What Customers Want From HR

The views of line managers, senior managers and employees on HR services and the HR function

Hirsh W, Carter A, Gifford J, Strebler M, Baldwin S | Report 453 | Institute for Employment Studies | Aug 2008

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Do the internal customers of HR - line managers, senior managers and employees - see the role of HR in the same way as the function sees itself? Have the changes in HR functions led to the kinds of services and support which managers and employees feel they need? Do they see the HR function as effective, or at least as getting more effective?

Drawing on findings from interviews, focus groups and surveys, this study finds that customers want responsive, pro-active, professional HR support.

  • 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, effectively and with consistent advice.
  • 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 which are strategically important for the business, not about separate HR strategies or frequent policy changes.
  • The customers of HR want a 'pro-active' HR function, which spots issues ahead of time and works closely with managers to address them.

HR people want to be seen as Business Partners, and indeed line managers want professional advice from HR people who also understand their business context.

Viewed from the customer perspective, however, the term Business Partner is something of a misnomer. Managers want HR to provide them with a People Partner - someone who works with them to address their people issues (published in People Management, September 2008).

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