from HR Insight, our HR newsletter, no. 9

What do your HR customers want?

Wendy Hirsh

Wendy Hirsh

The recently published IES report, What Customers Want From HR focused on the idea of ‘customers’ of HR, meaning all the people who use the function – senior managers, line managers and individual employees. Overall the authors found the study to be quite an optimistic one. Customers were not rude or dismissive of the HR function – far from it.

The report finds that, in addition to developing clear policies and delivering basic services efficiently, an effective HR function adds value by working closely with line and senior managers and improving their people management capability. Managers, as well as employees, value an HR function that provides good advice to individual employees and helps to build a motivating work environment.

Key messages about what customers want from the HR function:

  • HR as a function needs to engage fully in finding out what its customers need and their experiences of current HR services.
  • HR needs to be responsive – clear about what it is there for and what services it offers; easy to contact; and able to respond quickly, efficiently and effectively.
  • Managers want an independent-minded HR function, which understands the workforce and can help management balance employee and business needs.
  • Customers do want an HR function with strategic business impact, but this is about solving problems that are strategically important for the business, not about writing HR strategies.
  • The customers of HR want a ‘proactive’ HR function, which spots issues ahead of time and works closely with managers to address them.
  • Customers want professional HR support from real ‘people partners’.

The study points to three scenarios of HR, as shown in the diagram below.


Both managers and other employees want to see the ‘pro-active’ HR scenario: pretty much where the profession wishes to see itself. In moving from the old ‘bogged down’ function, there is a danger in becoming too remote from the business and the workforce. An HR function which does not fully understand the business and the workforce loses much of its value. Managers have an appetite for colleagues in the HR function who can help them with their most challenging people issues including motivation, change and developing the right skills for the future.

IES is already using the methodology developed through this research to help individual organisations assess how their internal customers see them.

Contact Wendy Hirsh for more information.

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