According to Mercer’s 2017 HR Transformation Study – How HR Needs to Change, just more than one-third (35%) of organisations worldwide employ an HR service delivery model that includes the three components of Centers of Expertise (COEs), HR Business Partners (HRBPs), and HR Shared Services (HRSS). The successful operation of all three components is an attribute of high-performing HR functions. Moreover, few (17%) plan to change from their existing model.

Mercer’s HR Transformation research shows organisations with HR functions that continuously evolve their HR service delivery model, build capabilities among their HR team, and invest in technology perform significantly better than those that do not.


Business practices of high-performing HR functions. Source: Mercer’s 2017 HR Transformation Study – How HR Needs to Change

Evolve the model, build capability

Mercer’s study finds that more than two-thirds (68%) of high-performing HR functions have redesigned their HR structure within the last five years. As a result, many are utilising a framework in which HR administration and decisions are made in a centralised manner, and processes and practices are consistent across the multiple locations.

As service delivery models evolve, organisations with high-performing HR functions are aligning COE and HR practices with the overall business strategy, shifting transactions to shared services, and providing more learning and rotational career development opportunities for their HR team. By building alignment to key business performance initiatives, HR professionals are well-positioned for value-added roles. According to Mercer’s study, more than two-thirds (69%) of executive HR leaders meet with the CEO or COO to discuss business and HR strategy at least twice a month to ensure that strategic alignment.

“These meetings are important to strengthen the partnership between these leaders and help ensure that HR is aligned tightly with business strategies,” says Denise LaForte, North American Leader of Mercer’s HR Transformation practice. “When business leaders see HR programs aligned to the business strategy, they understand the value and importance of those programs, which is particularly significant since less than half of CEOs recognise HR for its capability and competence.”

Invest in technology

Investing in human capital management technologies that provide workforce analytics to drive strategic decision-making and deliver a consumer-based HR experience for both managers and employees should be a top priority on HR’s agenda, especially since only one-third (35%) of CEOs  believe their HR function provides a digital experience for employees. Mercer’s study finds that organisations with high-performing HR functions have embraced technology and have realised significant results assessing and applying analytics. Specifically, they achieved better business outcomes, such as delivering exceptional customer value (94%), reacting proactively to disruptive change (83%), and driving innovation (89%). Additionally, they are viewed as great places to work (86%) and attract the talent needed to excel (91%).

Despite organisations with high-performing HR functions using technology much more than others, it is still limited. While 69% have employee self-service in place, just 36% have manager self-service and only 27% have mobile talent applications.

“There is significant opportunity for the HR function to grow its digital presence,” says Margaret Ruiséal, Partner in Mercer UK’s HR Transformation business. “HR Functions need to enhance their technology and data analytics skills in order to strengthen their strategic decision-making and enhance their partnerships with business leaders and other functions. Creating a more digital and consumer-oriented manager and employee experience is fundamental to this shift and requires significant change management to ensure success .”