5 Steps to Using Metrics that Drive Improvements in HR Service Delivery

Scott Esposito

This article provides an example of how to improve the performance of an HR organization through the application of a customer survey process. The setting for this case study is a large business segment of a global aerospace company. The HR functional support at the time was based on a business partner model, with primary generalist responsibilities for planning and implementation of strategy, organization development, employee engagement, talent management, leadership development, employee relations and local process execution for the universal HR programs. The average HR support ratio was about 1:400.

The project was conceived during HR strategic planning sessions where gaps in HR service delivery were identified which included: lack of objective data on HR performance, wide variations in the capabilities of the HR team, inconsistent use of best practices and a need to prioritize continuous improvement initiatives.

The following case will provide details on the design of the process used to establish a customer feedback model, the survey results and the action planning that resulted from the initial customer survey.

The important role of metrics

In today’s self-service environment with major HR processes being scaled down or outsources, the value HR brings to the table needs to be evident in the eyes of its customers. Most companies have well established mechanisms in place to collect and analyze data on how products perform in the field and the level of satisfaction experienced by its customers. Moreover, global competition demands that companies remain vigilant on all aspects of operating performance, creating the need to establish a comprehensive set of KPIs (key performance indicators). In combination, these measures provide visibility on the overall health of the organization and the trend to indicate whether or not performance is moving in the right direction.

As a business partner, HR has a charter and mission to achieve strategic goals and drive shareholder value. In the execution of daily work, the function takes primary responsibility for five human capital processes – recruiting, performing, rewarding, learning and organizing. HR organizations differ in how they manage these processes: centralized / decentralized, outsourced / propriety; self-service / manual. However, regardless of how these processes get done, there are two basic ways to measure them -- the efficiency of the process and its effectiveness. As an example, in the area of recruiting, efficiency might be measured by time-to-hire or cost per hire, while the true effectiveness of recruiting would be evaluated by longer term measures such as retention, inclusion on succession plans, diversity of management staff and job performance. While specific metrics indicate how well a process works or how effective it is, it’s the customer who determined if it has any value at all to the business.

Understanding Customer Needs

HR and other cost centers often struggle with measuring the value of their contributions to internal customers. As we know, it is ultimately the customer who sets the standards for quality, performance, service and value, and on the back end, determines the extent to which its expectations were met. Therefore, the journey begins with understanding how the customer defines performance and then moves forward to surveying, collecting, measuring, interpreting, sharing outcomes and formulating interventions. The 5 steps listed below summarize the sequential activities followed to implement the process.

Step 1: Defining Performance Criteria

In our case example, each HR Manager engaged with its client groups to generate a list of performance dimensions. Many of these dimensions overlapped with criteria used by clients to evaluate other external vendors and service providers. After compiling and comparing the results from 12 HR Managers, the following seven dimensions were selected as the basis for performance measurement:

• Responsiveness
• Client investment
• Communications
• Turnaround time (TAT)
• Quality
• Service Value
• Follow up & Support
In terms of scoring, the company had already established a customer feedback rating scale from one through seven used in MFA (market feedback analysis), a customer feedback tool within the lean operating system. Therefore, the same scale was adopted for consistency, where a score of one = very dissatisfied and seven = customer delight.
Step 2 : Creating the Survey Instrument

In addition to capturing scores on the seven performance dimensions, it was decided that verbatim comments would be collected to supplement and qualify the numeric scores. These questionnaires were distributed by the HR Managers to a sample of 30 customers from each business segment. To balance the feedback, the 30 surveys were spread among executives, supervisory and non-supervisory customers who had utilized services within the last 90 days.

Listed below is a summary of the definitions associated with each of the performance dimensions:

1. RESPONSIVENESS: Responsive to requests, accurately capturing scope of work and level of importance
2. CLIENT INVESTMENT: Invested adequate amount of time in understanding client needs and supporting objectives through active participation.
3. COMMUNICATIONS: Visible and available. Communicates progress to plan, key issues, and contingencies.
4. TAT: Met agreed upon or expected turn-around times on deliverables.
5. QUALITY: Projects and services provided were free of defects (escapes).
6. SERVICE VALUE: The value derived from projects and services exceeded the time and effort invested.
7. FOLLOW UP & SUPPORT: Reported progress and status. Demonstrated good follow-up and offered continuing support going forward

Step 3 : Collecting and Analyzing Results

After collecting several hundred surveys, analyses were performed to study the results by HR Manager, business segment and organization level. A set of survey procedures, reports and charts were developed to establish standard work and ensure that a repeatable, sustainable process was created. Each HR Manager was responsible for analyzing their individual results, creating a management briefing package and developing focus group questions. A small group was assembled to roll up overall results and provide a briefing to the entire HR organization. The presentation included a proposed SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) later adopted as part of the strategic planning process.

Step 4 : Validating & Sharing Results

HR Managers held focus groups to probe further on both low and high scoring items while reconciling the comments to gain a stronger picture of overall service delivery and areas for improvement. In addition, a level of importance was attached to the performance dimensions as well as identifying areas of improvement which would have the greatest impact on service delivery. Armed with both qualitative and quantitative information, HR Managers completed the standard presentations and reviewed results with their local management teams. At these sessions, the overall HR results were also shared.
As part of standard work, customer service metrics were captured for each performance dimension and displayed on a spider chart. This form of visual control identified current scores as well as an improvement objective against 100% goal achievement. Each HR Manager generated a spider chart to capture individual customer performance scores and track progress. The overall HR organization spider chart is displayed below and captures the scores from the initial survey. The blue line in the center shows the current scores, while the red line highlights the selected score objective of 6, or 86% goal achievement against a perfect score of 7. The score of 6 was significant in that it represented the expected level of performance (very satisfied) required by cells and sites who aspired to achieve "gold" status under the company’s lean operating system.

Step 5 : Formulating Interventions

As might be expected, the individual HR Manager scores varied widely among the group, with a number of Managers exceeding the near-term 86% target on various performance dimensions. Conversely, HR Managers who scored lower than the group average in certain areas were provided with a rich source of objective data to incorporate into performance and development goals.
Based on aggregate scores and customer feedback on highest priorities, the following universal interventions were established for the HR organization:

1. Improve TAT (turnaround time) by committing to task / project completion dates within a 24 hour period from date of request.
2. Enhance employee communications and interpersonal connections through: a) dedicated time each week for a "walk around" to interact with employees at their work locations b) work with senior management to establish standard work on employee communications c) sponsor a monthly open forum where customers can explore HR topics of interest.
3. As an HR organization, create a common set of operational and financial metrics to provide customers with greater insight on HR performance within their business segments.
Collateral Benefits

The immediate benefits derived from this customer survey process are evident. Among them, establishing performance criteria based on customer requirements, collecting objective data to assess the current state, creating a system to analyze and report results, and identifying and prioritizing improvement opportunities. However, other benefits emerged that proved to be equally valuable. The survey process uncovered clear strengths and weakness within the HR team. This provided a basis to connect HR Managers together to assist in professional development and best practice sharing. Likewise, HR Managers and clients learned how to collaborate more closely and use objective data to improved service delivery. Finally, the HR function became more transparent, gaining insight on its core strengths and development needs as determined by its customers – after all, the journey begins and ends with the customer and "the customer is always right."