3 Ways Agile HR Shared Service Delivery is Like the Super Bowl

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photo provided by Au Kirk

The other day I was watching ’The Big Game’ (along with about 109 million other viewers) and, as I watched, I couldn’t help but feel there was something very familiar about the interaction and execution style of the teams, coaches, etc. It struck me the dynamic I was witnessing was similar to the winning behavior I have seen in many effective Human Resource service organizations. The more I watched, the more fascinated I became with what I saw. Let me explain.

In order to obtain the nirvana of HR service delivery (and not unlike those in the ”Big Game”), we rely on three fundamental requirements:

1)     Strategy that Fits: Organizationally, a clear strategy is needed for centralization versus non-centralization, and how it can effectively be carried through the organizational structure and HR technologies in a manner that aligns with the company’s goals, its culture and systems. Committees are often formed to evaluate current processes and consult inter-departmentally to strike the right balance between centralization, preserving critical domain expertise, enhancing areas of self-service, etc. Special attention is paid to consider how existing HR systems can be used (i.e. HRIS, LMS, etc.) and what new technologies can be introduced (e.g. social knowledge centers, real-time consultation tools, etc.) to achieve the most cost-efficient and personalized level of service. In short, organizations want strategies that fit their needs to a “T” and are poised to deliver on their top-line objectives.

Similarly, the football teams had clearly been preparing for the Big Game all year (many for their entire careers). Coaches have given plenty of consideration as to how to structure the team (i.e. which players will be starters, back-ups, special teams? Who were the most experienced and could demonstrate leadership and confidence? What kind of bench-strength is needed?). Numerous facets of the tactical, mental and physical strategies were harmoniously at work at all times. Much time and effort was given to examining all of the things that could impact their success, such as playing to individual and team strengths, minimizing risk, time management, player injuries, weather, etc. – the sum of which was used to form the core of their strategy to win.  

2)     Excellent Communications: HR leaders want everyone in the organization to understand fundamentally how HR supports their needs, the level of service it promises, where to find answers, how to initiate requests, etc. In essence, they want to provide their team with transparency: a play-by-play gameplan regarding changes prior to when they unfold and in anticipation of what is around the corner. They want employees to trust in HR and feel confident their needs are being met in an effective and efficient manner. This means crystal clear communication needs to be consistent, on-going and pervasive throughout every facet of the company.

Back at that football game… As the athletes trickled into the stadium, stretching, hydrating and mentally preparing for battle, they were personally greeted by coaches and provided with a reminder of the gameplan. They went over important details about field conditions and various other strategies for success, not to mention an appropriate measure of high-fiving, grunting and butt-slapping. No surprise, the team was already aware of what their mission was, but this helped to reinforce their strategies and ensure everyone was clear on their objectives going into the game.

3)     Depth of Expertise: Organizations want to ensure they maintain the ability to tap into the existing domain expertise residing in their workforce (whether their experience/knowledge is relevant to HR, operations, management, etc.). These experts are a key component of the HR service delivery equation, as they typically have a unique and deep perspective into common issues, why things are done a certain way, etc. The dilemma for HR leaders becomes how they can retain the appropriate level of access to this veteran expertise. Traditional methods such as FAQs can be employed; as well, there are many new approaches like developing expert employee communities, forums and Ask HR live chat options that deliver both an instant and consultative approach.

Before the big game coaches, commentators, fans and odds makers pay careful attention to the number of players on each team that have actually played in the big game before. Why? Because expertise is a valuable asset and team owners pay dearly for those seasoned athletes. So it’s only good strategy to leverage them as “on field” leaders to maintain the team’s focus on “execution” each and every play.

Teams also rely on significant specialization of expertise. The quarterbacks may be able to throw a tight 60 yard spiral, but likely wouldn’t know the first thing about what kick-off coverage their team should employ; and starting linebackers can direct the on-field defense and make tackles, but certainly wouldn’t be the best choice to play running back. The coaching staffs are no different. The head coaches are supported by offensive and defensive coordinators, who rely on deep expertise and perspective from wide receiver coaches, offensive line coaches, defensive backs coaches, etc.

Each member of the organization fills a specific role in preparing for the big game, with everyone sharing a common goal of winning the championship.

There are many ‘wants’ in the purview of HR service delivery, these are just a few. Tackling these and other challenges is not new, however, there continues to be advancements in the exploration of solutions, like the new whitepaper by Jim Scully entitled “Agile HR: NextGen HR Delivery.” In it, Jim dives into the concept of Agile HR and shares his keen insights on some of the newest thinking on HR service delivery. One highlight from the piece sums things up nicely, where he notes that “By leveraging the power of lean systems thinking, the next generation of demand-driven service delivery models can reach unprecedented levels of cost and service effectiveness.”

I am inspired to imagine how HR organizations will be approaching their unique challenges as we continue to uncover new opportunities for improvement. In the meantime, we will continue to grab our clipboards, huddle in our conference rooms and build our team strategies for success. And even though everyone cannot make it to the Big Game, everyone can have a winning strategy.


Bonnie Clark is the Director of Communications at cfactor, where she works with clients to develop winning communication strategies that align with their goals.  She also manages all aspects of corporate marketing and communications initiatives.

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