Human resources service delivery models and strategies

Organisations implement various models for the delivery of human resources services
depending on the organisation’s needs. It is important that human resources
professionals understand the different options available to allow them to develop
customised HR service delivery models that are beneficial to the organisation they
support. Let’s first take a look at some general approaches to HR service delivery. These
may be described as the traditional approach and the Dave Ulrich Model.
Traditional approaches to HR
In the traditional HR model, HR is a single team, comprised of generalists, specialists and
administration.3
The model may be applied in different ways, mainly based on the size of the organisation.
HR may be comprised of a single team of HR generalists, as is common in smaller
organisations. In such organisations, an HR generalist may be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’;
performing the range of HR functions from administrative tasks to some aspects of
business planning. In larger organisations, HR service delivery may be more specialised.
HR service delivery may be organised into HR specialists (such as industrial relations
experts, recruitment experts or training experts) and administration, or several teams
organised by business units or locations in accordance with the corporate strategy.
The traditional HR model – in contrast with the Dave Ulrich model discussed below – may
be characterised as administration-focused. Principally, HR provides essential services to
the business, as decided by the business, which then is enabled to perform the real work
and achieve the vision of the organisation.
It is important to note that the traditional, administrative-focussed, less strategically
engaged model of HR is still very common in many organisations.
3 Swift, G., 2012, ‘Human resource service delivery’ in Managing people and organisations, Eds.
Taylor, S, Woodhams, C, CIPD.
Student Workbook Section 1 – Develop Human Resources Delivery Strategies
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Dave Ulrich’s ‘three-legged stool’ or classic model
The ‘three-legged stool’ model, or classic HR model was developed by David Ulrich and
others, and is now generally considered best practice. Although its specific application in
organisations that adopt it can vary according to business needs, the main point of
contrast between this model and the traditional HR model is the focus on ‘business
partnering’.
In the traditional HR model, the focus is on performing administrative tasks or providing
expert advice to, and services for, line managers. The focus of the Ulrich model is on
partnering with managers at all levels to deliver services in the best way possible to help
them meet the needs of the business – to recruit the right people, performance manage
staff and meet customer needs. In addition, the Ulrich model entails the engagement of
HR in leading the organisation through shaping strategic approaches to, for example
service delivery and building organisational capability to achieve the organisation’s goals
and vision.
The model is organised into three elements:
● business partners
● shared services
● centres of excellence.
The diagram below summarises the Ulrich model:
Business partner
• Establish relationships with
line managers
• Help meet business unit
objectives.
Shared services
• Deliver HR services through
various channels such as
call centres, IT
• May be outsourced
• HR shares resources and
costs with various business
units.
Centres of excellence
• Create HR frameworks
• Deliver strategic initiatives
• Comprise specialist areas
and expertise: training,
recruitment, etc.
Section 1 – Develop Human Resources Delivery Strategies Student Workbook
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Note that the model retains the functions of traditional HR, but organises them into three
main coordinated areas. The main addition within the Ulrich model is the prominence of
business partnering, which is given its own element in the Ulrich model.
Note that particular organisations may take their own distinctive approaches to HR
service delivery to meet particular needs. For example, they may apply the Ulrich model
wholesale; or, they may retain older HR structures, overlaying a more strategic, business
partnering approach to service delivery.
Let’s take a closer look at the application of HR models and various strategies that may
form components of organisations’ specific models of HR service delivery.
Common service delivery strategies
Human resources services are provided through a variety of approaches. Organisations
typically implement a model including a combination of strategies that best suits their
business needs. Human resources professionals must be aware of the options available
when determining the most suitable strategies or approaches for their organisation.
The most common strategies include the following.
Business
partner
Human resources professionals are assigned a business unit or
department in the organisation for which they are provide human
resources support. This support is typically more strategic, that is
general and overarching, than tactical.
Generalist A team of human resources professionals provide generalist support
across the organisation. Individuals within the team have general
human resources skills and rely on external specialists for expert advice
in specific areas, e.g. work health and safety or industrial relations.
