Top 3 Ways to Manage Cultural Fear for HR Shared Services
Posted on: March 18, 2016

Federal agencies have been considering human resource (HR) shared services models at increasing rates over the past few years, recognizing the benefits from economies of scale and standardized processes that occur when the HR function is consolidated or centralized to support the entire enterprise.

Conversely, agencies continue to be challenged with cultural angst that develops in the early stages of planning within the organization’s workforce.  Almost as soon as shared services exploration or planning begins, whispers and concerns over job security emerge and HR staff may feel uncomfortable or threatened by impending changes and unknowns.  When it comes to change management, traditional training and communications are not enough to calm these fears or create buy-in from stakeholders.

The following tips can be integrated within a federal agency’s change management approach to manage the culture fear toward HR shared services.

  1. Build enthusiasm and optimism around the “why” of shared services, future vision of the organization, and positive impact on customers. Employees who understand the greater purpose and benefit to a major change, as well as how their role creates such positive impact, are more likely to support a successful transition.  On the other hand, those who do not see the benefit are more likely to spread negativity in the office and eventually leave.  If an agency wants to retain the top talent post-implementation, then leadership should proactively message the benefits of shared services early and often.
  1. Seek input and engagement from end users and key stakeholders who know how the daily HR processes and procedures fit into the agency’s mission. In the past two years, the Department of Veterans Affairs used an online idea board to engage all members of the organization, then collected, analyzed and provided feedback on the most feasible suggestions from the thousands received.  Internal idea-generation, whether from an aggressive idea board like the VA or via traditional stakeholder interviews, shows employees that their suggestions are appreciated and valued.
  1. Be responsive to the inputs received from stakeholders so that they know that they have been heard, even if their suggestions do not become a part of the final solution.  If you make commitments, make sure you follow through and communicate when doing so.  Core HR functions, such as payroll and benefits processing, may be well suited for a majority of organizations.  However, non-core HR functions, such as recruiting and performance management, may be difficult to centralize within every agency – and HR staff who perform these duties on a regular basis can provide insights into whether it would be feasible or not.


For more information on HR shared services, check out Z Street Consulting’s related posts: