Demonstrating Greater Value to the Business

How do you provide high quality service that goes over and above the strictly mechanical activities of processing transactions? The best — and simplest — approach is for your staff to adopt the continual goal of driving out inefficiencies. Through training and the provision of tools and guidance, you can develop the talent in your organizations to identify and analyze the root cause of process inefficiencies. By doing so, you drive downs costs and improve delivery. Organizing in teams, where individuals are completely cross-trained in all aspects of the job and where they use those skills daily, encourages and maintains the bandwidth necessary to keep the business humming while projects are being developed. This incentivizes staff to continue to learn and hone their skills in order to "move" into the organization(s) they support.

Keep it Simple
A key rule is: Keep it simple. Set the expectations and raise the bar as appropriate.  Employees will rise to the opportunities and become champions of change. Insist on focused extraordinary service to customers, give staff the freedom to take calculated risks and emphasize the need to partner with internal customers.  Your reward will be cost containment, multiple efficiencies and highly skilled individuals.

Once you are able to measure productivity through the metrics you have developed, how do you put appropriate internal controls in place to check the work is of the highest quality? Learning and training are essential. Each team member should know and understand the key controls over financial assets inherent in the processes they are responsible for. A great learning exercise for a small group of employees is to develop, routinely review, and maintain process flow diagrams with the controls highlighted.  These flowcharts make great training tools for periodic learning reviews. To ensure that these controls are understood and are being applied, assemble a small team with proven higher level skills to carry out regular internal process audits on daily work completions.  Tie staff’s compensation to measurements of productivity, quality and identification of process improvements.

Human Asset Development
None of these activities can be accomplished without the continual and aggressive development of your human assets. How do you motivate the accounts payable or customer service associate to take on more responsibility, seek out process improvements and maintain the highest level of quality and productivity? We know from multiple studies and real life experience that money isn’t the primary influence. Start the process by putting yourself in their shoes and asking the question, "What’s in it for me?"

When you hire the right people, you get employees that want to do a great job and grow their careers. They will soak up knowledge and appreciate your developmental guidance and performance improvement feedback – particularly, if they can "see and feel" the changes (see also sidebar).

Here are some pointers that work for us:

  • Hire college graduates. Teach them the ins and outs of the end-to-end process they are working on, and tie their earning ability to their speed of learning and the quality of their output. 
  • Exploit your economies of scale. Cross-train all employees supporting the same function and leverage your technology across all operations.  
  • Create a flat but empowered organization with the average ratio of management to employees of 1:10, and keep costs down while motivating staff to higher levels of performance.
  • Once employees have mastered the core job, provide them with higher level opportunities to develop their analytical or project management skills. Guide and counsel them to implement process improvement opportunities they identify. This will result in a more streamlined, automated operation which, in turn, will result in better control over, and reduced, costs – as well as headcount. Now is the time to transition your well-trained, skilled and knowledgeable employees to the core business functions of the operating units you support. Talk about added value!  

By employing this methodology and management style, Boehringer Ingelheim’s SSO was able to reduce headcount and allocated costs even though the operating units supported grew by over 100%.  At the same time, the remaining headcount in the SSO shifted its focus from transactional processing to more analytical, value-added work. A win-win situation which is paving the way for future improvements.

More about L.E.A.P. (Loaned Employee Advantage Program) 

We have introduced a special program to foster the development of our human assets. We’ve called it L.E.A.P. – Loaned Employee Advantage Program. Through L.E.A.P., we second selected shared services staff into a newly vacated position within a business unit. After maximizing core job skills, employees receive additional training in reporting analysis, financial analysis, project management, and system analysis. Assignments or projects are then delegated to "ready to launch" employees, for loan assignments. As a result, we have become a company "feeder program," distributing our staff into the units. (The backfill tempworkers hired to fill these employees jobs are paid for by the business units – and are less expensive than hiring in higher skilled staff.) As the shared services staff are very familiar with the processes, they do not require extensive orientation in the business unit and thus save time. Their insider knowledge and high-level work ethic make them an indispensable tool for improved work practices both within the business unit and as a liaison between the unit and the shared services group. As a result, the majority of staff are retained in their new positions.

Since 2004, we have placed out 28 employees on loan, of which five are still on loan, 13 have been hired into the new department, and ten are returned to BISC.