Measuring Shared Services Effectiveness

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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The subject of measuring Shared Services performance is a regular topic of conversation for every organization, particularly in the early phases of shared services operations implementation and ‘go live,’ and less so as shared services reaches a healthy maturity and becomes an accepted and integral part of the way we work.

Back in the mid 90’s at SmithKline Beecham I was involved in setting up the first HR shared services model, deployed in the UK and US. Our CEO was a guy named Jan Leschly. He was famous earlier in his career for being a gifted Tennis player, Danish champion and Wimbledon semi-finalist. His lean agility and competitive achievement motivation also transferred into business life too.

He once asked me how many international assignments and expatriate moves I had managed for our global marketing talent pool in the last year. I knew it had been a busy year and blusteringly answered: "quite a few!" He frowned and quickly rallied back with a famous quote I will always remember: "Simon if you don’t keep the score you are only practicing! That’s fifteen –love to me ".

It soon registered that I needed to be on top of my game for the next time he asked.
And he did ask 3 weeks later. "18 in the last year, 6 of those in the last quarter and 3 planned for next quarter, and they are all happy!" I instantly replied.

Since then I have become a strong advocate of "keeping score" and recommend you measure everything that moves in and out of your shared services function, each process, each customer contact point, delivery against service level agreements and most importantly: customer satisfaction.

To be both efficient and effective you need to ensure your clients are happy with the products and services they receive from you. Nothing else really matters in the Customer Service game, you don’t win matches without this.

In the first few months of following a shared services launch, your biggest opponent will be hiding or shouting in the HR generalist crowd, watching your every move, looking for you to trip up and make a few mistakes, foot faults, that they can call out to prove that Shared Services doesn’t work and cant possibly replace what they used to do in that same HR transactional space.

So make sure you have service level agreements in place , written by you and signed off by them and keep telling them the score – that you met the SLAs, exceeding a few, and in the rare cases you didn’t , explain clearly and objectively what you are going to do about it so you do meet it next time.

Using a color coded traffic light system to indicate the scores on a dashboard, is an effective and impactful way to get the message across. At first keep score on your progress monthly for the first 3 months , then quarterly as it becomes evident that you are hitting the green lights every time, then every six months, then annually as your clients and critics become more relaxed and confident that you will always deliver on time in full. Only then will you know they trust you!

Implementing a Customer Satisfaction Survey

However, I strongly believe that Customer Satisfaction Surveys are the best way to measure success. After all it’s not WHAT you do but HOW it is perceived by the customer. And the real customer is not HR but the managers and employees in the business.

I recommend using a satisfaction survey every six months with a maximum of eight questions, on a free survey easy access format such as surveymonkey.

"We value your feedback on the service – your chance now to have your say! "
– An eye catching email subject headline.

Construct the survey to score satisfaction on a 1-5 ratings with 1 = not at all satisfied and 5 = extremely satisfied. This way you can turn the raw scores into percentages
when presenting back. Random survey at least 20% of the employee population, and aim for over 60% return rate and chase it till you get it.

At Coca-Cola I was pleased with our first six months survey score result in 2008: 3.6 out of 5 for satisfaction with the service across all HR processes. That helped to motivate the HR Shared Services team to raise their game and get a higher score of 3.7 six months later, with the goal of 4 then being set by the team for the next milestone.

As a shared service center do aim for 3 out of 5 as a minimum after the first six months because your reputation on the circuit is at stake. Get that and you can build from there and win confidence and satisfy your customers time and again.

As Jan Leschly would say: keep the score and you are playing the game. And it drives you to look for those aces, penetrating first serves and the winning shots!

The ultimate measure of effectiveness for Shared Services is therefore on two levels – meeting the business case numbers at the strategic level and at the level of operations earning real trust and the hearts and minds of all the stakeholders who are users of your products and services.