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“The content and description of this course was very appealing because many processes in Payroll and Benefits are data and systems dependent requiring consistent application of policies and procedures. Two aspects of the course— standardization and cellular teams— were most relevant to us. We do many things in teams; but, we don’t always do them the same way. Already, we are seeing results in standardizing our work processes and reducing waste. For example, we found that some of our teams calculated the company’s pay equalization for military duty differently, using slightly different assumptions. Together, the teams looked at the different methods and rationales, found common ground and built new standard operating procedures for everyone that achieved the best results for the employee and company.”

Tim Muffly
Director, Payroll Administration


How Does Your Shared Service Center Work? An Interview with a Shared Services Director

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 7.50.48 PMWhat was the original purpose for establishing a Shared Services group?

The Head of HR for the organization was a strong proponent of Shared Services and there was also a company wide focus on operational efficiency and safety. When we began we focused on two HR processes that we wanted to centralize and standardize and that is where we began our Shared Services group. We wanted to have more consistent processes that could handle greater transactional volumes, and would move from having these process transactions done in small volumes in the different divisions.

What cultural challenges did Shared Services face when it first started? It was a big change for the divisions to move from having local HR staff in their office who could do everything. With Shared Services, division managers could not just walk down the hall and expect HR staff to help them. At first they felt like when then submitted a request to Shared Services it just went in a black box and they didn’t know who was servicing them and if they could trust the quality and timeliness of the result.

There was an “us and them” dynamic between Shared Services and the field. Sometimes it seemed like we were tossing transactions over the fence. For the employees who worked in Shared Services, the work was different from what they did in the field. It was more intense because there was a lot more volume. The Shared Services employees concentrated on fewer processes and they had to follow a standard company method, not do it the way they had developed by themselves in their own division.

How did leaders help? Or hinder? Leaders had to buy into understanding the business drivers moving in this direction and be willing to adapt and support that model and speak favorably to others in own division. They had to support the effort by requesting and receiving services from Shared Services. When there were problems they needed to raise issues and work them out vs. saying, “ Oh, Shared Services doesn’t work.”

Having support from the head of Human Resources was key to our success. This leader socialized the concept with leaders across all of operations and advocated for the business purpose. She also really communicated stories about the success of the Shared Services work.

What did you need to do to change employee behaviors? Employees had to want to support the business in a new way, letting go of the old way of thinking, following a single process, and building excellent service with customers from a central location. We also wanted them to build a continuous improvement mind set. For that reason, we collect input from our customers about services regularly and review it; they we make changes to our processes and publish the changes and results to customers and the organization. We have used technology to improve workflow and automation with some processes, but with others we have not had the budget to do that and have made service changes in other ways. This attitude is part of continuous improvement.

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4 comments to How Does Your Shared Service Center Work? An Interview with a Shared Services Director

  • Saurabh Kapoor

    This article is very informative and educational. It throws light at HR processes and leadership, which plays a vital role. Out of all the things that I learned from this article, the most appealing part was that employees should have a positive attitude and willingness to learn.

    One of the topics I would like to share is “Importance of Women in Leadership Roles”.

  • Eduardo

    Hi Shelley, as the manager of my company’s hr shared services in Latin America, I can definitely relate to many of the business/hr dynamics you mentioned. One other Dynamic that is of great interest to me, which also happens to be one of the biggest challenges I have, is ensuring that these impacted employees don’t fall into the trap of focusing on their monthly process metrics and stop focusing on process improvement initiatives. I think it is critical to have a healthy balance of operational/high volume work, with process improvement opportunities so that the employee is engaged, processes evolve, costs are cut, and the customer is happy. I’m also curious to know more about your thoughts on other best practices regarding Shared Service. 1) What were the triggers/tipping point for the organization to move to Shared services (e.g. company size, a major milestone, etc). 2) Before implementing Shared services, do you first try to improve the current process and have a team already run the “to-be” model or do you transition the “as-is” model? 3) After that, whose responsibility is it to manage continuous improvement initiatives, a shared services manager or the workers? 4)You mentioned budget constraints for improving more processes, was outsourcing considered, if so, at what point and based on what criteria would you consider doing it?

  • Leadership Support/ Executive Sponsorship is very important when instituting and sustaining change in an organization. The Leaders will help in removing barriers towards the successful implementation of the change. They could also help identify where the test of change can happen initially before the organization-wide change. Yes, culture change is very important.

    Very insightful interview.

  • J.Nolasco

    This case study reflects a large organizational change spear headed from the top down. Albeit with some challenges in change management and adoption from the folks partaking in the process and tool changes, it sounds like progress is made and continual.

    With large organizational changes like these, I’d be interested in learning more about the way in which large organizations implement global organizational changes across multiple groups simultaneously and how BPM can be leveraged to support across simultaneous projects for groups and processes that interact at varying points of many process lifecycle.

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