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Driving Employee Engagement and Development in Shared Services

More than technology or processes, the foundation of a solid Shared Services organization is its people. It’s critical for leaders to create an environment and culture that keeps the team engaged, customer-focused, and innovative. While evaluating various sourcing options, striving for standardization among customers with differing perspectives, and reacting to changing levels of upper management support, consistently driving employee engagement can be challenging.

Peeriosity features a “senior executive only” research area in which Shared Services leaders can collaborate on strategic issues. A recent webcast featured a highly interactive discussion among Shared Services leaders in which employee engagement and development were discussed.

A poll of participants indicated that about half make it a priority to keep employee engagement front and center on their leadership agenda, regardless of current challenges, while the other half indicated that it is a priority, but acknowledged that with all of their other priorities, the focus tends to ebb and flow.

focus on employee engagement and development shared services

Very clear from the start of the webcast was that there is no “silver bullet” or magic template to follow in regards to keeping employees engaged, happy and productive. Through the presentations and discussions, three common themes did emerge as key pillars for driving engagement.  These are strategy, culture, and development.

Strategy related to the alignment of Shared Services to the Company mission and the objectives of the lines of business it serves. It is the role of leaders to communicate the mission and the “why” as to the critical role Shared Services has. Each employee should be able to see the direct line of sight between what they do and the value creation it brings. Using the timeless story of vision and engagement, when the unengaged employee is asked what they are doing they say “crushing rocks” while they engaged employee doing the same role will answer “building a cathedral.”

Education of the business lines and how the “back-office” is relied upon to ensure external customers receive value from the Company can assist in having employees envision the “cathedral”. Understanding a day in the life of the “front-line” can go a long way not only in having  Shared Services employees connect the link between the front and back office, but it will also bring customer service to life for them and why it is so critical that they perform so their colleagues can deliver. The lines between “offices” blur and the work process and output are a result of activities, many of them performed in Shared Services but aligned to the same mission and objectives – building a cathedral.

Creating a culture in which this alignment exists and can self-sustain itself takes a concerted effort by the leadership team and it was agreed by the leaders that the head of Shared Services must walk the talk and be the example. To win over hearts and minds for full engagement, employees must see the leader exemplify the values and culture expected of the organization. The collaboration identified many tactics that can accomplish this, with the caveat that leadership can’t be delegated, true empathetic listening must occur, and an honest feedback loop exists.  Those tactics include:

  • Employee driven engagement teams – empower teams to drive events and programs
  • Management by Walking Around – go to where the teams are and talk with folks informally
  • Focus groups
  • Town Hall Meetings
  • Small group meals with the leader
  • Lunch and learn with regular updates from leaders
  • Tokens for a job well done (gift cards, handwritten notes)
  • Team rituals
  • Consistent Performance Management
  • Open Information Sharing
  • Celebrate Success

The list is endless but it was stressed that the leader and the leadership teams must be highly engaged in driving the culture by:

  • Consistently investing their time
  • Open and honest communication
  • Empathetic Listening
  • Follow-up

It is not enough to align strategy and create an engaging culture, employee development is equally important. A great discussion ensued in regards to the segmentation of Shared Services employees and what development means to them. For instance, hourly employees may view development as learning new skills to add breadth to their abilities to make themselves more flexible and adaptable to any changes that may take place in the future. Employees with professional degrees are interested in their career track within the broader Company and are looking to improve their position in the pipeline. A few key themes emerged from this discussion including:

  • Performance feedback (formal and informal) on an ongoing basis
  • Goal Setting (many are using “S.M.A.R.T. Goals”)
  • The breadth of role training (ongoing cross-training, possibly using a skills matrix)
  • Coaching and Mentoring
  • Formal Training
  • Succession Planning (many use the “Potential/Performance” matrix)
  • Identifying “High Potentials” and related development plans

One of the best practices identified was a training class used by one organization for their leadership team in Shared Services that address employee engagement and development. The course goes into detail on what the expectations are for leaders in regards to engagement and development of their people. So there is no ambiguity, there is a scorecard associated with these expectations and an annual audit of the results.

How engaged is your team right now and what are you doing to drive that engagement and their development?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

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