easy as Googling an answer. Submitting a request, such as a department transfer, can take weeks for a resolution—and often requires a lot of manual steps, like printing, signing, scanning and emailing forms.

The result? Employees spend less time on the work they were hired to do and HR spends more time on the work they weren’t hired to do—the admin “stuff”.

This disconnect between the service we experience in our personal lives and the service we experience at work has major implications for the employee experience and a company’s bottom line, which is why many organizations are realizing the value of investing in HR Service Delivery.

What is HR Service Delivery?

HR Service Delivery is the practice of providing employees with the information and assistance they need to navigate their journey at your company—from application to departure and all the points in between. But don’t let the term employee confuse you. HR Service Delivery encompasses the interactions HR has with its entire workforce—managers, contractors, freelancers, candidates, and even alumni. 

Across the entire function, HR provides a wide array of services to the organization. Some of the most common are:

  • Payroll processing and benefits administration

  • Payroll processing and benefits administration

  • Talent acquisition and retention

  • Career development

  • Employee file management and compliance

  • Pre-boarding, onboarding, cross-boarding, and off-boarding

  • Hiring and retirement

  • Relocation

  • Promotions and transfers

  • Parental leave and adoption

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Verification of employment

  • Sick leave and FMLA

These services must be delivered to large, distributed employee groups and the exact way in which HR approaches this task is based on their HR Service Delivery model.

Different Types of HR Service Delivery Models

There are three main types of HR Service Delivery models:

Traditional HR Service Delivery model
The traditional model is where a central, generalist HR staff provides some key services and handles the needs of line managers, employees, and senior staff. In some cases, there may be divisions based on department or employee level. This is the most common type of HR Service Delivery model, especially in smaller organizations or ones with a more centralized workforce.


HR shared services model

The HR shared services model (also known as a centralized HR service delivery model) involves three components: 

  • HR shared services

  • HR business partners

  • HR centers of excellence (or expertise)


In this model, a centralized team—HR shared services—is the first point of contact for employee and manager requests. This group manages the processes and transactions associated with those requests, which relieves HR business partners from having to spend time on administrative work.

HR business partners are strategic HR generalists embedded in the business units. They work directly with senior management on tasks that affect the bottom line, such as succession plans or compensation programs. In organizations with very efficient HR shared services, HR business partners have more bandwidth to act as a consultant to their business unit, advising leaders on matters such as workforce planning or mergers and acquisitions.

When an employee or manager encounters a case that’s too complex for HR shared services, it gets escalated to centers of excellence (COEs). COEs are composed of highly skilled specialists focusing on areas such as talent, performance, learning, benefits, and compensation.

COEs are primarily responsible for developing HR programs and policies, and they work hand-in-hand with HR shared services to ensure they’re executed and supported. Similar to the relationship between HR shared services and HR business partners, the more administrative work that can shift to HR shared services, the more time COEs have for strategic work.

Four-tier HR shared services model

The four-tier HR shared services model takes efficiency even further by adding a self-service layer. Employees and managers have access to a knowledgebase that lets them search for information and policies on their own, without having to contact anyone from HR shared services. This is known as Tier 0 support.
If employees don’t find what they need on their own, they can submit a case, which then gets routed to the appropriate HR representative—Tier 1 support. If the issue calls for more skilled or specialized knowledge, the HR representative escalates the request to Tier 2 support.

Tier 3 support is reserved for those cases (e.g., employee relations) that require face-to-face interaction, usually with an HR Case Manager or HR Business Partner.

This model is increasingly gaining traction because it allows HR to substantially scale their service delivery. Adding Tier 0 support reduces the amount of phone calls and emails to HR regarding routine questions. According to Gartner, a well-implemented Tier 0 knowledgebase enables employees to solve their own questions anywhere from 40%–70% of the time. This frees up HR to provide high-touch support for the situations where it’s most needed.

Components of Effective HR Service Delivery

Many of the same elements that create a great customer service experience also contribute to a great employee experience. When thinking about how to provide exceptional employee service, consider how your organization treats its most valued customers. Consumer-grade HR Service Delivery requires these elements:

  • Fast response and resolution times: Employees shouldn’t have to wait days for an answer to their question or for their request to be resolved. Especially in the age of Google and Siri, immediacy matters. 

  • Self-service: Most employees don’t want to call HR when they have a simple question. They prefer to access information independently when it’s most convenient for them, which isn’t always during typical office hours.

  • Omnichannel support: Employees expect to get HR help no matter where they are or when they need it. This means support should be available to them whether they’re in the office or at home, on their desktop or cell phone, in the same time zone as headquarters, or on the other side of the world.

  • Transparency: When you order an item online, you almost always get a confirmation it was received and a tracking number to follow your package’s whereabouts. Employees expect the same transparency when they submit an HR request.

  • Personalization: Think about how Uber knows your exact location, or how Netflix suggests shows that perfectly match your interests. HR can provide this kind of personalization to employees by presenting them with only the information and resources relevant to their unique identity (i.e., their employment status, location, tenure, role, etc.).

HR Service Delivery Objectives and KPIs

For many organizations, the first encounter new employees have outside of recruiting is with HR Service Delivery, so it’s critical that this function provides an exceptional employee experience across all touchpoints. But how can HR know whether the experience they deliver is a good one?


As with any business function, reporting and metrics are key to improving both HR service quality and operational efficiency. Some common key performance indicators for HR Service Delivery teams include:


  • Case volume or number of requests received: The overall number of requests HR receives can indicate whether Tier 0 support is effective. If this number remains steady or increases after implementing an employee knowledgebase, it could mean that the articles aren’t addressing the right topics, or not addressing them thoroughly.

