Improving coordination with unit-based administrative support

Topics: Administration and Finance, Human Resources, Leadership and Professional Development

Steve Rowe, Consultant

HR departments rely heavily on decentralized, unit-based support staff for the completion of a number of HR processes. Most often, these staff are responsible for initiating processes and fulfilling prerequisite steps. Therefore, significant collaboration is necessary to ensure timely process progression.


Jack of all trades, master of none

Unfortunately, unit-based support staff are often unprepared to effectively complete HR process tasks. As administrative generalists, they are responsible for many disparate activities, from scheduling travel to submitting unit budgets to new employee onboarding. This wide breadth of work creates two key challenges for achieving HR process efficiency.

First, unit-based staff are often unsure of HR process task responsibilities, handoff-sequences, and timelines for process completion. This is particularly true of decentralized staff in small units who perform HR tasks infrequently.

Second, even when unit-based staff understand key process steps, they are not always proficient in assigned process steps. For example, the HR leader at one institution reports that roughly 70% of personnel action forms are returned to the originating units due to errors.

Both of these challenges delay process completion and necessitate significant involvement from central HR to coach support staff through HR processes.


Two approaches for supporting unit-based staff

Given unit-based staff’s heavy involvement in HR processes and competing pressures for their time and expertise, providing proper support to these staff is essential for improving HR process efficiency. HR leaders can employ two strategies to elevate unit-staff performance:

1. Clarify the role of unit-based staff in various HR processes
To increase overall understanding of their duties, HR should provide unit staff with detailed information about workflow, order of handoffs, and completion timelines for key processes. For more information, see Stakeholder-HR Service Contract.

2. Equip unit-based staff to complete process steps more independently
and proficiently

Rather than broad, infrequent trainings, central HR should support decentralized staff with in-depth, on-demand training and resources for the most troublesome processes. For more information, see Unit-Based HR Super Users and On-Demand Unit-Based Staff Toolkits.

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Our study, The High-Efficiency HR Department, provides strategies to increase staff productivity and capacity by optimizing department operations and refocusing staff on higher-level work.

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