Not Lost in Translation: Scandinavian Shared Service Businesses in Lithuania
As part of the online content series in association with SSON, Invest Lithuania has put together some strong case studies of Scandinavian organizations who have sucessfully implemented shared services in Lithuania...
Mirror Support Services UAB (private limited company) was established in Lithuania in 2005 as a 100% owned subsidiary of Mirror Accounting AS in Norway, which is owned by the Lindorff Group. Mirror Support Services UAB in Vilnius has 70 employees. The working language is Norwegian. The employees go through 5 months extensive Norwegian language education at the start of their employment as well as intensive training in different accounting disciplines. The main services provided from Vilnius are account receivables and account payables management. The company’s primary goal is to serve the rest of the Mirror Accounting and other Lindorff Group companies with efficient and high quality support services.
CSC Baltic Center, a subsidiary of CSC Corporate in the US, was opened in 2008 in Vilnius, Lithuania. CSC Baltic is a nearshore Center serving primarily the Nordic countries in Scandinavian languages and supporting other CSC organizations with English and high-skilled competencies. Current service portfolio consists of four areas: service Desk (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, English languages ), 1st level support , 2nd level support, Request management, Queue management, Solution Architects (English, Russian), Project Management & PMO( English, Russian, Polish ), Back-office support (Business Process Outsourcing).
*View interview with Grant D. Marques, VP Global Strategy, World Sourcing Capabilities, CSC about the CSC global strategy and looking to Lithuania as one of the most recent success stories.
Unicall of Norway with more than 500 employees at 10 centers in 5 countries established a call center in Lithuania in 2008. The company is a full service call center, providing all services within the outbound and inbound telemarketing, as well as back office services and IT support. Unicall Lithuania is also supporting all other Unicall group companies regarding IT support, Quality assurance and Finance.
Experience exceeding Expectations
The 3 companies decided to move to Lithuania because of the strong talent pool of well-educated, multilingual and motivated professionals, stable political climate (member of EU and NATO) and good infrastructure. "Geographical location, i.e. short distance to Nordic countries, was an important factor too. For example, it takes longer to fly from Oslo to the northern part of Norway than to Vilnius", - says Kolbjorn Midttun, General Manager, Mirror Support Services.
"Early in the process with the Danish Embassy, CSC realized that there are more similarities than differences between the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, but Lithuania is the largest, most developed, has the best local marketplace and currently appears to be the most cost-effective. It was absolutely clear that there will be no obstacles to penetrate into the other Baltic countries directly from Lithuania or from local branches", - says Antanas Ursulis, Managing Director, CSC Baltic.
When the companies established their service production facilities, the most positive experience they faced was the high quality of the staff. "They came highly educated and motivated and adopted quickly the company values, which again made it possible for us to quickly build company loyalty and proudness", - says Kolbjorn Midttun, General Manager, Mirror Support Services.
Unicall agrees that they found here much more highly educated personnel then they expected. "The Lithuanian personnel is setting high pride on fulfilling their duties right and on the right time, that has been a big advantage with the production in Lithuania", - says Jonas Törnquist, CEO and Partner, Unicall.
A prudent and innovative mentality
Indeed, it is the character of the people here that often wins plaudits for Lithuania. "Lithuanian employees are highly educated, have good skills of foreign languages and are loyal to their employer. They want to work and eagerly work in a team", - says Jonas Törnquist, CEO and Partner, Unicall.
Strong self-motivation, good educational background, deep interest in career growth, high level of responsibility and enthusiasm, easy adaptation to international environment – that is what the companies noticed in Lithuania.
"We have never had problems when recruiting local people. Young and educated people have a high interest in working in an international environment, therefore companies like us have a good situation in the labor market here", - says Kolbjorn Midttun, General Manager, Mirror Support Services.
Flexibility that is yielding results
However, the companies faced some obstacles when it came to finding enough Scandinavian speakers, so they decided to run their own courses. And all 3 companies were surprised at how talented Lithuanians are in learning foreign languages – they were all able to learn any Scandinavian language just in a couple of months.
"We have 2-3 teachers from universities we usually work with. We gather a group of people who meet our requirements for the work and then run normal language courses in our premises. After the course is completed, we send our employees to one of our companies in Nordic countries and there they get the final language as well as work training. Usually the language course takes 3 months. And, of course, since there is no limits for perfection, our employees continue to learn the language during their working time", - explains Jonas Törnquist, CEO and Partner, Unicall.
Mirror Support Services says, that 85 % of their employees learned a language in the company: "It takes five months before an employee is able to serve Norwegian customers in the Norwegian language (or Swedish customers in the Swedish language, respectively). Today our language "school" has almost 5-year experience, and we have started to offer Norwegian language courses to other external companies as well."
"We run continuous and permanent language training. Basically it works very well. For large transition projects, when 10-20 resources are needed in one bunch, we organize language schools with trainers from universities. It takes 3-4 months to develop language skills from level 2 or 3 to the necessary level 7", - says Antanas Ursulis, Managing Director, CSC Baltic.
Have fun while working: Looking after your employees
Mirror Support Services, Unicall and CSC say, that their business plans predict centers’ growth and expansion of the activities to more complex operations.
"The main advice for business newcomers", - says Jonas Törnquist, CEO and Partner, Unicall, - would be to drop negative stereotypes about Lithuania and Lithuanians and to give them a chance – they will fulfill your expectations and might even surprise you in a good way".
"You need to take care of your employees, offering a total compensation package and very good working conditions, if possible - flexible working hours. Companies, who are going to invest in Lithuania should not take the easy path, hunting the resources from other companies, when offering a hundred litas (Litas (Lt) - national currency of Lithuania) more - this only creates unnecessary tension in salary cost structure and also does not influence very well on employee attachment to the company" – says Antanas Ursulis, Managing Director, CSC Baltic.
Kolbjorn Midttun, General Manager, Mirror Support Services admits that it is very important to build company culture and pride. "Spend some time understanding the local environment before the start-up, get and take advice from companies with experience, for example "Invest Lithuania", Chamber of Commerce. Respect cultural differences, and do not underestimate employees. They are very motivated and able to perform complicated analytical tasks. And one more very important factor – have fun while working", concludes Kolbjorn Midttun.