Call Centre Managers and employees access human resources support and
information through a telephone call centre.
e-HR Managers and employees access human resources support and
information through an intranet site. This tool provides information and
tools for managers and employees to manage their own human
resources needs.
Centre of
Excellence
Human resources professionals are organised into teams according to
their specialist skills. For example, there may be a learning and
development team, employee relations team, and remuneration and
benefits team. These teams provide specialist advice across the
organisation and managers and employees work with the team they
require advice and support from.
Outsource Human resources services and support are outsourced to specialist HR
service delivery organisations. Businesses often use a blend of inhouse
and outsourced services. The most common outsourced HR
services are payroll and recruitment and selection.
Student Workbook Section 1 – Develop Human Resources Delivery Strategies
BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services 1st edition version: 1
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Learning activity: HR service delivery strategies
Access the following article online:
● Sullivan, J., ‘Selecting an HR strategy’, Workinfo.com, viewed May 2015,
http://www.workinfo.com/free/Downloads/138.htm.
This article provides a summary of ten human resources service delivery strategies
including the advantages and disadvantages of each.
After reading the article, summarise each of the ten strategies described including the
advantages and disadvantages of each and the situations that each strategy is best
suited for.
Model Summary

  1. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
  2. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
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    Model Summary
  3. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
  4. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
  5. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
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    Model Summary
  6. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
  7. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
  8. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
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    Model Summary
  9. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
  10. Advantages
    Disadvantages
    When would you use this model?
    The impacts of service delivery models on legislative requirements
    You will need to consider options for HR service delivery in light of organisational values,
    commitments and legal obligations. The model used for the provision of human resources
    services can impact the organisation’s ability to meets its legislative requirements. Having
    the right service delivery model means having the right resources with the necessary
    skills and experience to ensure the organisation meets its legislative requirements.
    Let’s look at a case study example:
    Case study: Tuff Plastics
    Tuff Plastics is a manufacturing organisation. It has a highly unionised workforce and
    experiences a lot of industrial issues. Due to the physical demands of employees
    working on a processing line, it also has a lot of employee injuries and so requires a
    significant focus on WHS/OHS issues.
    Student Workbook Section 1 – Develop Human Resources Delivery Strategies
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    A generalist model for providing human resources services would not be in the best
    interests of Tuff Plastics as it would not provide the specialist human resources
    knowledge and skills required to ensure compliance with industrial relations and
    work/occupational health and safety legislation. Under a generalist model, the human
    resources professional supporting Tuff Plastics would need to have expertise in
    industrial relations, union management, health and safety, injury management as well
    as all other functions of human resources. This is such a diverse range of skills and
    focus that important aspects of the legislation may be overlooked.
    Tuff Plastics would benefit from an outsourced or centres of excellence model where
    experts could be engaged to provide the specialist advice and services required. Under
    these models, the human resources professional would have time to focus on
    supporting the organisation to achieve its strategic goals, and experts in industrial
    relations and occupational health and safety could be engaged to ensure legislative
    requirements were being met. Under these models the organisation is getting all of the
    support and focus it needs to achieve all of its goals and meet all of its obligations.
    Learning activity: Human resources service delivery strategic options
    Consider each of the organisations below and detail the service delivery strategic
    options that could be appropriate for that organisation and why they are appropriate.
    Organisation Strategy Why?
    Medium size
    manufacturing
    organisation
    with 1,000
    employees
    across
    Australia. The
    organisation
    relies heavily
    on performance
    data to manage
    the business.
    Section 1 – Develop Human Resources Delivery Strategies Student Workbook
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    Organisation Strategy Why?
    Three-year-old
    small business
    with 150
    employees and
    a new HR
    function.
    A global
    organisation
    with over
    10,000
    employees that
    is focused on
    minimising
    costs through
    maximising
    productivity.
    Student Workbook Section 1 – Develop Human Resources Delivery Strategies
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    Develop models
    After considering the models and strategies available for structuring the delivery of HR services, HR professionals need to translate those
    options into customised models that are relevant to their organisation. This involves demonstrating how different strategies can support the
    provision of human resources services across the business, including the strengths and weaknesses of each. These strengths and weaknesses
    include consideration of costs, benefits and risks, which will be discussed in more detail in the next topic.
