The role of HR in any organisation is to serve employees, who are the internal customers of the HR department. HR is, in essence, a service department. A focus on meeting the needs of employees and their managers, who are critical participants in delivering HR services, is important for any HR department. In addition, HR has a number of external customers it is accountable to, most notably government agencies.
Serving Internal Customers
The HR department has many internal customers to serve, including employees and their managers. The needs of employees and managers may sometimes be in conflict. To help resolve these conflicts, a focus on the overall needs of the organisation, and the role HR plays in helping to meet those needs through recruiting and retaining productive workers, is key. The importance of customer service with internal customers relates to the ability to recruit employees whose skills and abilities are aligned with the job; to provide orientation and training to ensure productivity; and to manage turnover through ongoing coaching and counselling and the provision of a workplace that has effective reward and recognition systems.
Serving External Customers
HR has a variety of external customers to serve. Primary among these are the legal and regulatory agencies that provide direction about how employees are to be treated during the hiring and employment relationship, including issues related to safety and security. HR's role in relation to customer service with external customers impacts the company in terms of the ability to minimise time spent on compliance activities and, ultimately, to minimise the risk associated with claims and lawsuits.
Serving the Organization
HR is in a precarious position between serving the needs of employees, the needs of employers and managers and the needs of external organisations. A focus on serving the overall needs of the organisation can help provide focus. HR serves the organisation and has an important role to play not only in terms of recruitment and retention, but also in terms of finding the right balance between staffing costs and productivity, and minimising legal risk and liability for the organisation.
Understanding Customer Needs
To ensure high levels of customer satisfaction, it is important for HR to continually measure and monitor the needs of its various customers, determine how well it is meeting those needs and identify any areas that represent gaps. This needs analysis requires balancing various perspectives and determining which take priority. For instance, managers may value high levels of production and long work hours whereas employees may value more time off and a focus on work/life needs. Effective HR customer service will work with both groups to find the right balance.
Serving HR Staff Needs
Service to HR staff members is also important. There is significant stress involved in HR roles. Internal customer needs are often in conflict, external needs are changing, and the role involves a wide range of responsibilities. Effective HR leaders understand the importance of focusing on the needs of HR staff members--themselves customers--to ensure their ability to serve the broader organisation.