Banking and Human Resources: some parallels.
Banks, like many of us, were caught up in the internet hype of the late 1990’s. Online banking promised to revolutionize all forms of banking, removing the need for branches and such like. Traditional banks and insurance companies launched internet only banks. The high street bank branch was doomed, it seemed.
Banks now realize that retail banking requires a multi-channel approach. Not all customers are the same, and not all banking processes are equal. Banks today deliver a multi-channel experience. It may make sense to do a simple bank transfer online, but I may wish to talk to someone on the phone about my mortgage, and I’d like some face to face advice from an expert on balancing my investment portfolio or setting up as an independent contractor. Also, a 25 year old graphic designer is likely to have a different channel mix from a pensioner, although the silver surfer community is the fastest growing of all.
Banks have become very sophisticated in managing this multi-channel approach. It has taken a number of years to get the balance, and as new technologies emerge, the model needs re-balancing. The best banks though, know that managing the channel model is the key to cost management, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, profitability.
I’m of the view that HR needs to do the same. In talking with many companies today, I can segment them into three groups.
Technophobe: Self service is not for us. Our managers and employees want to deal face to face with HR. ESS (employee self service) and MSS (manager self service) is just pushing work to the managers, they should get on with managing not self service.
Technophile: With ESS, we don’t need HR anymore. Managers and employees can access the system 24-7 and do everything online themselves.
Technorealist: We deploy a mix of interaction models. We use the web, the phone, email and face to face meetings; depending on the type of services, the customer receiving the service, and our cost model.
I don’t expect the bank teller to advise me on whether invest in a hedge fund, and I don’t expect a hedge fund advisor to transfer money from my current account to pay the electricity bill. Why is it that some companies seem to think that the HR generalist, who processes my sick leave form can advise me on building a high performance team, and can help me structure a compensation plan that will retain my top performers?
The dissonance between work and home continues to grow. Most of your employees are familiar with eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, Google and so on. They can submit their tax returns online, pay parking fines, congestion charges and even do online banking.
ESS is not the answer to all HR questions. But neither is an HR generalist on every corridor. The best HR functions today work like the best banks do. They understand the customer demographics, and the service demands, and deliver the most convenient service at the price point that makes sense. They provide efficient transactional services, accurately and cheaply, with a minimum of fuss. And they provide advice and guidance when it really counts.