    The following is an example of a TAFE’s generalist delivery model. The TAFE is considering the strengths and weaknesses of their current
    generalist model (below) in comparison with a centres of excellence model.
    Regional Human Resources – Service Delivery Model
    Teams
    Area 1 Area 2 Area 3
    Support the following campuses:
    ● Coonabarabran
    ● Quirindi
    ● Tamworth
    ● Gunnedah.
    Support the following campuses:
    ● Narrabri
    ● Moree
    ● Armidale
    ● Tingha.
    Support the following campuses:
    ● Goondiwindi
    ● Tenterfield
    ● Glenn Innes.
    Strategy
    ● people development
    ● organisational culture and change
    ● workforce planning
    ● equity and diversity.
    ● condition management
    ● recruitment and employment
    strategies
    ● workplace communication.
    ● employee and industrial relations
    ● conduct and performance
    ● occupational health and safety/WHS.
    Section 1 – Develop Human Resources Delivery Strategies Student Workbook
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    Services
    ● people development
    ● workforce planning
    ● organisational culture and change.
    ● payroll
    ● recruitment and employment
    strategies
    ● workplace communication.
    ● employee and industrial relations
    ● safety working and learning strategies.
    The table below details the strengths and weakness that the TAFE has identified for each of the models including the cost benefits and risks.
    Strengths Weaknesses
    Generalist model (current)
    ● High customer contact with a high level of
    line manager support provided.
    ● HR team members build close relationships
    with the business, which allows them build
    solutions that fit the unique needs of the
    business unit.
    ● Due to close relationship with the business,
    HR team members respond quickly to
    business needs.
    ● High ‘personal’ credibility between HR team
    members and line managers.
    ● Difficulty in attracting and recruiting HR team members with knowledge
    and skills across all HR functions.
    ● Expensive due to high salaries required to attract and retain broad skill set
    required for generalist HR team members and the fact that external
    consultants are required for specialist support.
    ● HR team members can become too loyal to their business unit leadership
    and less so to corporate leadership resulting in inconsistent HR strategies
    and initiatives being implemented across the broader business.
    ● Generalists can spend too much time ‘hand holding’ and doing tactical
    work rather than focusing on strategic issues resulting in the organisation’s
    ability to meet strategic goals being negatively impacted.
    ● HR team members may have insufficient technical knowledge to solve
    complex one-of-a-kind problems which can expose the organisation to risk.
    ● No central HR knowledge base is established because information transfer
    between HR team members in different business units is often limited and
    most information is never captured in central HR.
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    Strengths Weaknesses
    Centre of Excellence Model
    ● Issues are identified and solved quickly, as
    HR team members are focused on specific
    areas.
    ● Internal HR team members have a better
    understanding of the business and its
    operation than external consultants.
    ● Less need for use of expensive external
    specialist consultants. This can significantly
    reduce costs.
    ● Expert knowledge held within the
    organisation, which builds organisational
    capability.
    ● Ability to manage risks proactively as HR
    team members have the specialist
    knowledge required to work with the
    business in a proactive capacity rather than
    reactive which is often the case when
    engaging external consultants.
    ● Inability to attract and recruit HR team members with the specialist
    knowledge required which could expose the organisation to risk by not
    having access to the skills and knowledge required to resolve complex
    issues.
    ● Significant set-up costs and time to build teams with the skills and
    knowledge required.
    ● Unable to use knowledge that external consultants have attained through
    supporting other organisations with similar issues which could delay the
    identification of resolutions and impact the organisation’s ability to
    implement best practice.
    ● Line managers have more than one contact within the HR team which can
    lead to frustration as to who to contact for what support and often results
    in not engaging with HR as it is considered ‘too hard’.
    ● Managers may continue to use existing relationships with external
    consultants and therefore double the cost to the organisation for the same
    services, for example managers continue to use external recruitment
    agency instead of in-house functions.
    Human resources professionals should use tables like this one when presenting options to management teams. These tables allow
    management teams to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each option which allows them to make an informed decision as to which
    option is most appropriate for their organisation.

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