  • Average Response Time: Monitoring and improving HR’s response time is important because employees want to feel that their request is acknowledged. It’s the equivalent to receiving an order confirmation.

  • Average Resolution Time or Closing Rate: This KPI tracks how fast HR resolves employee issues. Resolution time matters because when issues linger for long periods of time, it sends the message that questions to HR fall into some sort of black hole.

  • Adherence to SLA: Many organizations establish a service level agreement (SLA), which is an agreed-upon timeframe in which HR promises to either respond to or resolve an employee request.

Looking at the most viewed knowledgebase articles can also tell you what employees are most concerned with and help you identify areas at risk. What’s more, HR Service Delivery analytics also allow you to evaluate the efficiency of your HR operations. Data that answers questions such as, How much time do employees take to sign a document? or Did we meet our SLAs?, can identify process bottlenecks and give insight into your HR team’s performance.


Technology That Supports Modern HR Service Delivery

Sure, HR can get by servicing employees through email distribution groups, toll-free numbers and a homegrown employee portal, but it’s the bare minimum when it comes to meeting employee expectations today. Technology designed specifically for HR Service Delivery gives employees a modern, personalized experience while preventing HR from getting mired in administrative work.


According to Gartner, “Integrated HR service delivery (IHRSD) solutions provide a holistic platform for organizations to manage their HR shared-service operations and communications while delivering ‘content in context’ to employees and managers.”


The key capabilities of HR Service Delivery or HR Service Management technology (they’re the same thing) typically include:


  1. Employee file management (sometimes referred to as HR document management): To resolve employee questions, HR Service Delivery teams need up-to-date employee records at the ready. But often, these records are stored in filing cabinets or scattered across different systems.

    Employee file management solutions store digital employee documents in one central place. This makes it easier for distributed or remote HR teams to quickly access the information they need. It also ensures that all employee files are complete, up-to-date and in compliance.

  2. Employee case management (sometimes referred to as HR case management): This technology provides a way for employees to submit requests or forms, which are then automatically routed to the right HR agent. It includes a knowledgebase as a way for employees to self-serve, thereby reducing the number of inquiries received by HR.

    The knowledgebase works hand-in-hand with the case management system. When an employee searches for an article in the knowledgebase, suggested forms or next steps are presented in the same view. Once a case is opened, any new documentation that gets created along the way automatically goes into the employee file management system.

  3. Process automation: Employee case management tools use process automation technology to route employee requests to the right HR contact. For example, an employee might have a request regarding payroll, and by submitting a form, the ticket is sent straight to the payroll specialist.

    Process automation also streamlines workflows. In the example above, the completed form can be configured to automatically trigger a process. A series of tasks is generated and each person who needs to complete an action is notified. Process automation can help HR manage an array of employee needs, from routine forms to more complex, open-ended questions.

  4. Analytics and reporting: HR Service Delivery teams have a wealth of insight into the topics employees are most concerned with. HR Service Delivery platforms make it easy to collect, track and analyze this data so that HR can better understand where they need to dedicate resources and how they can improve their internal operations. Every HR function generates some kind of data, and HR Service Delivery analytics can add depth and perspective to your overall people analytics strategy.

Common Use Cases for HR Service Delivery Technology

HR Service Delivery technology supports and streamlines a litany of employee transactions, which can often tie back to broader organizational objectives. Improving HR operations ultimately contributes to the following business goals:


  • Ensure global compliance: When employee files are digital and housed in an employee file management system that flags missing or expiring documents, it’s much easier for HR to stay on top of compliance and avoid any fines for failed audits. This is especially true for companies with employees in different geographic locations with different laws and regulations.

  • Implement a shared service center: Large, global companies often turn to these models as a way to make the most of their resources and free up time for local HR leaders. HR Service Delivery platforms makes a shared service center operational.

  • Ease a merger or acquisition: Bridging separate HR functions, re-onboarding thousands of employees, and responding to an avalanche of questions and concerns are all reasons why a company going through an M&A may need to streamline HR Service Delivery.

  • Support business continuity planning: Natural disasters and a global pandemic have proved just how critical it is for any business function to perform remotely. Moving vital employee documents and processes to the cloud ensures HR can provide uninterrupted employee service even when they can’t get to the office.

  • Improve employee experience: While every HR function sets out to help people, HR Service Delivery is the only one that spans the entire employee lifecycle, from pre-boarding to off-boarding, and every point in between. This team is the first line of defense when an employee or a manager needs anything, which is why improving HR Service Delivery impacts the entire employee experience.

  • Service remote or deskless workers: Most companies today have a mix of in-office and remote employees, and many industries have employees who don’t work at a desk or require a company-issued laptop. These employees should receive the same level of service and access to HR that 9-5 office workers receive. HR Service Delivery technology makes that possible.

  • Scale for growth: As fast-growing companies scale, it can be challenging to maintain the appealing aspects of start-up culture. HR Service Delivery technology ensures that HR can provide high-quality service even as their workforce expands and business needs change.



As the HR function grows more complex due to COVID-19, digitization and globalization, managing day-to-day requests and questions from employees can become a full-time job. This holds HR back from more meaningful employee interactions and leaves employees, who often must wait hours or days for a resolution, with little visibility into what's happening. Improving HR Service Delivery transforms the day-to-day experience for both HR and employees, resulting in a happy, productive and engaged workforce.

Considering technology to bolster your HR Service Delivery?

Get Gartner’s take on the vendor landscape in their 2020 Market Guide for Integrated HR Service Management Solutions.