Top 10 Lessons When it Comes to Managing People in Shared Services

Matthew Burns

The March 2015 Shared Services and Outsourcing Week People Track brought together more than 80 practitioners and consultants for a dynamic set of presentations and discussions on how Shared Services can address the needs of the people in our organizations. That means the people that benefit from Shared Services, the people that work in Shared Services and the people that lead Shared Services. As one of the moderators, I realized that there was value in sharing the learning in the room. This article summarizes the top 10 take-aways from the 19th Shared Services and Outsourcing Week People Track.

1. Executive Sponsorship – Crucial To Get and Crucial to Keep

One frequently hears that acquiring executive sponsorship is critical to kicking off a project. It is hard to get a project underway unless one has strong executive champions. The Verizon presentation offered multiple examples of projects that ran into problems in the middle or later stages because executive sponsorship had faded. Keeping executive sponsors engaged throughout the life of the project is as important as getting them in the first place. Project leads need to look for opportunities to involve the executive sponsor. Keep them on the field, in the game and out of the stands. That ensures they’ll be actively engaged when you need them most.

2. Workforce Balance – Use the Proper Mix of Advisors, Outside Contractors, and Internal Employees

What is the right mix for your workforce? That often will depend on your Shared Services business model, corporate culture, etc. Facebook, for example, started its HR Shared Services organization using outside contractors and advisors. It brought in internal employees later in the process when program experience demonstrated the need for continuity and value to the business. Getting the mix right will often take a certain amount of trial and error. And once you get the mix "right" for your business, expect that it will change over time as the business evolves.

3. On-Boarding – High Quality On-Boarding Pays Huge Dividends

We only get one time to make a first impression – so make it a good one. KPMG and EMC offered strong examples that proved the value they found from reaching out effectively, whether via systems or in person, to engage candidates and prepare them for their first day. The increase in productivity when the on-boarding is a positive and smooth experience is compelling.


4. Keep It Fun

All of the presenters mentioned the importance of having a place where people looked forward to arriving at work. Facebook called its HR Shared Services team "PEEPS" and had other lighthearted approaches to keeping it fun. The work we do is serious. The people in the organization need our help. But there is no reason we can’t have an upbeat, fun approach to getting the job done.

5. Drive Employee Engagement – While Getting Real Work Done

Related to having fun is employee engagement. Helping employees see the big picture and the contribution they make increases employee engagement. Sanofi used cross-functional teams to make tangible improvements in their Shared Services by getting people working together on common priorities.

6. Focus on the Intake – Get Data Right the First Time

Data drives Shared Services processes. Getting the data reliably and right the first time is key to process efficiency. EMC, in the on-boarding process made a special effort to collect data from new employees reliably so that their first paycheck and other early experiences would be positive ones.

7. Smart Forms – Deliver Simplicity and Reduce Errors

Smart Forms that help people input data correctly and guide them through the process reduce errors that, in turn, drives down re-work. This not only reduces cost, it elevates client satisfaction by giving them the result they want with increased reliability.

8. Leverage the Culture

Culture influences how we act. Sanofi offered a strong example of how getting employees to tell their story and recruiting them to define what service excellence looks like can build a strong culture. Telling stories also gives employees opportunities to get to know their colleagues better. When employees have a better understanding of their colleagues’' experiences and approaches to work, it can help explain behavior and reduce misunderstandings.

9. Assess Stakeholders & Update Regularly

Telling a stakeholder something once rarely achieves the desired outcome. Verizon described the communication strategy they use on projects to update stakeholders and reassess their engagement in the project. The project lead used meetings, messages, presentations, discussions, quick bursts, all-hands distribution or very targeted encounters with each approach carefully to achieve the desired outcome with that specific audience.

10. People Are Our Most Important Element in Shared Services

Even with ERPs, SAAS, robots and other innovations, Shared Services still needs people. As service delivery evolves and becomes more sophisticated, the skill mix needed changes. There was a general theme that successful Shared Services organizations pursue a deliberate strategy of investing in their people.