What’s their winning story? 2011 Award Winner "People & Communication"

Q: What were the drivers for this change initiative in People & Communications?

A: At Unisys Shared Services (7 locations globally, approximately 680 FTEs), we have an ongoing imperative to build a strong leadership team in order to be successful in the future, for several reasons:

  1. Long-term leadership capability is a key driver of success in any organization.
  2. The war for talent is on. Surveys show finance employee engagement is at an all time low, with one third of surveyed employees planning to leave their jobs when the economy improves. Surveys also show that the most significant drivers of retention are management quality, career opportunities, and employee empowerment.
  3. Demographic factors – in developed countries the workforce is aging and the talent pool is shrinking. In lower cost labor markets like India, the labor market is very competitive, and we need to attract, retain and develop the best talent to be our future leaders.

To ensure strong future leadership, we needed to:

  1. Strengthen employee engagement
  2. Develop the competencies of our employees to perform their jobs of today and tomorrow
  3. Build a strong pipeline of leadership capability

Over the past two years, our Talent Management Program has been focused on initiatives to accomplish all three of these goals simultaneously. To support and augment the program, we needed a strong communications program to build a larger global community, rather than seven separate service centers. In other words, we needed our SSC employees and managers to feel part of the larger Unisys community, both to increase their current engagement as well as to broaden their view of potential career path opportunities.

Q: How are you tackling Talent Management? What are the specific steps in developing your people management program?

A: We implemented several initiatives to accomplish our Talent Management goals. Many of the initiatives leveraged standard Unisys HR processes and tools, but were tailored for the SSC organization. The talent management program was led by a dedicated "Global Process Owner for People" and it applied to approximately 625 Shared Service Center employees, 35 Global Process Owners, and 10 Process Excellence Consultants, who together comprise the Unisys SSC organization.

Employee Engagement and Development Initiatives

  • Standard Roles and Responsibilities were created and agreed to by the SSC global management team. These roles were communicated to all employees so that they could understand the responsibilities of each role, regardless of location. In addition, a directory of the individuals in the General Manager, Manager, Service Level Owner, Subject Matter Expert, and Global Process Owner roles was published to help employees find the appropriate person to address questions and issues. The directory is maintained by the SSC Managers.
  • Competency Model by role – for each standard role, the site General Managers determined the most important competencies for future success as well as the level of proficiency required for each competency. This competency model was posted online so that employees could see the requirements of their current role and any future role(s) they aspired to.
  • Skills Assessments against the competency model – Initial employee assessments were done by managers to determine the skills each individual needed to improve. In addition, this exercise highlighted the organization-wide gaps to be addressed with supplemental training offerings. Department level assessments continue to be performed on an "as needed" basis.
  • Individual Development Plan process – Employees choose a skill for improvement based on current performance feedback, results of an assessment, or their career aspirations. The employee documents specific actions they will take to improve that skill. This is normally done as part of our quarterly performance objective setting process. The responsibility for creating a development plan lies with the employee, but managers are encouraged to coach and assist those employees who choose to create a plan.
  • SSC curriculum – based on the competency model, a list of online courses, readings, suggested practice activities, and other resources were compiled into a curriculum by competency. In addition, general business and shared services industry websites, books, and subscription ideas are included to encourage leadership development. The curriculum is posted on the SSC portal and updated regularly as requirements and offerings change. All employees are encouraged to consult the curriculum for ideas when creating their development plan.
  • A minimum 40 hours of annual training per employee is required. While we were close to achieving 100 percent compliance the first year, we did meet this goal in 2010. The training requirement can be fulfilled with on-the-job technical training as well as and more general business skills courses, webcasts and online seminars.
  • Virtual Knowledge Cafê – we developed a one hour live presentation forum series, where a Unisys subject matter expert presents an overview of their area of expertise to SSC employees. The purpose of the Knowledge Cafê is to expand employees’ knowledge and understanding of Unisys’ business, key roles and responsibilities of other departments, and how the work of the SSC contributes value to Unisys. The forums are recorded so that they can be viewed by employees who are on different time zones or unable to attend the live sessions.
  • Open internal posting process for all job openings - our policy is to promote from within whenever possible. We also encourage lateral moves to expand employee experience and knowledge as well as to offer multiple career path options.
  • Our monthly newsletter publicizes rotations and promotions, among other topics. This serves the purpose of recognizing employees who stretch themselves, as well as highlighting career movement and providing career ideas to others.

Leadership Development Initiatives

  • Annual leadership conference – this meeting is an opportunity for our General Managers, Managers and selected Team Leads to connect with their peers face-to-face, work on common challenges, and participate in formulating organization goals and strategy. It is also an opportunity for top leadership to informally observe and assess our management team in action. The meeting has the additional benefit of exposing our middle managers to the broader SSC community and key Corporate Finance people and is sometimes their first trip to the US.
  • SSC leadership blog – the blog was developed as a way to maintain the momentum of the annual conferences. Not only does it help the managers and team leads stay connected and share best practices, but it is another way to identify thought leaders.
  • Formal Management Talent Review Roundtable – once a year the site General Managers evaluate their employees’ overall potential and nominate employees from their center who are potential next generation leaders. The GMs together discuss the nominees to ensure consistency in the leadership characteristics they value, and identify individual retention and development needs and actions.
  • Leadership Succession Plan – The site GMs identify key positions in their centers and succession actions in the case of an immediate, 1-2 year and 3-5 year vacancy for each position. Plans are formulated to mitigate risk and to further develop the individuals identified so that they will be ready to step up when needed. The succession plans are updated annually.

Q: How do you communicate your improvements?

