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HR outsourcing: undertaking the journey to a 2020-proof HR department together

Sander Kars
Sander Kars 22 August 2016

Preparing the HR department for 2020 doesn’t need to be complicated. But what are the main conditions for HR to be able to work at strategic level and how do you set about achieving this? And what does this mean for the administrative tasks that are often assigned to HR? I asked Debby de Gelder, Director of HR Services at Raet.

An interview with: Debby de Gelder, Director of HR Services at Raet

According to De Gelder, you should first find out whether the HR professionals are able to develop their data analysis skills at all: “You mustn't forget that lots of HR employees opted for this profession because it used to be a ‘softer’ discipline. And of course, HR is still about people, but nowadays this has to be supported by figures and analysis. So the question remains whether the people who opted for HR due to its soft side are actually the right people to come up with the hard analyses you need to draw up policy. And whether they have the knowledge and the potential to implement this policy. Will they be able to discuss the analyses in the business and link them to conclusions, advice and action points?”

Start by establishing the HR vision

It all starts by establishing a clear vision of HR. Following on from that, you can then set priorities for policy aspects (themes) for both existing policy and any new policy to be designed. De Gelder: “The HR organization and its business partners have to be able to focus on the themes that have priority and that fully support the HR vision. You must be able to rely on the fact that you can obtain the right information from the e-HRM system so that you and the HR business partners can give substance to those themes.”

Focus on strategy and outsource HR support tasks

"Don't be distracted from your priorities in your efforts to achieve the HR vision. Don't lose any time and energy on HR support services: it’s better to outsource them."

According to De Gelder, it is important for HR that it has and maintains a focus on its vision and strategy. To do this, it is important to be able to rely on other HR services – mainly support services – having been set up properly. De Gelder's advice: “Besides the priorities and the accompanying policy aspects, there are always the basic HR tasks such as the HR records and payroll accounting that have to be up to par in order to provide the organization with good quality HR services. Don't be distracted from your priorities in your efforts to achieve the HR vision; don't lose any time and energy on HR support services: it’s better to outsource them.”

Clearly indicate what you wish to achieve as the HR department

De Gelder also emphasized that working with an HR service provider and outsourcing HR will not in itself be sufficient to change the organization: “If you haven't defined a clear HR vision and you don't know what you want to emphasize, HR services provided by an external party will never be able to provide the right support for all processes. The clearer you are in your mind about what you want to achieve and what the organization's focus is, the more easily and more effectively an external HR service provider will be able to provide support.”

“You should therefore formulate the subjects and themes required to give substance to the HR vision very carefully, so that a service provider can respond perfectly to this by providing HR support services. Such a service provider can provide the right support for these themes and for the matters that may not be the main focus, but still need to be good. For instance, administrative HR tasks and support to HR managers.”

Also consider how other organizations outsource HR tasks

According to De Gelder, best practices that are constantly developing are starting point number one for HR outsourcing and for working in partnership with an HR service provider: “You should therefore also look at other organizations. This doesn't mean that you should always copy their recommendations, but it means that you should be open minded when presenting your HR vision and receptive to help and support in this. This will enable you to be successful in the HR vision in respect of the business.”

Involve external HR experts in good time

What is important in this respect is that support for HR should always be considered as a journey that an organization and the selected HR service provider undertake together. During this journey, the support service provision should be able to be adjusted in line with the organization's HR priorities. This means that flexibility in the service provision offered is crucial.

"Support for HR can best be compared to a journey that an organization and the HR service provider undertake together."

In addition, De Gelder emphasized that she would recommend not writing comprehensive policy documents about the HR vision and particularly not implementing them directly: “This would not leave any room to deal with a challenge, either expected or unexpected, or to take account of enhanced understanding. So, be open and let yourself be challenged by HR experts who find themselves in the same circumstances and by companies that can offer support. If you don't involve them until the end of the process, it's not a journey you undertake together and you run the risk of not benefiting fully from them when the time comes for implementation and support. All these parties, from inventors to implementers, are part of the end-to-end chain that ensures that the organization makes full use of HR support.”

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