“HR leaders, I am encouraging you to open the gates and tear down the walls.”
By Rod Lacey, Sunstone HR
On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech in Berlin at the Brandenberg Gate and issued a challenge to the Soviets:
“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
I want to introduce “one sign the” HR leader in an organization “can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the” service level of the HR department in the organization. HR leaders, I am encouraging you to open the gates and tear down the walls.
What I am referring to is what I call Boundaryless Service. If a human resource team can embrace operating in a boundaryless way, service levels will reach a new high and organizational support and confidence in the HR team will greatly increase.
WHAT IS BOUNDARYLESS SERVICE?
Simply stated, Boundaryless is a commitment within the HR team that they will serve immediately, and at any level in the organization. Boundarless doesn’t change accountabilities, but it does dismantle territorialism.
There are three key commitments that must be in place for Boundaryless Service to work within an organization.
- First, is a commitment to developing the HR team.
- Second, is an understanding that there is an open door and even encouragement to serve wherever possible.
- Third, there is a solid commitment to provide timely updates to individuals who have related accountabilities.
Develop. Serve. Inform.
A simple example I use to teach this is the following scenario:
The HR team has been educated on accountabilities, not just within the department, but around the organization.
An employee comes to the HR department and says “I would like Cherry Coke in the soda machine downstairs.” The Boundaryless response from any member of the HR team would be something like, “I think that’s a great suggestion. I will see what I can do.” (This boundaryless HR team member then owns this assignment until it is appropriately handed-off or resolved)
The HR team member would then follow-up with the team responsible for the soda machine (say the cafeteria) and see if this is a viable option. Upon learning the answer, the HR person could either relay the information back to the employee directly, or get the cafeteria manager to commit to relay this information to the employee.
Bingo! The employee was immediately served, his request considered, and accountabilities were respected!
Tear Down The Walls
Human resource professionals committed to Boundaryless service will check their egos at the door and recognize that the whole HR team is working towards the same objectives, and that multiple resources are always greater than just one. Territorialism, internal competitiveness and department segmentation mentalities have got to take a back seat to the customer service commitment.
For example, a good HR leader will celebrate when a business partner is seen meeting with the CEO or one of her peers. A good HR team member will react only positively when one of their assigned internal customers is seen meeting with another member of the HR team.
Gone are the days of “Don’t speak with my boss without coming to me first.”
Let’s be done with “Why is she always meeting with members of ‘my’ department?”
How does this improve service levels? With everyone in the department committed to immediately satisfying organizational needs, developed cross-functionally, and throwing all available resources at any need, chances are that issues will be resolved quicker, in a less bureaucratic way.
Say goodbye to statements like “Judy is over benefits. I will let her know you stopped by.”
Instead, every employee in the department is prepared and trained to handle these basic questions. Thus, service is expedited, the employee experience is improved and the organization is better served.
Development Is Key
Ongoing HR team development is an important component of Boundaryless Service.
I made it a practice, for example, for each member of my HR teams, regardless of their area of speciality, to present at one of the benefit Open Enrollment meetings annually. Accountability for benefit responsibilities didn’t change, but this enabled and empowered the entire HR team to answer basic benefit questions that would regularly come to the department. Technical questions could still be routed to the benefits person, but most questions could be adequately answered immediately. The loop would then be closed with the individual offering the service to inform the benefits person who had the question and what was shared. (Develop. Serve. Inform.)
Staff meetings are a perfect opportunity for the team to share insights about their specific assignments and answers to common employee questions. Team members are also taught that if they don’t know the answer, they shouldn’t guess. It is still okay to refer people directly to the expert!
Exceptions to this standard do exist, however. If someone approaches a member of the HR team to seek support in a more sensitive area, such as compensation or a potential harassment or discrimination complaint, those should be immediately referred to the individual both trained and accountable for those issues.
To bring the service levels of your HR team to the next level, let’s tear down some walls! Let’s open doors and truly work together as a team. Let our commitments be to promptly resolving concerns and solving problems with all of our resources. Let’s be clear and respect accountabilities, but embrace each other’s help in achieving our organization’s goals and raising the service level (and reputation) of our HR department.
Let’s serve the organization better than ever before. Let’s serve Boundaryless!