Provide excellent customer service to your employees

Hannah Hager

Treat your employees the same way you would your customers. This is the key to a successful HR Shared Services Center, according to Mark White, Vice President Human Resources Operations at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Mark identifies two ways to drive continuous improvement culture: Adopt a customer focus and orientation mindset, and place the responsibility of making improvements upon all employees.


What are some best practices for driving a continuous improvement culture within your HR Shared Services Center?

I can think of two that have the biggest impact for us. The first is a customer focus and orientation mindset. It is easy to fall in the trap that we are just serving our employees or HR colleagues and forget these employees are our customers. We have found that when we view everything from a customer perspective our service and overall satisfaction levels go up. We conduct training with our specialists that are very similar to the training our customer care organization gets for external customers. In fact we adopted a simple acronym they use to keep the customer in mind: CARES…

Courteous & Knowledgeable
Attentive to customer’s needs
Empowered to take action
Solutions focused

The second practice is involvement. We try to have everyone take ownership for making improvements. Some improvements might be simple like updating a knowledgebase article and sharing an experience with a teammate while some can be more extensive like changing a process or initiating a formal project. Our involvement theme begins for us by highlighting the fact it is a core value of our company. From there we have a daily process commonly used in manufacturing called stand up meetings. These brief 10-minute standing meetings have really been a difference maker for us in keeping everyone in the loop. Once a week we even use this time for something now called mini-clinic Mondays. Each week a different associate will take the floor and share a topic that we believe can make us better.

What are some of the critical elements of an effective continuous improvement process?

It begins with the culture. Everyone on the team needs to be aligned to a mindset of always getting better. Once you lose this culture, it is a downhill journey. Another critical element is having goals. We keep it pretty simple by sticking to one major goal that is easy to communicate and tends to resonate with everyone. That is customer satisfaction. We call it our Customer Allegiance Score and this one metric is really our backbone that drives a large number of our improvement projects. We simply listen to the feedback of our customers and either perform a quick fix or gather the additional intelligence needed to make lasting improvements.

What are the roles and responsibilities for continuous improvement within your organization?

This depends on the type of improvement. Everyone owns improvement as a part of their job and these tend to be for things we like to call quick fixes or ‘just do its’. In addition to the everyday role we all own we also make sure our managers have more specifics targets for continuous improvements. They then become the leaders of change and help drive the culture among all our employees. Specific to our service center we also have one role that focus’s their time on making improvements that go beyond quick fixes. These tend to be process improvements. One activity this role does on a monthly basis is an audit of a specific area in our service delivery (On-boarding, Benefits, Service Center logistics, etc.). This includes a review of our process maps and procedures versus how things are ‘really’ being done. Recommendations and updates are made and thus all our documentation and procedures stay current.

What are some of the typical challenges from internal and external customers and how can they be mitigated?

We don’t service external customers. Internally it is usually not the end customer that is most challenging. That is the easy part. The biggest challenge for us has been the process to continually expand services. If your continuous improvement initiatives are working your service center becomes more efficient which frees up labor to do new things. The challenge has been getting alignment with the service owner to move things into the service center. In some ways it is back to square one with workshops and governance. From a lessons-learned perspective, I think two things can help with this challenge. One: Design a next phase of services that everyone agrees to during the initial design. Two: Keep the governance model in place post launch. Having a venue that continues to bring opportunities forward that align to the original delivery model principals will make change in the future a heck of lot easier.