The next evolution of Shared Services is already on our doorstep – or maybe already reached your centers: Robot Process Automation (RPA).
Robots are great: they work 24/7 effortless, don’t make any mistakes, don’t want any special attention, are easy to maintain and low cost. They just sit either on your IT infrastructure or even on a Laptop right next to your other Shared Services colleagues. This is why they are the next evolution of Shared Services. You don’t have to go anymore to any low cost country to have low cost service delivery – you can have it anywhere. But that also means that you don’t need so many employees anymore to run your services. The positions Shared Services have created, the great impact on low cost labor markets is now turning around also to these countries (also, as in the first place, these positions were moved away from high cost countries). This is a true negative impact – and I have written about that here.
Today, I would like to argue that this does not have to be the case – or at least not with full weight. This is due to another, very positive trend in (not only) HR and Shared Services: Employee Experience. The new way of Design Thinking (introductory video here) paves the way towards a more employee centric design, a way that actually is pretty close to what HR (with management and leaders of the company) should anyway do every day: Give employees everything to make them more efficient and effective in their daily work and provide an inspiring and motivating environment and experience. This is the way to create great business outcomes. And when I say “design”, this means structure, technology and process. Everything should and needs to be designed from the employee perspective: What do our employees need and want to be successful in their jobs? What do they need from HR or Shared Services? How do they get this in a fast, efficient way with a positive experience? These are the questions to answer – and one part of this chain of questions is also leading to the “right” process and channels into Shared Services.
Access to solve your problem
Coming back to robots: Robots are great to solve structured and rule based problems and processes. They are unmatched by any human. And we should truly let robots do these kind of activities as we will reach two of the top Shared Services metrics: Timeliness and Quality. A robot will be as fast as the infrastructure let’s it be – and it will create 0 defects. Wow, awesome. The problem though is that for a robot to be that perfect it needs perfect data input – and this data input is coming from employees directly. This creates two problems to solve from an Employee Experience perspective.
- The problem or question or request that the employee has MUST be standardised, too. It needs to fit into the “capability-box” of the robot.
- The employee needs to exactly know what he or she wants.
Now, both is often the case – but not always. Very often, an employee or a people manager has more complex topics to solve (or at least this is what an employee or people manager might think). In this case, Shared Services needs to help employees and people managers to quickly address any concerns, questions or challenges so that the employee or people manager can go to focus on their day job asap. There are two ways to help employees in this thinking and resolution process: (a) a fantastic, easy to use, complete and employee focused Knowledge Base and (b) good old fashioned direct human contact to an expert. And in some cases, employees want this human contact because of the sensitivity of the request or issue. In the end, we talk very much HR topics that can be sensitive.
And this is where I believe we should re-invest some of the robot savings: Tier 1 – chat, call, messaging support through human experts. This is still the major domain and best experience to get via a human contact. I believe that we need to “up” our game in solving employee and people manager challenges when they occur, quick and with an awesome Employee Experience. And for this, a human Tier 1 plays a big role. Do not let your employees and people managers search your knowledge base when they don’t know what to search for or need help. This costs a whole lot of productivity – and causes frustration. Give them the opportunity for the best interaction for any request they might have and this can either mean (a) opening a case that a robot can immediately execute (b) search the knowledge base to find the right thing to do fast or (c) “talk” to a Tier 1 Advisor to address any questions and execute your request.
This is the right experience we should create as Shared Services – we should shy away from utilising robots to create additional savings only. Let’s reinvest for the best Employee Experience.