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Creating a Shared Services Environment that Fosters Employee Development and High Morale

The best technology and processes in the world will not deliver superior results if your  Shared Services team is not fully engaged. The challenge for Shared (or Business) Services leaders is to create and maintain an environment where their teams are performing at the highest performance levels; identifying and implementing value-creating initiatives and projects while providing excellent customer service. It’s no surprise that people who enjoy their work environment deliver superior results.

The Shared Services workforce faces the same challenges as much of the rest of the organization they are part of, as well as a few unique ones. Being at the forefront of implementing change initiatives that can face resistance from corporate functions and operations requires Shared Services leaders to have a significant focus on their team’s engagement level. In what was one of the most well-attended Peercasts1 within the Peeriosity Shared Services Leadership Research Area, leaders collaborated on “Creating a Shared Services Environment that Fosters Employee Development and High Morale.”

The interactive discussion commenced with reviewing research results from a question posed to Shared Services Leaders regarding initiatives that have yielded the greatest positive impact on their employees.

poll results on the greatest positive impact on employee motivation in shared services


As you can see from the results, there is no “magic bullet”. Many initiatives may resonate with employees in Shared Services to create an environment that fosters full engagement. A representative discussion comment summed it up:

“Several of these choices are very important and the priority will vary from one employee to another, therefore it is important for leaders to take a balanced approach that is broad enough to cover a wide scope of options to foster employee engagement and development. But it’s critical that leaders understand that this is important and not something to delegate or address only when a problem is evident – by then, it’s too late.”

The feature company then shared some of the key tenets they have in creating a positive environment for their teams in Shared Services:

  • Define and Communicate Professional Standards for Shared Services
  • Create Clearly Documented Expectations for Every Position
  • Develop Team and Individual Goals
  • Support Fun and Work/Life Balance in the Workplace

Our feature company described a formalized set of Professional Standards that are communicated and updated frequently based on employee input. The standards address items such as protocol for listening to music at your desk, appropriate dress (for both regular and casual days), and guidelines for flexible work-at-home days, etc. While most organizations indicated that norms have formed regarding workplace standards, these should be documented to avoid any misunderstandings and to provide supervisors with set policies to deal with deviations before they become problems. Employees like having input on the guidelines, as well as knowing what is expected of themselves and their teammates.

The discussion regarding the work environment continued and companies shared what they are doing in regards to setting job expectations and individual meetings with employees to define both team and personal targets and development plans. There was general agreement that one message that needs to be reinforced on a regular basis is that employees are accountable for their career development. Almost every company on the call indicated that they have any number of opportunities that employees can take advantage of to advance their careers including:

  • External Education Assistance (Aligned to a mutually beneficial application of skills)
  • Internal Training
  • Personal Development Days
  • Peeriosity – Access to Peer Knowledge and Experience
  • Job Rotation
  • Skill Expansion Opportunities
  • Project Assignments
  • Peer Reviews
  • Exposure to other Company Functional/Geographic areas

One organization mentioned that as part of supervisor discussions with each employee, they ask “What skill do you have that is not being utilized to its fullest, or what are you interested in that is not in your current scope?” The employee and supervisor work together to find a way to incorporate the skill and/or interest into an assignment.

Reward and recognition systems can have a positive effect on individuals and the teams within Shared Services. The degree to which they do was debated, however, some of the basic “blocking and tackling” such as simple recognition of a job well done is not always top of mind with leaders. As one of the participants added:

“Sometimes we spend a whole lot of time and money on reward and recognition systems when the simple act of a sincere personal ‘thank you’, can have a very positive impact on employee engagement.”

While the discussion primarily focused on the initiative leaders can utilize to improve employee engagement and morale, the Peeriosity Shared Services Leadership community turned the discussion to the greatest threats to employee engagement. A poll on the topic yielded two clear and present threats:

results on the the greatest threat to motivating employees employee development and high morale

The perceived lack of career path and overall economic concerns related to reductions in force and/or outsourcing were the primary concerns of Shared Services leaders. Some excellent discussion ensued on both of these concerns and most organizations are addressing these issues head-on in an honest and open way necessary to create trust among the team. Questions arose regarding retention issues associated with a transition to an outsourcer, as well as identifying and communicating with “high-potentials” during times of significant change.

The discussion continues within Peeriosity’s Shared Services Leadership research area where you can interact with and access the collective knowledge and experience of leading global organizations.

How is your Shared Services organization creating an environment that fosters a high level of employee engagement required for exceptional performance?

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

1 “PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at anytime with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees.

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