Employee as Customer: Creating a Service-Oriented HR Department


Imagine if our HR teams approached their roles as guardians of service, just as passionately as customer support does. In the modern business landscape, HR isn’t just about administration; it’s about adopting a service-first mentality. By understanding and embodying this service-centric mindset, HR can reshape the company’s culture from within. To truly grasp this evolution, we need to:

  1. Define what a service mentality truly means.
  2. Tackle the primary challenges preventing HR from fully embracing this paradigm shift.

What is a Service Mentality?


A service mentality goes beyond merely completing tasks or fulfilling roles. It means actively looking for ways to provide value, anticipating needs before they arise, and consistently exceeding expectations. It means seeing the employees that HR supports as more than just creators of work. Instead, they must be seen for what they truly are, internal customers. A service-focused HR helps to cultivate an environment where employees feel valued and heard.

“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” – Douglas Adams

Benefits of Service-Oriented HR

Employee Engagement

According to a recent Gallup poll, companies with a strong service culture and high engagement levels witness a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. If this is true of a company’s relationship with external customers, it goes to reason that it would be even more true for their internal ones.

Retention Rates

Companies with a robust service-oriented HR have an average of 50% lower turnover rates. A service-focused HR helps to cultivate an environment where employees feel that they are valued and important. More than a meaningful statistic, having a proactive solution to employee turnover is the easiest step that an HR department can take toward eliminating the perception of them as nothing more than a “loss center”, or in whose cases, a “necessary evil” and start to show the value that HR can have to an organization’s long-term success.


Per McKinsey Institute research, companies that prioritize employee experience witness 25% more productivity than their counterparts.

Enhanced Employee Experience

Employees are more satisfied and feel more engaged when they believe their HR department is genuinely there to support and assist them.

Better Decision Making

HR teams with a service mindset tend to have a better understanding of employee needs, leading to more informed decisions about benefits, training, and other critical areas.

Strengthened Employer Brand

Employer Brand

A service-oriented HR department focuses on understanding and promptly meeting the needs of employees and external candidates. Satisfied workers are more likely to refer friends, share positive reviews, and help promote the organization’s reputation as a great place to work.

HR staff that are well-trained, empowered, and attentive provide an outstanding employee experience through every interaction. Whether it’s streamlining onboarding, quickly resolving pay issues, or providing learning opportunities, positive experiences with HR differentiate an organization. Candidates notice when recruiters and the hiring process are helpful, friendly, and efficient.

Even small touches like prompt and thoughtful communication, transparent interview feedback, and reimbursement for candidate travel shapes positive first impressions. By monitoring sites like Glassdoor, addressing feedback, and identifying problem areas, HR can actively reinforce company values and strengthen the employer brand. The result is a consistent employee experience that attracts and retains top talent.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The Obstacle to Adapting an HR Service Mentality

Historically, HR departments have been envisioned as a back-office function — focusing on paperwork, compliance, and operational facets of an organization. For many within HR, this has created a psychological and functional disconnect between HR and the front-end services that interact directly with customers. This is even more pronounced in organizations where customer service is a hallmark of their brand promise.

In many of these organizations, HR can sometimes feel like an island, separate from the service ethos that permeates other areas. This is partly because of the nature of their tasks: while sales or customer service teams are continually interfacing with external customers, HR teams are deep into projects, policies, and operational deliverables. The immersion in these tasks can sometimes result in HR professionals forgetting that their primary customers are the organization’s employees.

The Challenge of Perspective


While departments like sales, marketing, or direct customer support live and breathe customer service every day, the challenge for HR lies in shifting its perspective. Employees are not just resources; they are internal customers. However, when HR is consumed with rolling out projects or meeting compliance deliverables, this ‘service’ aspect can inadvertently be sidelined.

Given the stated obstacle to HR teams adopting a service mentality in an organic way, there must be definite steps taken to drive their teams to a position where they are promoting the customer service, they offer employees as a primary objective.

Steps to Creating a Service Mentality in HR

Reframe the HR Role

Begin by redefining the HR role as a service provider. Then, reinforce it by developing an overall HR strategy that clearly identifies the objective of treating employees like internal customers. Operationalize this by conducting workshops or training sessions to provide the concrete tools to help HR professionals see themselves as service providers.

If your company is one built on customer service to external customers, adapt their tools and strategies for HR to use so that the approach is consistent regardless with the customer being served.

Create Service Level Agreements (SLAs)


Just like traditional customer service departments have SLAs to quantify their relationships with external customers, HR should develop their own SLAs to measure their relationships with their internal customers, the company’s employees.

Accountability is key. Since you should always “inspect what you expect”, make sure your HR team and department leaders know that they are accountable to the employee experience for the functions under their supervision.

Create customer response surveys that can be sent when HR requests are resolved. The expected attainment of this and other more metric driven measures for response times, resolution times, etc. should be based on industry standards. In turn, meeting the expected values for the department and the individual contributor should be incorporated into the HR employees’ goals tied to the performance management cycle. This shows the importance of the measures and motivates employees to giving it the emphasis it requires.

Have Job Shadowing

It is common content in most company intranets and social media outlets to show off executives and senior leaders spending time with the frontline workers servicing the company’s external customers.

Does it not make the same or even more sense for HR teams to have a similar opportunity to shadow the employees? Given the much more likelihood of their interacting with these employees than the CEO there is definitely value in this experience.

Create a defined model that allows HR professionals to spend time with these customer-facing teams. This will not only enhance inter-departmental understanding but also enable HR to get a taste of the company’s customer service strategy. It is also essential in helping the HR team to build true empathy. HR teams should never forget that empathy does not mean “I understand”, it instead it means “I have been there and can appreciate your feelings”.

Celebrate Service Successes

celebrate success

Recognize and reward HR team members who go above and beyond in serving their internal customers. Celebrating these wins in team-wide, department- and company-wide meetings and announcements. This will create positive pressure for members of the HR team to emulate the examples being celebrated.

Value the Internal Customer

“Serve first, lead second.” – Robin Sharma

Valuing the internal customer (employee) goes beyond simple transactional interactions; it’s an acknowledgment of their central role in a business’s success. Truly valuing employees means understanding their needs, anticipating their concerns, and consistently delivering solutions that exceed their expectations. It’s about cultivating a relationship built on trust, respect, and mutual benefit. In essence, when a business values its employees, it places them at the heart of every decision, strategy, and action, ensuring their satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.


Adopting a service mentality in HR is not just a strategic decision; it’s a cultural shift. It requires commitment from every member of the HR team and support from top management.

Transform HR

The transformation of HR from a purely operational role to one that encompasses service requires both organizational will and individual change. By understanding the profound impact, they can have on the internal customer experience, HR departments can evolve to become not just the heart but also the service soul of the organization.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.” Do you need to instill this level of a service mentality in your HR organization?

At Mercury Performance Group, a company helping organizations of 500 or more employees solve their HR problems, empower their employees, and elevate their performance, we have a staff of HR specialists that have transformed HR teams and the way with which they are viewed across the corporations they serve. They have don’t this by implementing a model based on this commitment to service. Contact us today so we can show you how to start your own transformational journey.

Scroll to Top

Sign Up For Our Newsletter To Receive Weekly Updates.

Newsletter Signup

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and provide consent to receive updates from our company.