Diagnostic Assessment Case Study

The Challenge

The HR unit of a prominent public-research University was seen by many faculty and staff as providing untimely, inconsistent, and unfriendly service. The University believed that a focused training program, particularly improving customer service, would improve the situation.

How Sibson Helped

Sibson Consulting recommended a comprehensive assessment of the HR unit to identify all potential issues impacting service quality. Service quality can be impacted by factors beyond lack of training, including less visible causes such as unclear roles and poor working space. The University’s CHRO agreed that while a diagnostic assessment may reveal tough-to-hear results, it was necessary to fully understand the reasons behind poor service quality. Sibson conducted the assessment by interviewing all HR employees and external stakeholders that frequently interact with HR. Sibson also analyzed relevant data, policies, and processes to gather additional insight and context.

Sibson’s discovery efforts revealed:

  • Highly inefficient operation due to manual, time-consuming, paper based processes
  • Limited use of technology to streamline processes
  • Ineffective operational supervision and leadership
  • Unclear performance expectations
  • Low morale/levels of employee engagement
  • Undefined career paths / ladders
  • Unwelcoming culture


Sibson’s comprehensive review demonstrated that the challenges facing the HR unit were caused by a variety of factors that would not improve from training alone. Sibson’s report outlined action items to address the challenges. With guidance from the CHRO, Sibson Consulting worked with small teams to support the development and implementation of several interconnected objectives:

  • Improve core transactional processes through increased automation and better use of technology
  • Revise approval policies to reduce multiple handoffs for low level risk transactions
  • Develop service level agreements and standards to improve timeliness and quality
  • Launch an internal cultural improvement initiative
  • Establish meaningful performance metrics
  • Invest in supervisory training
  • Develop new self-service tools to accelerate access to HR information and processes

Each of the goals were developed and implemented within months of the launch of the working teams. The resulting outcomes had an immediately positive impact of the unit and to campus stakeholders. The team based approach resolved key issues and helped build greater buy-in and collaboration. The timelines to transact core HR services were significantly reduced as well as the error rates. This produced higher levels of customer service, improved morale and increased staff confidence in HR. Surveys of University personnel involved demonstrated that the resulting outcomes had a positive impact.

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