Six P's that Differentiate your Global Center
Global Shared Services Need to Stand Out
Consider the following situations that Global Capability Centers or Shared Services often face:
- “It’s tough to attract talent since we are new here – just in the country a few years. Many other centers have been around for much longer. No one knows about us. Our hands are tied since we are asked to avoid the media gaze. How do we create a differentiation in the marketplace without spreading the word?”
- “Our stakeholders can’t even pronounce our company name correctly and think we are the back-end support for the company. They aren’t aware of the depth of our skilled staff and how we add value to the business. How do we build a name for ourselves?”
- “To avoid the restrictions on talking about the core work we do, we focused on highlighting the corporate social responsibility work we do for the communities. Now, we are labelled as a charity! How do we break that perception?”
With nearly 700 captive shared services just in India (many more are spread across the globe primarily in South East Asia, the Americas, and Central Europe) the opportunities ahead for organizations to tap the potential of global talent, innovation and product engineering are immense. However, despite the benefits that organizations can reap, most global Shared Services / GBS are unable to maximize their worth due to the inability to differentiate themselves.
As organizations evolve and industries get disrupted by technology-led innovations, global Shared Services / GBS find it hard to strike the balance between ‘staying consistent’ and yet ‘transforming’ as a brand.
There are several internal factors that impact how a center can be differentiated – executive involvement, leadership direction, the organization’s purpose, the brand’s strength, the importance given to communications, the degree of clout wielded by the center, and the center’s position in the organizational framework, for example.
On the other hand, there are external factors such as local market conditions, talent pool (and level of effort competitors invest in attracting that talent) and government policies – that influence how the center is perceived.
There are also other dynamics at play – the headquarters vs local entity equation, how decisions are made (directive or consensus led approach), the focus on growth or stability, the investment in development and the emphasis on building identity. When you are competing with hundreds of different entities that claim to be either ‘an extended arm’ of the parent organization or a ‘one-stop shop’ that delivers end-to-end solutions for their stakeholders, you need a strategy that differentiates your center.
Keeping factors such an early start in the local market or a decisive approach to scaling up the center as equal, there are opportunities to stand out through strategic communication.
Differentiation can take place through multiple strategies: People, Place, Position, Practice, Pace and Pattern.
- ‘People’ is about autonomy, a strong purpose and allowing staff to gain mastery over their work – sure-fire ways to be successful. I am a big advocate of building a brand from within, where your employees are your ambassadors and storytellers.
- ‘Place’ is not just about the location of your center, but the association stakeholders have with your origins. Most global capability centers operate either from their own purchased premises or take leased buildings. Not many organizations use that to build their brand and differentiate it. If you are headquartered in a small town there is an opportunity to talk of the ‘home-grown’ and humble beginnings – and how that is part of the culture at the workplace.
- ‘Position’ is not where you stand but ‘what you stand for’. For example, millennials have indicated a preference to join workplaces that take a stand on social issues rather than just being a bystander.
- ‘Practice’ refers to the reason why the center exists in the first place – doing great work that improves the experiences of customers, employees, suppliers, partners and communities. While every center can claim they do this, how the stories are told makes a difference.
- ‘Pace’ is about speed but not at the cost of quality. One may want to consider the reflection of pace to the workplace and culture. Is it a ‘laid-back’ kind of environment or a place where passionate and enthusiastic people do great work?
- ‘Pattern’ refers to the rhythm and rigor that the organization has. Is it consistent or choppy in ways of engagement? Is it predictable or unrealistic? How the center behaves also has a bearing on how well the brand is recognized.
The constant fear that if jobs are moving to a ‘developing nation’ it means some people are displaced at headquarters is what global capability centers need to overcome. One organization had international publications closely watching and monitoring activities in the local center to see whether jobs were truly getting lost. Likewise, when the global leadership team in one organization visited a center, rumours of layoffs and restructures spread quickly and widely, creating an unhealthy work atmosphere.
Helping connect what the center does to make the company successful and how each employee is linked to the purpose can drive differentiation.
Articulating the employee value proposition is crucial for global Shared Services / GBS in engaging staff and improving brand recall. Hiring talent based on skills may not be enough. Centers that focus on creating advocates of their staff, stick to their roots, are bold in taking a stand, are consistent in their words and actions, operate in a values-led way and give stakeholders reasons to trust the brand, will win in a competitive marketplace.
Aniisu K. Verghese is an award-winning corporate communications and social responsibility practitioner with over 18 years of experience in leading multinational organizations. He is the author of Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models, and is passionate about engaging communicators and students through workshops, speaking engagements, teaching assignments and blogging. He has served on the International Association of Business Communicator (IABC)’s South India Chapter Board, the SABRE Awards - South Asia Jury and the IABC’s Gold Quill Asia Pacific Award panel. Aniisu is the recipient of the 2015 PR Hall of Fame Award from the Public Relations Council of India. He can be reached on LinkedIn. Views expressed in this post are personal.