An effective HR team drives the competitive success of an organization by creating, implementing, and delivering valuable internal services that enable employees to thrive at their work. Yet some organizations excel at internal service, while others struggle. In this webinar, Executive Consultant Jerry Seibert explores the critical differences between organizations with successful internal services and those without, and explains how to define, measure, and improve these services at your organization.

By Jerry Seibert, M.A.

The service-profit chain explores how great service inspires customer loyalty, leading ultimately to more profitability. Great service however, does not occur in a vacuum. It is only possible when the systems, tools, and support are present to enable it. The first link in the chain is therefore internal: the value that functions like HR, Finance, IT, or Supply Chain bring to their stakeholders. It is a good practice then, to check in with your stakeholders: are they satisfied with your function’s services? Do they feel you are delivering sufficient value? It’s tempting to assume you know everything that is important in effectively delivering on your core products or services; you have the deepest understanding of how your group functions and what results it must achieve. Yet how you judge value and how your stakeholders judge it may not be in alignment. It is common to base your assessment of the value you deliver on the metrics you’ve carefully designed to manage the operation. But there is a risk in assuming those metrics also capture what is most important to stakeholders. I once reviewed the results of an internal customer survey with the CHRO of a Fortune 100 manufacturer. He was puzzled by the poor ratings on talent acquisition. The company had outsourced recruitment and the statistics related to a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) ran counter to the survey results. For example, the number of positions filled and time-to-fill were running the same or better than before the transition. What their KPIs did not show was the frustration managers were feeling with the new supplier. The contract recruiters had none of the institutional knowledge the old in-house team had possessed. They were struggling to learn the unique markets for specialized engineers. Because they did not have much feel for the company or the jobs, they were pulling the managers into the process much more than the managers were used to. And turnover among the recruiters meant there was always a learning curve. Managers were aggravated, feeling like they were doing most of the recruitment work themselves. The frustration never showed up in the traditional efficiency-focused recruitment metrics. Another risk - although it seems counterintuitive - is to focus too much on customer service. We all want a pleasant experience when we interact with a supplier, whether internal or external. A likeable staff that tries hard can make up for many failings... at least for a time. Yet at a northeastern utility, we found one of the most pronounced examples of “on the other hand” feedback we have ever seen. The function we worked with had fantastic ratings on a wide range of service dimensions. Staff in the function were always available, returned calls, were courteous and personable. Their stakeholders did not hesitate to praise them for these characteristics. On some measures they topped out our database: 15, 20 even 25 percentage points above the norm. On the other hand, many of the staff had moved into the department from other parts of the company and were chosen for their interpersonal skills. Few had any professional training or certification in the field. Over time, the lack of base skills and knowledge compounded. Errors were common. Projects were behind schedule. Most core function deliverables were actually rated below the norm. One manager described the staff as “respectful and professional, even when they cannot deliver.” In fact, the higher you went in the organization, the greater the level of dissatisfaction (“nice” typically does not cut it with executive teams). How you interact with your internal customers will greatly influence their assessments. It is important to know if there are issues with availability, timeliness, professionalism and the like. Yet in the end it is what you do that matters most. You have to deliver on your core services. In my experience, the most valuable feedback for corporate functions such as HR, Finance, IT, or Supply Chain addresses three areas: what you do (your “product”), what it is like to interact with your function, and what impact you are having on the business. These three areas should be included in any survey of your stakeholders, often referred to as voice of the customer (VOC) surveys. A VOC survey of managers is the central element in OrgVitality’s Internal Customer Experience (ICX) program. ICX is a comprehensive approach to measuring and improving the value delivered by internal functions, applying a range of tools as needed, such as:

  • Interviews to gain critical insights from senior leaders regarding the role of the function, the value it adds to the business, where improvement is needed and how it must adapt to future challenges

  • A company-wide VOC survey for managers

  • A self-assessment by staff on the VOC items, for a “departmental 360”, as well as the ability to measure the team’s degree of alignment, capabilities and engagement.

  • Driver analyses to identify what has the most impact on stakeholders’ judgement of value

  • A structured, collaborative process for prioritization and action planning Eager to learn more? Join me for my upcoming webinar, in which I'll dive into these issues in greater detail, outlining specifically how you can measure and improve your internal services in order to drive organizational success: Empowering HR to Drive Business Success: Measuring and Growing HR Value Tuesday, March 24th, 12:30-1:00 PM EST. Register Here Questions or comments? Contact me directly. Jerry Seibert, M.A., is an executive consultant at OrgVitality. He has 30 years of experience working with organizations to measure and improve customer, employee and other stakeholder perceptions. In addition to leading a wide range of client engagements, Jerry has also led research in internal customer service and its connection to business outcomes. He has designed and implemented employee surveys for numerous organizations, ranging in scope from global entities to small privately held firms. He is the co-author of Hidden Drivers of Success: Leveraging Employee Insights for Strategic Advantage.

