Today companies like Infosys are taking some bold steps. They are changing the way to more flexible units of learning - they are no more interactive flash based elearning content hosted in a LMS.
Sometime back an acquaintance shared an interesting incident. He was the General Manager at a large industrial unit and was given the responsibility of heading a committee that was building a temple in the factory premises. Being an engineer and a manager, he was intrigued to find out how the traditional builders would go about the project. On the appointed day, the Stapathi (the traditional temple architect) arrived at the project site with his assistants. After an evaluation, he started uttering a set of instructions which was in Sanskrit to his assistants. The assistants who seemed to understand the code just nodded their head. There was hardly any notes of blueprints taken. In a few months, the temple came up with every mason exchanging standard sets of instructions to others in codes that was hardly understood by the engineers sponsoring the project. All they could decipher was these were some kind of 'Sutras' that was passed on from generation to another.
It is the dotted-lined bridge that HR leaders have to cross to evolve, from just being the basic administration department providing the threadbare solutions to being the Human Resource department which is adept at tackling the employee-specific problems.
The industry today is plagued with the assembly line approach. Once the HR head of a company remarked that, "95% of the time, things are fine and predictable. It is how well you manage the other 5% that sets you apart from the ordinary".
Most employee helpdesk models (that I have seen) are designed to just address the 95% of the most common queries and end up providing no added value. The real challenge is how well helpdesks manage the other 5%. And, in general, helpdesk models are weak in doing this.
Employee queries often arise during the first few weeks of joining or when they get transferred to a new location or when they move to a new role. Proactively addressing some of the potential issues that a new joinee may have can go a long way in improving employee engagement. Better still, is the idea of assigning a "Helpdesk buddy" for a new joinee that s/he can call for help during the initial days.
The other model is to find out the most annoying moments during the first 90 days of a new job and create simple text messages that can be delivered to the employee's mobile phone. I am sure I would have loved to get them during my initial days.
Another idea is to categorize helpdesk support based on the roles people play in an organization. Many helpdesks designers tend to follow "one-size-fits-all" idiom and lose out on customizing. As a salesman, I would be more worried about the calculation of commission or travel; while as a factory worker, it could be on overtime or safety. A helpdesk that just talks about 'generic' HR policy queries may not find a lot of 'likes'.
In the BG days (Before Google) days, remember the frustration of using the help feature that used to come with software? You needed to remember the exact terms and even the capitalizations words to get to the right kind of information. Today, in the AG (After Google) days, queries are universally accessible through a variety of blogs and social websites which are user-generated. You can now practically get answers to almost any question - a quality that the helpdesk should be heading to. Imagine how helpful that would be.
The online community model -- where users take ownership of the community -- should work its way into the enterprise HR model. Answers to employee queries should be fresh and updated, generated by those working in the company. This will increase employee engagement as well as shift the onus of responsibility solely from the HR leaders to the users themselves - the employees.
To gain a better understanding of the role of BPO in HR, access Maheedharan Thiagarajan's Point of View to 'Transform to the Human Resources Face of Tomorrow'.
This analogy is not mine and it came up during an internal conversation. All the same, I thought of sharing it as it is very relevant for many outsourcing discussions.
Often, outsourcing decisions are taken with the focused intention of saving costs. Other objectives do exist, but are less debated. Of course, saving costs is important and has tangible benefits. But outsourcing discussions should go beyond. Many decision makers know this but ignore acting on it as it is not immediately clear how it all adds up.
The situation is very similar to a weight watching program. While there is an obvious temptation to lose weight quickly, unless you sign up for a sustained lifestyle change, the results often disappear or lead to more damages in the long run. Signing up for a lifestyle change calls for more discipline and patience. And more importantly, you need a tougher and more committed coach. Further, it also means that you have to do much of the hard work. But this is the approach that is more likely to succeed in the longer term, both in terms of getting in shape and staying that way. It is little wonder that few weight watching programs are successful and many move from one fad to another in their quest for better health.
So, outsourcing for saving costs or for convenience, can help shed some weight in the near term, but outsourcing for value calls for a more long term vision. It also calls for a tougher and more committed coach/partner. I would be glad to hear experiences to the contrary.