This past Thursday I had coffee with a longtime senior HR executive who has been working as an independent consultant for the last seven years. A former colleague who thought it would be valuable for us to meet introduced me to him. During our conversation, he was sharing a story about directing one of his teams and he was imploring them to be focused on serving the needs of their “internal clients” (the company’s employees).
This characterization of HR’s mission (and you hear it from IT people as well) always makes me cringe.
For any company there should be one client, one customer and those are the people and businesses that purchase and use your products and services. To follow any mantra that is internally focused is taking your eye off the ball, which is ultimately serving the REAL customer or prospect.
Many HR folks will claim that they can’t impact the relationship with the real customer. As an example, what do my compensation and benefit programs have to do with satisfying the person buying our products? Directly, there is likely to be little impact. But from a different perspective, the quality of these programs to attract top-notch talent, motivate them and reward them will have real consequences for a customer’s interaction with your company. A collective employee mindset that keeps the end user in focus no matter the distance from the direct engagement will undoubtedly benefit the business.
Many HR (and IT) groups will actually take it a step further and survey their “internal clients” to assess how they are serving them. Does it really matter if HR gets good grades from the other employees but the company’s sales are down and it’s losing market share? How about reconstructing the survey in a creative way to determine the effects of these functions for the real customer? If you are doing this, let me know. If you’re one who is working on behalf of internal customers and think I don’t get it, let me know that too.