A: Our Communications Program was established to support and complement our Talent Management Program. The first thing we did was assign a person from our Process Excellence team who has a background in communications and change management to focus on improving our communications to employees and customers. She created a comprehensive communications plan to improve the frequency and quality of messages to and amongst SSC employees and customers. In addition, on an ongoing basis she advises the management teams on effective communications tools and techniques and she works with them to craft their communications to ensure consistent and professional messaging.

Because employees are bombarded with email messages every day, it’s sometimes difficult for them to discern the "important" ones and to set time aside to actually read and digest them. For that reason, we thought it was important to implement a multi-pronged communications program.

Several initiatives were implemented:

  • We created a global SSC portal accessible by all employees and internal customers. This portal is a "one stop shop" vehicle for all of the tactical information needed about the SSC. The home page displays a map of all the centers and is organized by service, so that our customers can help themselves to information about processes, escalation procedures, Service Level Agreement performance, cutoff schedules, etc. It also contains sub sites with information for SSC employees, such as internal metrics, training, and organization charts, and it acts as a repository for all communications which have gone out via other channels.
  • We created a separate electronic mailbox and a unique banner for the SSC Vice President to send emails to employees communicating announcements, objectives, appreciation, and other items. He uses it at least quarterly to keep in touch with employees, sometimes attaching a video message. The unique banner and "from" address make these communications immediately recognizable to employees in their inbox.
  • The SSC Vice President makes regular personal site visits, holding All Hands meetings to speak to employees and answer questions. Site General Managers also hold regular interactive All Hands meetings.
  • We launched a monthly electronic newsletter ("The Financial Services Standard") containing articles, learning opportunities, book reviews, brainteasers, photos, recognition stories, messages from leaders, and articles contributed by SSC employees. The purpose of the Standard is to build a global, upbeat community of employees who feel part of something bigger than their SSC site. The newsletter is "parked" in a Newsstand on the SSC portal so that employees can refer to previous editions and articles.
  • We began asking employees for their feedback on their satisfaction in areas such as understanding expectations, camaraderie, performance feedback, development opportunities, proper resources, encouragement, and recognition via an engagement "pulse" survey every six months. The SSC General Managers review the results as a team and create action plans to address lower scored questions and specific comments.
  • We launched a monthly "Dateline" publication containing specific on-the-job process updates and other tactical information contributed by the Global Process Owners. This helps employees to stay abreast of changes in their work processes and ensures global process consistency.
  • We created two internal leadership blogs. The first is a forum for managers and team leads across the global SSC organization to post articles of interest, discuss and debate current management topics and challenges, and share ideas. The second blog is limited to SSC General Managers and upper management to share leadership thoughts and strategies.
  • Plans are underway to leverage the next generation social networking tools being rolled out in Unisys to further build connections amongst the SSC team. Already every SSC employee has established a personal "My Site" on the Unisys internal network with their photo, areas of expertise and interests. They are encouraged to reach out to each other as a way to solve day-to-day business problems.

Q: What was the actual impact of the improvements you made? What are the main benefits?


  • An employee engagement survey has been administered every six months for the past two years. The ratings scale is 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). Despite a salary freeze during that time due to company financial circumstances, the scores have remained in the 3.9 range ("satisfied") over the course of the four surveys.
  • Our turnover goals vary by population. Generally we aim for no more than 30% annual turnover in the transaction processing areas and 0-10% in the higher skilled areas such as accounting, where it takes longer for employees to learn their jobs. In all of our centers we are meeting or exceeding our targets, often beating the average turnover in the local market, despite the above mentioned salary freeze. In addition, sometimes when employees leave Unisys for higher compensation at another company, they later return because they appreciate our SSC culture and sense of community.
  • The SSC is viewed as a "feeder" of talent into other organizations at Unisys, both Finance and non-Finance groups. Examples of talent movement in the past two years:
    o A department manager for Global Maintenance Administration (contract management) in our Bangalore SSC moved to a Global Operations position in a Business Unit which was formerly her customer. She now reports to a US manager.
    o Several managers and individual contributors in our Bismarck SSC moved into the Finance organization as Project Analysts and Project Controllers.
    o Several associates and analysts in our Bismarck and Bangalore SSCs moved to the Global Process Owner group to be responsible for end-to-end process improvements.
    o An accounting manager in our Amsterdam SSC has been offered a region accounting leader position in the Corporate Controller organization.
    o Analysts in the Brazil SSC moved into Internal Audit, Corporate Finance, and Business Unit Finance positions.
    o In addition to permanent assignments, SSC employees have participated in two finance rotation programs. In 2010 two Bangalore Accounting department managers traveled to the US headquarters to assist Corporate Accounting with the quarterly accounting consolidation and close process. In the second case, one person from each SSC site was selected to participate in the Audit Loop Program, receiving a week of training in headquarters and assigned to participate in one future field audit.
  • Because we prefer to promote from within the SSC organization, there are fewer examples of employees moving into the SSC from other organizations, although two of our General Managers have prior experience in the Internal Audit Department.

Q: What do you think makes your People & Communication program stand out? What differentiates your achievement?

A: Our SSC Talent Management and Communications Programs have been very successful because our top leadership placed the highest priority on people. Instead of just talking about people being the most important asset, they demonstrated their commitment by truly investing in them. In developing both the Talent Management and Communications Programs, leaders were assigned who were already experts, with deep experience in championing and implementing solutions. Although Unisys has a Corporate Communications team and a Human Resources team, our dedicated internal professionals leveraged the corporate processes and tools to create solutions that were targeted to the unique needs of the Shared Service organization. Those dedicated leaders remain in their assignments today, continuing to focus on ensuring that our organization is utilizing world class best practices in talent management and communications. Because change is a constant, we need to always stay focused on the future, leveraging state of the art research, tools, and processes to develop our employees to be their best in today’s (and tomorrow’s) assignments, and to be ready to lead us in the future.