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HR service delivery

What is HR service delivery?

HR service delivery is a term used to explain how an organization's human resources department offers services to and interacts with employees. Traditionally, human resources service delivery was as simple as an open-door policy where employees could stop into an HR office, ask questions, and pick up needed paperwork.

Today the HR service delivery model -- fueled by mobile applications and cloud computing -- is undergoing rapid evolution to reflect the demographic changes in the workforce and the technological changes in the business landscape.

An organization's HR department provides many services to the workforce, including onboarding and offboarding, payroll processing, employee benefits management, employee experience management, and so on.

HR service delivery is the systematic practice of providing these services to enhance employee experiences and satisfaction. It encompasses the entire employee lifecycle, from hiring to exit. The practice of HR service delivery can be deployed in many ways. These ways or delivery models are explored below.

Importance of HR service delivery

HR service delivery is important because HR itself is a core function for organizations. Delivering it as a service allows HR to interact with employees and efficiently meet their needs. A systematic, well-planned HR service delivery function allows organizations to improve HR performance and productivity, meet employee expectations, and improve the efficiency of monitoring and compliance processes.

It also supports company leadership and decision-makers by providing the following:

  • Insights into employee needs and satisfaction levels.
  • Information or data to improve employee experiences.
  • More flexibility for employees (for example, telecommuting) to do their work with minimal stress.
  • Basis for developing a successful hybrid work strategy.
ServiceNow screenshot
ServiceNow offers a knowledge base that provides employees with easy access to HR information like benefits, along with other job-specific information.

HR service delivery models

Employers can use a variety of methods to deliver HR services to employees, including the following:

Traditional service model

In this model, the HR department consists of HR generalists who perform multiple tasks to manage the organization's HR needs, ranging from hiring and recruiting to benefits management. These staff members usually work locally to support a local employee population. Localization allows them to work closely with employees to provide hands-on HR services and support.

As remote and hybrid work has become the norm for many organizations, the traditional model has become less feasible and less effective for many organizations.

Employee self-service model

The employee self-service delivery model gives employees the flexibility and freedom to access the information they need through a knowledge base or chatbots, which are usually available through the company intranet. Today, access to these self-service assets often is provided through information-rich, interactive, social media-like platforms. Employees log into these platforms via mobile devices such as smartphones.

Shared services model

A shared services model includes both HR generalists and HR specialists who divide the HR workload and responsibilities but work as a single HR unit. The model identifies multiple HR roles, such as HR business partners, and employees can access these services via multiple channels, including phone and online. Employee self-service is usually not part of the shared model.

Today, many modern HR service delivery models follow a tiered architecture, which gives employees access to varying levels of HR expertise and allows organizations to prioritize HR resources effectively.

Tiered HR service delivery model

The tiered service delivery model is based on the three-legged model for organizing HR, a concept devised by American academic David Ulrich and presented in his 1997 book Human Resource Champions.

It combines the advantages of the traditional, self-service, and shared service models. Like the shared services model, the tiered model designates multiple roles in the HR department. It also adds self-service to the shared model, allowing employees to find information and solve problems independently, while having the option to access additional human-delivered support.

The original model consists of four components and corresponding HR employee roles:

  • Shared service activities supported by a call center and corporate intranet.
  • Specialists who serve as repositories of key technical knowledge.
  • Business partners that work closely with managers on key initiatives and change management.
  • A small team of corporate HR personnel that work with business leaders to provide strategic direction to the program.

Today, a tiered model identifies multiple service levels, categorized by the level of support required from HR. If a request requires more personalized support, not unlike customer personalization, it can be escalated through the tiers. As the tiers progress, the potential for HR automation reduces.

The tiers are as follows:

  • Tier 0. This tier involves self-service using the HR platform. Employees typically use the self-service portal for easy tasks that don't require intervention by the HR team, such as searching for paid-time-off availability, reviewing employee benefits, downloading salary slips, etc.
  • Tier 1. In this tier, employee help requests involve general assistance from HR shared services because the problem cannot be solved with self-service. An example might be asking a basic question about benefits that could be answered with a standardized HR response.
  • Tier 2. If a generalist cannot address the problem or request, it is escalated to a specialized HR representative or member of human resources management. An example might be a complex question about compensation that requires the input of a subject matter specialist. These specialists might belong to HR centers of excellence consisting of skilled workers.
  • Tier3. This tier involves face-to-face interactions between employees and HR representatives or HR business partners. Requests are escalated to this level only if the tier 1 and 2 specialists cannot help. This tier is often reserved for managing employee relations, succession planning and recruitment.
chart showing an example of a tiered HR service delivery model
As the tiers of HR service delivery escalate, the opportunity for automation decreases because employees need more dynamic service, or the task is too consequential to automate.

Benefits of HR service delivery

HR service delivery that follows the best practices above can offer multiple benefits to organizations:

screenshot in Oracle Fusion showing an example of what an employee might see when asked to list their skills and goals
A tool for skills management, Oracle's Dynamic Skills is part of the company's overall HR service, Oracle Fusion.
  • Distributed workload. Successful service delivery through a tiered model can lessen the workload for HR staff, leaving them time and energy for other critical tasks.
  • Improved employee experiences. Tiered HR service delivery platforms that offer self-service and access to personalized support improve employee experiences, which can help increase employee retention.
  • Employee insights. Online HR and employee engagement platforms enable companies to monitor employee interactions and behaviors and derive analytics that capture employee satisfaction and productivity. For example, platforms with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities can detect employee burnout while skills management tools allow HR to understand, manage, and improve employees' skills.
  • Monitoring. Key performance indicators (KPI) and metrics allow HR departments to measure how successfully they meet their goals in providing services to employees. Examples of KPIs include case volumes, average resolution time, average response times, adherence to service-level agreements and most-viewed knowledgebase articles.
  • Cost-effectiveness. The combination of monitoring, employee insights, efficiently distributed resources, and improved employee satisfaction reduces service delivery costs and improves HR efficiency.
chart and illustration highlighting the types of technology tools that can be used to improve employee experience.
Using HR services in conjunction with other employee experience tools can help HR departments develop insights about employee experience and alter their strategy to improve it.

Best practices for HR service delivery

A well-constructed, effective HR service delivery model that delivers the above benefits follows these best practices:

Always available on-demand. For maximum effectiveness, employees should be able to access important information at all times. Implementing a self-service portal can help. Self-service capabilities in an HR application service delivery solution provide ease of use and flexibility and ensure that support is available at the employee's convenience, even when they are away from the workplace or after traditional office hours.

Always transparent. If employees can't solve their problems through self-service or automated features, they should know the appropriate representative to reach out to. They should also be able to learn the status and progress of their requests.

Fast and efficient. HR can speed up request response times by implementing process automation, analytics and reporting, employee case management, and employee document management.

Scalable. The HR service delivery model must remain reliable and consistent as the business changes or grows. This requires using a scalable platform and implementing a tiered architecture to organize workflows and efficiently add/use resources as needed.

User-friendly. The HR service-delivery platform should offer personalized user experiences. It should allow employees to solicit the help of a real person when necessary and access information that is relevant to them.

Use of appropriate technology. To achieve all these objectives and offer flexible HR service delivery that fosters employee engagement, the model must be strengthened with the right technologies, such as social media platforms and case management tools.

diagram with image outlining some of the key elements in an employee experience platform.
Employee experience platforms help keep employees engaged.

To set up an effective HR service delivery practice, businesses must know which services to offer, who will be involved in offering them, and how each service will be delivered. Learn how to align HR service delivery with strategic goals and build a strong HR software business case.

This was last updated in April 2024

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