What Is HR Service Delivery and How Is It Evolving?

Improving the employee experience is a major priority for business leaders, and central to that is how employees receive their services. As the global workplace continues to evolve, HR service delivery must evolve alongside it.

The gap between home and work life is closing. According to recent research from Gartner, up to 81% of employees who are able to work remotely or in a hybrid situation will choose to do so—signaling that a fundamental shift in how businesses deliver benefits, equipment, and resources has become necessary. Not only that, but employees have come to expect more from their human resources (HR) solutions, no longer accepting the divide between consumer-grade technology and workplace systems and interfaces. If their personal apps and devices feel tailored to their needs, why can’t they have the same smooth experience at work?

Despite this shift in expectations, HR service delivery still lags behind. Leapgen’s 2022 Digital Experience Delivery Practices Survey (found in this white paper) shows that only about 15% of enterprise and midsize organizations consistently deliver personalized digital experiences. Worse, only 25% of survey respondents indicated they were able to provide positive experiences through their company portal. Employees struggle to know where to ask basic questions, while HR teams struggle under the weight of tickets and requests. 

When HR service delivery is at its best, it’s seamless. Whether with everyday moments such as taking paid time off and connecting with mentors or more significant moments such as performance reviews and job changes, HR service delivery is the mechanism by which employees navigate their work life. Without a personalized service delivery model that enables hyper-personalization, employee experience suffers. 

In this article we’ll define HR service delivery, explore the different service models a company may use, and explain how analytics and personalization improve the employee service experience. By the end, not only will you have a strong working overview of the changes service delivery is facing, you’ll understand where your business can optimize its own strategy around services, reduce case management load, and modernize outdated HR architecture.

What Is HR Service Delivery? 

When we see acronyms such as HRSD (human resources service delivery) and HRIS (human resources information system), it can sometimes be difficult to decode and clarify a shared meaning. Fortunately the term “HR service delivery” contains its own definition. Let’s lay it out clearly.

HR service delivery definition: The solutions, processes, and models used to deliver HR services to employees, including everything from payroll to career advice. These services support the entire employee life cycle from onboarding to exit, as well as contractors, freelancers, and prospective candidates.

Every employee from senior management to a new hire will be affected by your company’s service delivery—likely every day. Regardless of the technology or management system your business has implemented, it’s essential to evaluate the success of your approach to HR service. And the best way to properly assess the services you provide is to understand the four most significant service delivery models. 

What Are Examples of an HR Service Delivery Model? 

Initially, HR services were solely delivered through an in-person, open-door policy. If an employee had a request, they’d speak directly to their HR person. Similarly, paperwork would have been distributed around the building straight into the hands or onto the desks of employees. But in the modern workplace, these integral in-person roles have been supplemented by new ways of working.

HR service delivery is the mechanism by which employees navigate their work life.

There are four major models of HR service delivery. Which model makes the most sense for your company will depend on the scale of your organization, your digital strategy, and what case management system you currently have in place. Assess your existing employee experience, and then use that analysis to match your needs to a service model. 

  1. Traditional service delivery. Historically it has been the responsibility of the HR department to deliver services directly. In the traditional model, a team of generalized HR operationalists manage the day-to-day HR needs of the company at a micro and macro level, while also overseeing services such as payroll, employee benefits, and sick leave. Likewise, HR services are generally regionalized, meaning a local HR generalist will support their regional worker population. This is still common at smaller companies. 

  2. Shared service delivery. Centering on an HR-shared service center—a diversified team of HR generalists and HR specialists—the shared service model splits HR tasks by branch. By separating operational, strategic, and administrative responsibilities, each team member is able to develop more nuanced expertise and optimize their processes. In this model, HR team members are generally centralized in a single location.

  3. Self-service delivery. The self-service delivery model cuts out the intermediary. Employees and managers have the freedom to access resources when needed, either through the company intranet, a dedicated chatbot, or digital journeys that adapt to meet each employee’s needs. In doing so, simple requests no longer require employees to wait for a response or an HR team member to wade through requests, though there will always be a mechanism for additional support if self-service isn’t applicable. 

  4. Tiered service delivery. Essentially fusing HR shared service with self-service, tiered service delivery creates multiple levels of service options. As requests pass through each tier, the experience becomes increasingly personalized, ensuring that HR specialists are only required for requests that can’t be handled automatically. This is most common at enterprise companies.

Tiered Service Delivery: Levels of Personalization

With the prevalence of machine learning in search engines and the efficiency of digital personal assistants, employees are used to getting the information they need easily—and quickly. However, according to a survey from Sapient Insights Group, the average business now deploys just over 16 HR solutions. That’s the opposite of a seamless employee experience. 

A tiered service delivery option supports employees by directing them to the right resources, information, and support for their request. Each tier provides the right level of support depending on the nature and complexity of their request, ensuring the minimum amount of friction in the process and improving the case management experience for HR. The quality of that journey is critical to employee satisfaction with your organizational processes. Next, we’ll run through the most common tier system model.  

  • Tier 0: self-service. This represents the first port of call for employees, where they consult the company knowledge base and virtual agents. As service delivery technology evolves into the cloud era, what was once Tier 1 is now Tier 0. That’s because increasingly complex requests are possible with the assistance of artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide more contextual and insightful self-service responses.

  • Tier 1: contact HR service center. After self-service options have been ruled out, the next step is to enable employees to communicate with someone from the HR service center. Usually this will be an HR generalist, and most cases will result in a first-contact solution. If the request isn’t resolved, the HR team member is well positioned to escalate the issue. 

