HR Playbook: Boundaryless Service Part 2 - Vertical 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 original Boundaryless 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.

Simply stated, Boundaryless is a commitment within the HR team that they will serve immediately, and at any level in the organization. Boundaryless doesn’t change accountabilities, but it does dismantle territorialism.

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.

Vertical Boundaryless service requires the HR leaders and managers to check their egos at the door, and recognize and respect that as service levels increase, we will win as a team.

It also requires that territorialism and possessive behaviors soften to allow service to occur as it is most convenient for the organization, rather than fully restricted to traditional channels.

Vertical Boundaryless service is much harder to execute than Horizontal Boundaryless service (see prior blog) due to natural insecurities related to comparing ourselves with others. In fact, I believe that most HR leaders are unwilling to embrace this concept fully, relying on more traditional boundaries established by organizations (i.e. ‘my role is to serve the executive team, CEO and Board. Anyone needing to interact with that group should check with me first.’)

There are two key commitments that must be in place for Vertical 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. 

Serve First. Inform Second.

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

Serve First
The HR Business Partner forms a great relationship with the Chief Marketing Officer and other Marketing leaders. The CMO regularly asks the HRBP to visit her office following Marketing staff meetings to review follow-up items.

Inform Second
The HRBP keeps the VP of HR informed of the CMO’s activities, requests and needs in regular weekly meetings.

In this way, the CMO was immediately served, her needs addressed, and accountabilities were respected!

Human resource professionals committed to Boundaryless service will check their egos at the door and recognize that the whole HR team is working towards the same objectives, and that multiple resources are always greater than just one. Territorialism, internal competitiveness and department segmentation mentalities have got to take a back seat to the customer service commitment.

For example, a good HR leader will celebrate when a business partner is seen meeting with the CEO or one of her peers. A good HR team member will react only positively when one of their internal customers is seen meeting with another member of the HR team. Gone are the days of “Don’t speak with my boss without coming to me first.” Let’s be done with “Why is she always meeting with members of ‘my’ department?”

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. Thus, service is expedited, the employee experience is improved and the organization is better served.

In my opinion, the greatest risk to Vertical Boundaryless Service is when information isn’t relayed appropriately. HR Business Partners, one of your primary goals is to make sure that your VP of HR is never surprised. That is a sure sign that the “Inform” portion of this simple equation isn’t adequately performing.

It will also fail when someone feels their territories have been infringed upon, or get impressions that others are becoming ‘more popular’ in the organization. These short-sighted and self-centered behaviors often prevent this superior service from ever occurring in even the greatest of companies.

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 set clear objectives 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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