Winning the War for Talent – in a Ballroom!

hannah reeve
Posted: 11/16/2017

As Kim Leandersson, SSON’s Chairperson for our Eastern European Shared Services and Outsourcing Week 2017, wryly remarked, the Grand Ballroom of a 5 star hotel in the heart of Budapest probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind when thinking about centralising operations and moving to a low-cost location. And yet, last month, over 180 Shared Services and Outsourcing experts descended upon the Corinthia Hotel to discuss and debate the key issues facing this industry, and to develop their long term strategies for the coming year.

Whilst hot topics such as  RPA and digital transformation remained high up on the agenda, there was one topic that unashamedly stole the show: the people agenda and the War for Talent.

This is nothing new to this industry, but with already over 450 SSCs located in the region, and, according to Regional Development Agencies more interest throughout 2017 as a result of Brexit and Trump, the market for top talent is due to get even more competitive.

As SSCs in this region continue to move up the value-curve, assimilating more and more complex operations into their centres, finding and (crucially) retaining highly trained talent becomes an even more important priority. As SSON’s speakers and the audience debated that whereas once, you would be able to put a Generation-Xer into a transactional processing role with the expectation they would patiently carry on for 4-plus years, today’s workforce needs variety and challenges to remain engaged – or they will simply move on!

The market for top talent is due to get even more competitive.

The challenges and opportunities that come with having a workforce that is primarily made up of Millennials was discussed at length. Many attendees argued that that Millennials are shaping the evolution and direction of the workplace from the bottom up, and debated innovative ways to drive engagement and keep attrition low...but crucially, not too low.

From SSON’s perspective, one of the most interesting take-aways was the perspective that a 0% attrition-rate is also seen as negative, potentially stifling innovative thinking and growth, but that “optimum attrition” differs from company-to-company, from location-to-location, and depending on how mature a SSC is.

I wish I had the space in this article to name and thank each of the fifty-plus speakers who joined us in Budapest this October, sharing their first-hand experiences and knowledge on wide-ranging issues, such as creating a customer-centric culture, assimilating advanced operations into SSC organisations, and developing a future-focussed HR SSC.

Within the topic of talent, GBS leaders such as Jamie Anderson, Head of Europe GBS for BP, discussed how his company had managed to get their attrition rate down to single-digits by engaging their employees through gamification, and Stephen Caulfield, Vice President for Dell EMC Global Services, discussed the need for a “three-pronged approach”, incorporating companies, governments, and the educational establishments, in order to ensure that tomorrow’s workforce has the necessary skillsets for the digital future. Jane Ellis, Managing Director, for Citi Shared Services, discussed future workforce trends, and the need for organisations to act now to champion a digital agenda. She highlighted how her organisation was driving forward digital transformation initiatives, remote work and inter-generational co-operation in order to drive engagement and productivity, and the crucial need to create a strong culture within your SSC.

SSON’s Big Ideas Speaker for the event, author and talent management specialist Piotr Prokopowicz, had the crowd in stitches discussing how to “steer clear of the BS”, and to make better hiring decisions using science, and I am certain that hiring managers who were in the room when he spoke have gone back to their day jobs, rethinking their approach.

Away from the Grand Ballroom, another highlight was the SSON Road Trip, where 20 SSC leaders participated in our industry-leading site tours to Avis Budget Group, BP, and Unicef, to see first-hand how these SSCs and GBS models operate. One thing that was evident in all three sites was the importance of company culture on morale.

I’m so glad I took the time to go on the site tours. We get so wrapped in what we’re doing in our own center that we miss out on innovation taking place all over the world. These visits certainly opened my eyes to a few best practices and I would highly recommend them to anyone planning on maturing, expanding or locating a center in the region. Time well spent!Adam McCoy, Director of Human Resources, Arrow Electronics.

Whether this was through brightly coloured flags signalling the different “teams” at Avis, or the fact that employees were not allowed to eat at their desks to encourage “non-screen time”, or the fact that BP has created an “Employee Engagement Lead” or the beautiful location of the Unicef offices, the common theme was that these organisations were actively going above and beyond to create exceptional cultures, helping them to not just win, but transcend the “Talent War”… Can you say the same?

SSON would like to thank all of the speakers, panellists, roundtable hosts and attendees who made this event a success, and we hope to see you all again soon!

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hannah reeve
Posted: 11/16/2017