By Dr. Walter Reichman

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated about people’s lives, dating back to when my father told me stories about growing up in a small village (known as a shtetl) in what is now the Ukraine. These were scary times, and he and his brothers experienced all sorts of difficulties that made them escape across a frozen river and to America in steerage. He told us about his adventures and mishaps learning to adapt to a new world and a very different life. I saw the relationship between his experiences and the kindness in the way he treated me. I recall a set of books in elementary school about the lives of American heroes from their childhood to their great accomplishments. To this day, I remember the stories about Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Dolly Madison, Theodore Roosevelt and Paul Revere. I recall relishing a book I received as a prize at my elementary school graduation, a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. My favorite books for book reports in high school were usually biographies or autobiographies and when I began reading newspapers for pleasure, I would turn to the obituaries and read about the lives of both the famous and not famous. My fascination with people’s lives certainly contributed to my interest in psychology and to my decision to major in it. I also recall as a psychology student enjoying the book, Lives in Progress, a study of the lives of three people and the development of their personalities.

During my career, I had the opportunity to participate in two major research projects centered on understanding the lives of people. The first was as a research assistant in graduate school following the career development of 140 boys beginning at age 14 and continuing to age 35. It was the Career Pattern Study, headed by Dr. Donald Super, one of the originators of vocational psychology. He interviewed the boys and administered interest, aptitude, and cognitive tests and followed them up every five years. He also interviewed their parents and teachers and collected information about their career aspirations and information they had about work, jobs and careers. Professor Super’s research had a profound effect on the educational process in New York; his findings that boys of 14 and 15 had minimal knowledge about the world of work and were unprepared to make decisions about attending an academic or vocational high school led to the elimination of vocational high schools. It also revealed a strong relationship between the socioeconomic level of the family and their knowledge of jobs and careers.

When I entered the research project, I was 23, the same age as the “boys.” As part of my work I examined the data collected from age 14 to the most recent follow- up at age 20. As I read the interviews I was intrigued by the way they changed over the years because of life experiences. They were certainly more verbal, more reflective, and more self-understanding as they dealt with the reality of finding a vocational place for themselves. The project ran into a financial disaster in the 20th year as federal funding was unexpectedly cut off. Professor Super reached out to all of us who had been a part of the research project over the 20 years and asked us to volunteer to conduct the final interviews and collect the final data. This gave me the opportunity to meet, interview, and test two men I had been studying since they were teenagers. At age 35 the first man was a pilot and the second an FBI agent. Contrary to the research on career development and unlike most of the other “boys,” these two had careers very close to their aspirations at age 14, and even exceeded their adolescent aspirations. The pilot, at age 14 said he wanted to be in the air force or be a soldier. He joined the air force after high school and did become a pilot and moved up the ranks and at our meeting was a pilot for Airforce One, the President’s plane. The second “boy” joined the local police force after high school, which matched his aspirations at age 14. He attributed his moving beyond that level to his wife, who convinced him to go to college at night and obtain a degree in accounting that made him eligible to apply for an FBI position. He loved his work but could not give me much information about his activities because it was secret and, he joked, if he told me he’d have to kill me. What I found particularly interesting is that both these boys at age 14 had typical job choices of boys that age and the probability of those changing over time was considerable. For these two boys their adolescent dreams became reality. I was also pleased that these two boys came from lower socioeconomic levels in their community.

My second pivotal experience in dealing with lives of individuals occurred when I was a consultant to an AT&T project called the Management Progress Study. The initial study was on 240 young men who were entering management training programs at AT&T. Two- thirds were college graduates and one-third had been designated as high potentials from within the company. They were given three days of psychological tests that included personality, interests, cognition, projectives, interviews and performance assessments. Based on the data collected the research team predicted the managerial level the men would achieve. Their predictions were 60% accurate. The procedure was followed up at 8, 15, and 20 years. I was one of the consultants at the last follow-up. As part of the research I showed the men their test results and predictions at the 8 and 15 year follow-ups and asked them to talk about their scores and what they believed contributed to their responses. I worked with about 50 of the men and in the process learned about their lives. They were forthcoming and candid about the positives and the negatives, their joys and sorrows, their achievements and failures and most often about their regrets at the choices they made. I learned a great deal about what goes into 20 years of a man’s life. One of the findings that stands out was the change in their psychological needs over the years as it related to their managerial achievements. At the beginning of the study the need for achievement was the highest-ranking need for all the men. For those who achieved managerial success the need for achievement continued to be the highest. For those who did not reach a high level of success, the need for achievement decreased as the need for affiliation and nurturance increased. The interviews supported these results. As life and careers progressed, needing to take care of others, and to receive care from others became more important than achievement. In many cases life experiences accounted for the change but for many others the causal relationship was unclear. Did diminished achievement result in a lessening of the need or did the lessening cause the diminishment? This remains a question to this day.

My interests in the lives of people result in an interest in the events that formed my own life and as I grew older and more reflective this desire became stronger. My Trove articles seems to fulfill this need for me, and I hope there are people out there who enjoy reading about my life stories as much as I have enjoyed reading about others.

Dr. Walter Reichman is a partner and vice president at OrgVitality, the president of the Psychology Coalition of the United Nations, and the main NGO representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations from the International Association of Applied Psychology. He is also a Professor Emeritus from Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Walter is the editor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology Help the Vulnerable: Serving the Underserved. Walter has an MBA from City College of the City University of New York and an MA and Ed.D from Teachers College of Columbia University.

This article is part seven of our series on the life of Dr. Walter Reichman.

Email Dr. Reichman directly for more information.