  • Tier 2: escalate to HR specialist. If the request requires specific expertise or compliance checks, it will typically be forwarded to an HR specialist. Usually these requests will involve extenuating circumstances or require specific actions that only an HR specialist has the permissions or business skills to complete. 

  • Tier 3: meet with HR management. ​​If a request could impact HR strategy or would best be handled through face-to-face interaction (such as a request centering on a sensitive issue or a time-sensitive emergency), sometimes a meeting is required with an HR business partner. However, few cases will reach this final tier.

Benefits of Personalized HR Service Delivery Technology

Five years ago, automation was scarcely a business consideration for service delivery. Now it’s top of mind. In the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2020, 71% of 4,219 global respondents believed that their business would increase its focus on automation for service delivery in the future. Only 1% thought it would decrease. 

By focusing on people-centric HR service delivery platforms, companies not only provide positive digital experiences for their employees, they improve adoption rates and create a more adaptable infrastructure. But what are the tangible business benefits of automation, personalization, and analytics with HR service delivery?

Leapgen’s survey shows that only about 15% of enterprise and midsize organizations consistently deliver personalized digital experiences.

The 2022 Digital Experience Delivery Practices Survey from Leapgen found a clear correlation between the modern approach to HR service delivery enabled by digital experience platforms and wider business benefits. Respondent organizations who answered “yes” to having deployed such a platform were, compared to their peers:

  • Three times more likely to have broadly deployed employee and manager direct access (i.e., self-service). 
  • Twice as likely to report high adoption of direct access. 
  • Eight times more likely to have a “comprehensive HR knowledge base.” 

Additionally, 100% of the organizations that reported using a state-of-market experience layer also reported that data is generally captured at the source (compared to only 25% of other respondents).

The business benefits of implementing an automated HR platform that delivers personalized services to a global workforce speak for themselves—as do the negatives. Without an integrated approach, you not only run the risk of increased service delivery costs, but also the accumulated administrative weight of redundant systems and technology. That’s why an understanding of what employees want—driven by real-time analytics—has to be the cornerstone of any digital HR service delivery program. 

How Can HR Deliver Services to Employees?

Making work work for everyone should be front of mind when developing an HR service delivery model. That means considering how services are delivered across the business, providing consumer-grade interfaces, and tackling redundant technology head on. That also means moving past simplistic personalization that doesn’t reflect employees’ needs toward a process that’s hyper-personalized. 

Throughout that process, view each employee as a customer, and consider how your internal services meet their needs. By leveraging intelligent technology such as machine learning and natural language processing, businesses can simultaneously improve both the employee experience and employee engagement, but they can also move past mundane case management and enable service teams to take action where it’s most needed. 

Meet Your Employees in Their Workflow

Ensuring your employees have what they need to complete their work should be a foundational goal for any business. That extends to services too. If people within your business have to navigate antiquated systems and confusing processes in order to get access to simple information about their job role and benefits, their employee experience is going to suffer.

If information is contained within disparate and complex systems, it’s likely to go unread.

By providing employees with information, tasks, and learnings where they work, not only do you reduce the need for HR requests, you also add value to each employee’s interaction with your systems. Whether through integrations with instant messaging apps such as Slack or a dedicated employee portal, employees should always feel that what they need is at their fingertips. Then, by using analytics to enable HR teams to guide employees through key moments, you ensure that your people have what they need before they know they need it. 

Create Self-Service Options

Regardless of how proactive your HR service delivery model is, employees will inevitably have further questions, and making requests at work can be a daunting process. No one wants to waste time looking for the right portal to open a ticket, wait days or even weeks for a response, and then get diverted to a different department. Likewise, employees with smaller requests might decide to not contact HR at all for fear of wasting time. That’s why self-service options are invaluable.

Enabling employees to source accurate answers to frequently asked questions (and even less common ones) should be foundational to any modern HR service delivery model. But those services have to be easily accessed, intuitive, and surfaced naturally. If information is contained within disparate and complex systems, it’s likely to go unread. That means embedding links to related learnings in knowledge articles and giving employees the ability to request further HR help, via an integrated case management solution. After all, your services shouldn’t need their own FAQ to navigate. 

Provide Adaptive Support

The only thing more likely to cause frustration than extended wait times is misdirected requests. Meeting your employees in their workflow doesn’t just mean using analytics to surface information, it also means ensuring that the support adapts to their needs. Providing self-service options that are dead ends is like taking one step forward and two steps back, increasing the need for case management rather than streamlining it. 

Well-organized, easily accessible resources are essential, but not every question can be fielded by knowledge articles or chatbots. If an employee needs to ask something more personal or urgent—related to a leave of absence, for example—it’s important that your solution is integrated with more traditional case management services. In doing so, you ensure that employees feel like they are being supported as a person, rather than another ticket in a queue. 

Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

The bottom line for any business looking to optimize its services, reduce case management load, and provide a higher-quality employee experience is simple: personalization. Without analytics to understand what your employees need (as well as when and why), your services will always miss the mark. In a world where people expect their personal technology to learn from their needs, work should be no different. The logical endpoint of personalization? Individualization. 

Individualizing HR services requires businesses to utilize data to create unique and meaningful experiences at the employee level. That means providing contextual insights for employees’ everyday questions, thereby connecting the dots between the questions they’re asking today and broader company initiatives (learning, skill development, etc.). By creating a holistic experience where moments that matter are automatically connected to learnings, skills development, and mentorship, you ensure that employees aren’t just receiving what they need in the moment—but what they need moving forward.

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