HR Playbook: Boundaryless Service Part 1 - Horizontal Service Amplification

I’ve had some requests to provide some additional insights in my theory of Boundaryless service and how this can improve the service levels of an organization’s HR department.

My first Blog focused on both horizontal and vertical Boundaryless behavior. To provide additional clarification, I will now break this into two separate blog posts, one on each of the Boundaryless directions.

If a human resource team can embrace operating in a boundaryless way, service levels will reach a new high and organizational support and confidence in the HR team will greatly increase.

Simply stated, Boundaryless is a commitment within the HR team that they will serve immediately. The first face an employee sees in the HR department will ideally be able to answer most employee questions. Boundarless doesn’t change accountabilities, but it does dismantle territorialism.

There are two key commitments that must be in place for Boundaryless Service to work within an organization.
  • First is an understanding that there is an open door and even encouragement to serve wherever possible.
  • Second, there is a solid commitment to provide timely updates to individuals who have related accountabilities.
  • Third, see the issue through to its resolution. Ownership exists until the matter is effectively handed off.


A simple example I use to teach this is the following scenario:

An employee comes to the HR department and says “I would like Cherry Coke in the soda machine downstairs.” The Boundaryless response from any member of the HR team would be something like, “I think that’s a great suggestion. I will see what I can do.”

The HR team member would then follow-up with the team responsible for the soda machine (say the cafeteria) and see if this is a viable option.

Upon learning the answer, the HR person could either relay the information back to the employee directly or have the cafeteria manager relay this information to the employee.

The employee was immediately served, his request considered, and accountabilities were respected!

How does this improve service levels? With everyone in the department committed to immediately satisfying organizational needs, and throwing all available resources at any need, chances are that issues will be resolved quicker, in a less bureaucratic way.

Say goodbye to statements like “Judy is over benefits. I will let her know you stopped by.” Instead, every employee in the department is prepared and trained to handle these basic questions. Thus, service is expedited, the employee experience is improved and the organization is better served.

A general departmental education is an important component to Boundaryless service. I made it a practice, for example, for each member of my HR teams, regardless of their area of specialty, to present at one of the Open Enrollment meetings annually. Accountability for benefit responsibilities didn’t change, but this enabled and empowered the entire team to answer basic benefit questions that would regularly come to the department. Technical questions could still be routed to the benefits person, but most questions could be adequately answered immediately. The loop would then be closed with the individual offering the service to inform the benefits person who had the question and what was shared. (Serve. Inform. Resolve.)

Staff meetings can be an opportunity for the team to share insights about their specific assignments and answers to common employee questions. Team members are also taught that if they don’t know the answer, they shouldn’t guess. It is still okay to refer people directly to the expert!

Exceptions to this standard do exist, however. If someone approaches a member of the HR team to seek support in a more sensitive area, such as compensation or a potential harassment or discrimination complaint, those should be immediately referred to the individual both trained and accountable for those issues.

To bring the service levels of your HR team to the next level, let’s tear down some walls! Let’s open doors and truly work together as a team. Let our commitments be to promptly resolving concerns and solving problems with all of our resources. Let’s be clear and respect accountabilities but embrace each other’s help in achieving our organization’s goals and raising the service level (and reputation) of our HR department.

Let’s serve the organization better than ever before. Let’s serve Boundaryless!


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