Can You Win the War for Talent?

We have all heard the story. You are an SSC leader and have started an SSC in THE new ‘under the radar’ location in Eastern Europe or perhaps India. Labour costs are extraordinarily low and yet productivity and service from your bright young graduates soon exceeds pre-SSC benchmarks. All seems very rosy… for the first 18 months at least.

And then the location changes from being the place no-one could pronounce to the next big hotspot – where every captive and BPO provider seem to be setting up shop. Suddenly the war for talent is very real – with new entrants keen to jump start their SSCs with some experienced local hires (ie, your people). At the same time your team members suddenly sit back from their workstations and think to themselves "wait a minute! I am multilingual and graduated in the top quartile of my year. What am I doing sitting here matching invoices in an organisation with very few management positions and little opportunity of promotion?’

The balance of demand and supply for local talent, that once looked so favourable, has now changed. You are hit with a double whammy. You have to pay more to have any chance of keeping your people and yet staff turnover, with all the associated costs and impacts on service, still skyrockets.

So what can you do? First, think carefully about site selection. If the location is likely to become a hot spot, does your company have the brand recognition as an employer of choice to compete with other blue chip captives and BPO providers? Some companies have done well setting up in locations off the beaten track where, although it is difficult to find suitable people, once found they tend to stay. Other companies move straight to outsourcing, for this amongst other reasons.

Also think about the profile of the people you hire. Do you really need so many bright young things with such language skills? Maybe you need some at first when you go live. But for many roles less ambitious, monolingual, ‘nine-to-fivers’ will do just as good a job and will stay with you far longer.

Next, you should do all you can to reduce the impact of staff turnover. Are your processes well documented, as automated as possible and standardised enough to ensure minimal disruption if someone new has to take over at short notice?

Are you doing all you can to make your SSC jobs attractive? Job enrichment techniques include offering opportunities to multiskill and work across different processes or even functions, work in self-managed work teams, second into the business, participate in continuous improvement initiatives, and of course learn new skills and attain relevant accreditations.

The war for talent will continue and indeed get worse and there is no silver bullet to ensure you will win. But with a continual focus on these solutions you are likely to fare better than your competing SSCs.

About the Author

Peter Moller is a partner at Deloitte & Touche UK, heading up the company's Eurpean Shared Services & Outsourcing Advisory team.