What makes an HR Advisor Model successful?

January already passed by, but I am still proudly looking back on a very successful 2019. As we went live with our global HR Advisor model in July 2018 (see Andy Labute’s article for more details), 2019 was the first year in which we supported first and mid-level leaders on consultative HR matters in a complete annual cycle. We managed to close more than 7,400 enquiries, while making our customers extremely happy. A Customer Satisfaction Score of 9.6, a Net Promoter Score of 90.1, and hundreds of very positive manager comments speak for itself.  

Hence, the question remains what made this year so successful? Are there any key success factors that we can derive? As the interest in innovative HR support models is growing, I decided to share some insights here. But keeping in mind that they are subjective and framed by certain conditions, like SAP’s culture, technology, and overall business model. 

Feel passionate about your customers 

When I staffed my team almost two years ago, I was lucky to see that they all shared a common motivation: to help managers become great leaders. What a purpose! Today, this passion is still strong, and I truly believe that this intrinsic motivation is a key success driver. My team gets pleasure out of supporting leaders in solving immediate leadership challenges. The challenges are often short-term, complex and concrete. Managers appreciate the hand-on support, the active listening, and the individualized solution. My team sees the opportunity to influence a whole corporate leadership culture by interacting with first level leaders from the very beginning. That is why we pro-actively reach out to any new leader, offering them a personal consultation that includes an overview of the most useful resources, and some initial concrete tips and tricks. We observe that this “early bonding” not only helps to give them confidence in their new role as leader, but also increases the likelihood that they come back to us in the future. As we know, leaders who are open for feedback and consultation usually outperform others, as they reflect on themselves and strive to become better every day. 

Be comfortable with the uncomfortable 

Each time you implement something new, there is this feeling of tension. Will it work out? What questions will the managers have? Will I be able to answer them? Leading one of three regions, my team covers 40 different countries across all Board Areas, which requires a very broad HR expertise. When the model was newly implemented, we had to learn fast and on-the-go. It was an adventure, and the team appreciated the high level of on-the-job learning, even though they were working out of their comfort zones in many situations. It made them stronger and more self-confident with each case they handled successfully. This resulted in a positive ripple effect, with more complex requests coming in, as managers gained trust in their HR Advisors. 

Rather “we” than “me” 

What makes the team strong are the high levels of team culture and collaboration. They immediately reach out to any of their peers if they want to do sparring on a complex case. There are no boundaries, and the support is provided instantly. “Wisdom of the crowd” is a practice we regularly apply when unsure about the best solution. Brainstorming on new services or service channels is another part of our team culture. The team consists of people with very different expertise and sharing openly makes the team very self-sufficient and powerful. One important element is the fact that we all share the same customer base: there is no “that is my internal customer” notion. 30 HR Advisors jointly support more than 6,500 managers around the globe. And by sharing a customer base, everybody feels a joint obligation to serve each manager in the best possible way. Once managers have a first positive experience with an HRAdvisor, the next HRAdvisor will do everything to keep the same level of satisfaction. At the same time, there are situations in which bringing in a new HR Advisor adds additional benefit, as new perspectives and ideas come into play. It is like in soccer when you exchange a player to bring a different spin into the game. This is what makes teamwork strong. 

Stay curious, keep innovating 

When our team was established, it felt like being in a start-up: we had to find our way on our own. We could not compare ourselves with other HR teams due to the unique setup. This was great, as each team member felt encouraged to try out, and to learn.  Our overall corporate culture is defined by high levels of trust and empowerment, which made it easy to take risks. The team enjoyed experimenting, and we quickly found out new approaches and service offerings. The opportunity to directly test it out with our customers helps us to keep it simple and relevant. The positive experience over the past 18 months encourages us to continue this path and prevents us from becoming complacent. 

High self-regulation and healthy distance 

Manager enquiries come to us via a ticketing system. One of our working principles is that each team member can freely choose what case to work on. This provides high levels of self-regulation and self-efficacy and has a positive impact on the customer experience. For example, after having worked on three highly complex performance cases, the HR Advisor can decide that the next case will be retention or development related, and will be highly motivated as it was his or her own choice. Due to the strong team spirit, self-regulation works perfectly. There is no “cherry picking”. At the same time, the shared customer base and ticketing system allows a professional and healthy distance for the HRAdvisor: if the feeling of becoming too close comes up, another HRAdvisor can take over. If the HRAdvisor becomes sick or goes on vacation, they can mentally switch off, as they know that there is a team in the background that is taking care. Health is an important topic especially for functions like HR that focus on caring for others. A healthy setup ensures that people stay healthy and happy. 

As a conclusion, what makes an HR Advisor model successful? It is the people who make the difference. Culture and technology help to set a strong foundation, but without the right people any model would still fail. I am very proud of my team, and I look forward to shaping the future with them. 

#LifeatSAP #HRPunks