Service Means Success

By Betsy Jacobson and Beverly Kaye
Abstracted from
Training and Development Journal,
May 1991

Authors’ Note: Service is a timeless issue that continually challenges organizations in achieving their competitive advantage. Today, HR departments are under even more pressure to demonstrate their value. This forward-thinking article in its entirety is a timely reminder that real service starts within an organization, among its members, and then emanates out to the customer for true and lasting success.

Is your human resource department seen as a necessary inconvenience or a useful partner? The difference may hinge on how well you serve your customers. While low customer esteem is common among HR departments, it is not a given. Many HR groups are highly valued by their line managers. Such departments share certain signs of success: more resources, more clout, more support, and more credibility.

At first glance, human resource departments with high customer esteem may seem very different from one another. On closer examination, the authors have been able to identify some common themes among the most effective departments. These themes add up to a high-quality service orientation, a genuine view of the organization as the department’s marketplace, and a recognition of line functions as “customers” and “clients” whose satisfaction with the department’s services is crucial. For these HR departments, the customer is the sole reason for being in business.

When these themes are prevalent, HR departments generally find line departments actively wanting and needing their services. Human resource work is more effective because it is accomplished in an atmosphere of understanding and mutual benefit.

In their article “Service Means Success,” the authors present a model indicating service opportunity points. These points include the customer, culture, mission, strategy and goals, structures, systems and practices, perception and image, packaging and promotion, and employee performance. When these leverage points are refocused on the customer, they are likely to lead to improved service delivery and reputation.

In addition, HR specialists need skills in assessing and meeting line needs, following up on line requests, and working with the line to establish new programs. All HR employees need to become proficient at consulting skills; it is the responsibility of their managers to reward effective use of these skills.

In addition to offering several practical tips for developing a more service-minded HR staff, the authors present guidelines for the manager who wants to achieve a greater human resources service orientation. The human resource manager who adheres to these guidelines will have the tools to foster a mutually beneficial staff/line partnership.