The meandering path of the comb-shaped professional means that one can end up doing work that one wasn’t expecting. In fact, it’s fair to say that most of my work these days falls into this category.

And so as such I currently find myself on an assignment looking at the way in which modern cloud-based HR technology might change the way in which services are defined and delivered in an organisation.

The observation above all else at the moment is that it seems the disciplines of Service Design are yet to permeate with any depth into the realms of the personnel department. This isn’t particularly surprising.

For many years many internal service departments (not just HR) have focused their change efforts on streamlining and efficiency. If you only comprise of “L” on the P&L, you make yourself as small as possible to avoid the dreaded insult of “overhead!”

But as the world of technology has started to show over the past few years, it’s quite possible that investment in things that used to just be regarded as cost might enable a more significant improvement in the bottom and top lines. Technology can be an enabler to better services and greater revenue. If “people are our most important asset”, surely that can be the case for human resources too?

To be fair is that thinking that underpins concepts like employer branding and employee engagement. But too often the former is something that stops the minute a job is offered and the latter is a reactive response to bad shit that’s happened elsewhere.

What would truly user-centric HR look like? It would need to start by acknowledging the core user groups that HR teams need to service, often in a complex web of zero-sum games: potential employees, employees, managers, “shareholders”, the body corporate, markets, suppliers… the list almost certainly goes on.

But Service Design would also need to acknowledge that improvement does not merely equate to operational efficiency in the provider. This has been the black mark on self-service initiatives in Finance, HR and IT over the years- headcount reductions in the corporate services group to the cost of workload hidden and distributed wide across an entire organisation.

Service Design thinking might also be the key to address one of the big HR debates at the moment- what do we do with performance management processes? Unless all of the user groups are involved that nut isn’t going to be cracked any time soon.

The work is just kicking off. If you know of anyone who is doing similar I’d love to hear more…

One thought on “User-centred HR

  1. “But Service Design would also need to acknowledge that improvement does not merely equate to operational efficiency in the provider.”

    Could service design that was primarily concerned with operational efficiency in the provider really be called service design?

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