Just as it can be a challenge to finally nudge that profligate offspring out of the house with confidence that he or she will not reappear when things get tough, HR work moved to a service center can also exhibit the tendency to gravitate back to the originating team.
Many of our global clients share concerns about this dilemma, sometimes complaining indirectly about the perceived inadequacies of the service center staff. They are often not aware of the root causes of the problem, however, or have an understanding of what they can do to improve the likelihood of HR process migration success.
There are three fairly simple actions organizations can take to mitigate the risk of migrated HR work moving back home: align on the baseline, simulate the transition, and certify competency.
Align on the baseline
From the service center perspective, the processes targeted for migration are often not clearly defined, not adequately documented, or have not been explicitly reengineered to factor in the new division of labor. Service center frustration may be exposed in side comments about HR work being ”thrown over the wall” or the service center being “set up to fail.”
Spending the time up front to establish the baseline for the in-scope processes, assessing exactly how, and by whom, the work is currently being performed, will better position the joint team for the process improvement and reengineering conversations that follow.
Tips and tricks: For an originating team that has worked together for a long period of time, documented steps in a process may be supplemented by informal team member interactions. It’s much better to actually observe the work being done, rather than accept team member assertions as the final word.
Simulate before transition
HR process migration projects can be divided into five phases: mobilize, design, build, simulate, and transition.
Determining the processes to be moved and aligning on the baseline happens in the mobilize stage. The design phase is where we evaluate each process for potential simplification and map out the new workflows. Documentation and training materials are prepared in the build phase, and we are then ready to simulate the new way of working before formal transition of the work.
During the simulate phase, the team members work side-by-side, in real time, to complete the work. Think of this as the “look-over-the-shoulder” stage of the knowledge transfer, typically done via virtual communication tools given the global distribution of most HR service center staffs.
Tips and tricks: The simulate phase is the last chance for compliance and quality audits to be conducted by the risk management team. It is not uncommon for project teams to put off these critical reviews until the last moment, causing unnecessary delays.
While service center staff training has always been a critical aspect of the HR process migration effort, increasingly, leading practice is to establish specific performance metrics for team competency before formal go-live.
Certification testing often includes both written and task-demonstration elements. Problem-solving scenarios are provided by the originating team, and the certification success metrics are developed jointly by the originating and service center teams.
Tips and tricks: Regardless of how the newly migrated processes are to be allocated across the service center team members, it is best to certify the broader team on all in-scope processes. This allows for a work-rotation strategy that ensures backup is available and helps to alleviate team member boredom and fatigue.
A final word
A very common mistake is for the originating team to retain processing capability and expertise ”just in case” something goes wrong at the service center. However, as with our offspring-clinging-to-the-nest scenario, sometimes it is better to just give a gentle push.
Assuming the migration team has followed the practices outlined here, the service center team will achieve full ownership of the migrated processes more rapidly if they understand there is no lifeline back to the originating team.
Needless to say, this goes for originating team “helicopter parents” as well. Once HR work has been successfully migrated to the service center, it just might be time to cut the cord and move on to those more strategic activities outlined in your service center business case. Don’t forget to provide the originating team with new capabilities and accountabilities so they are not tempted to slip back into their comfort zone.
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