Arming your Shared Services Team

Simon Brown

Simon Brown, Leading Shared Services Management Consultant and former HR Transformation Deployment Director at Coca-Cola has been answering your HR dilemmas for the last 2 weeks. A veteran in selection and development of HR Shared Services teams in onshore captives, off-shore, outsourced, and virtual working teams in a range of FMCG, B2B and Pharmaceutical sectors, Simon will advise on how you can overcome the HR headaches which are slowing your operation down....

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When asked what are the most important factors to consider when equipping or arming a shared services function, many will answer that to have an integrated and common data management platform, or to have the best fit for purpose customer records management systems, are great starting points to arm yourself for success.

However, whilst I agree with the above and other points such as business case alignment and stakeholder engagement, including that of the HR Leadership Team, are essential ingredients for the mix to create an effective shared services function; the most important focus to ensure you arm your function effectively is to Attract, Retain and Motivate the right people into and within your shared services team.

Let’s look at each step in turn:

Attracting the right people to join your shared services team

This is about selecting the right people and it is also about getting your marketing and communications right to attract the right people to apply for positions in the first place.

Retaining the right people you have selected

This requires a lot of management time, particularly in the early phases of shared services from go-live up to reaching a stage of operational maturity. Individuals and process teams will be faced with resistance to change and to the new ways of working by some clients and need to develop resilience and a desire to see it through to the point where their work is accepted and valued as the way we do things around here. Coaching, listening and providing the right information and training to enable individuals to do their job effectively are key in making the environment both safe and exciting and a place where individuals want to stay.

Motivating the right people to strive for continuous improvement in your shared services team

Again the shared services operations director and team leader will need to spend time here to ensure the team is both aware and engaged about the vision for success, the milestones along the change management journey and the incentives and personal satisfaction they will get for taking each of those steps.

A shared services director can to some extent choose where they spend their time and the style of direction they will choose when running their shared services operation. Time with the senior stakeholders, time focusing on the details of setting up employee and manager self service, Tier 1 helpdesks, telephony routing systems, ticketing methodology – the time will soon be easily spent managing these technologies to ensure smooth and effective operations.

A shared services director can be a firm hands-on manager of the above, or they can choose to place an emphasis on being a leader of the people who manage the details of all that stuff.

My personal choice of emphasis when operating as a shared services director over several years has been to choose for myself the role of leader, and attract a good team who is empowered and set objectives to manage their process areas within the overall model. For example at Coca-Cola I found that this modus operandii has enabled me to select a good team , retain a good team ( no leavers in 2.5 years) and motivate a good team where 80% have grown in their roles or gained promotional moves.

In my new career as Shared Services Consultant – design, selection, team building, coaching and mentoring - I am keen to share my learning’s with other organizations.

To summarize here with a few "What to Dos" to effectively ARM your shared services teams I list some tips for each area of focus:


  1. Market your shared services function as a good place to work – be transparent about what the job actually involves, encourage potential applicants to ask questions of those doing the work before they apply, show clear and realistic career paths.
  2. Select your shared services team with care –invest time to get it right as you won’t get a second change to create a good first impression with your clients based on the team you field. If you are in start up mode be sure to hire some people who are bigger than the actual job as you will need them also to manage the change process engaging and influencing stakeholders. Be clear about what competencies you require for the roles –both behavioral and technical and don’t compromise.
  3. Persuade the leadership team in your company and the subject matter experts to get involved in selection interviews. Their insights will become buy-ins to the shared service people selected.


  1. Stay close to the people you have hired. Listen to their concerns, live their challenges with them. Help them to see that it will get better; progress is being made.
  2. Establish regular routines for managing by objectives. Use Situational Leadership based on the development level of the individual.
  3. Encourage team working where it is clear what to be a team about!


  1. Share successes with your team, positive feedback from clients, tangible signs that progression can and is being made.
  2. Give those people you selected who are bigger than the job some freedom to operate in project work above and beyond the day job.
  3. Create a shared vision where we are all architects building the cathedral, where we are the new and bright HR consultancy in town helping people to find solutions to their work challenges and daily issues.