How small changes can make a huge difference

After what started as a great year for me, the past couple of months have been pretty shit, to say the least.

I’ve felt drained and unmotivated due to a few things that have happened in my personal life. I recently lost my Nan who I was very close to, which has had a huge impact on the wider family. I appreciate this is a normal part of life, but it had a negative impact on my mental health, which I realised I needed to improve.

Small changes

It’s very easy to blame things on events that have happened, but I quickly realised that a change of mindset and talking to people close to you really helps – and has been key for me personally.

As well as that, a few minor lifestyle changes and realigning my goals, has given me a new focus and fresh motivation. For me, exercise has been invaluable in improving my motivation, but it also gives me headspace and helps me switch off.

Setting goals

I’ve recently set myself a goal of running the Birmingham Half Marathon and raising a few quid for charity in the process.  It is something I’ve done before, but I’ve never put any focus on training or achieving a competitive time – which I will do this time.

At re:find, as you know, we love cows. So, I thought it would make complete sense to run it dressed as a cow, surely – this will raise some extra cash and make it more challenging!?

I’m not a runner, but I do like a challenge so I’m hoping to complete it in under 2 hours. Training hasn’t started just yet, but if you see a cow running on two legs through Sutton Park, then don’t forget to say hi!

Want to help?

I’ve set up a just giving page if you’d like to make a donation for the great work the NSPCC do to help children, then you can do by clicking here.

re:find supports the NSPPC as a supported member of the Midlands business board, organising fundraising events throughout the year. The biggest fundraiser is the annual ball which, this year, is being held on Friday 8th November at the ICC. Tables are only £800 and it’s a brilliant night – let us know if you’re interested in getting a table.

If you’re struggling to get motivated – or maybe you want to do the marathon too! – I’m more than happy to chat, email me at

You can view more about Sam Perry our Shared Services Executive Search expert here.

Why won’t top-performing shared service professions join your business? And what to do about it. Download our free eBook here.  

Simon Brown’s top tips for successful shared services governance

Top tips for successful shared services governance

Simon is a frequent columnist at SSON and a veteran of shared services deployments at GSK, Coca-Cola, NCR, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Becton Dickinson over the past 20 years, both as a Shared Services Director and a Transformation and Change Advisor and Consultant. 

For this blog, Simon has kindly shared his views on understanding service proposition documents and SLA’s, the do’s and don’ts for introducing SLAs or OLAs, what a good SLA includes and how you should brand it.

When you have made the decision to move to, or upgrade, a shared services model for your enabling functions, be it finance, HR, IT, procurement or indeed an integrated business services, it makes good sense to set out your store and crystallise what it offers and how it works, when the processes and services will be delivered and who does what within the functional teams. Most important is that a dialogue takes place between representatives of all the key stakeholders – those who have a vested interest in the effective operations of the shared services model to be deployed.

What you agree can be recorded in a ‘Service Proposition Document’ – which should primarily be seen as a business partnership agreement about who does what, when, and with whom, and how the transactions are measured, costed and charged. The document is an output of an agreement, and a point for future reference in governance of that agreement – it is not in itself the driving force to make things happen.

Typically, a service proposition document proposes, at the executive level, the following items:

  • Purpose and mission of the shared services function
  • Who are the customers of shared services?
  • What is the business case for introducing shared services?
  • Which processes are covered, and which services and products are delivered by shared services?
  • Overall business model measures of success.
  • Costing and charge-outs for the shared services operations – often referred to as the commercial model.
  • Who are the parties to the agreement, what is the review mechanism and duration of the agreement?

The target audience for the service proposition agreement are the decision-makers at the senior level within the function – for example, in the HR function it would be the HR leadership team, and for an integrated enabling functions organisation the business services leadership team. Ideally, however, a review board – often referred to as The Customer Board, which has representatives from business heads who receive service from the enabling functions, is a good forum for getting the relationship right from the beginning.

Many companies make the mistake of being too insular when getting ready to launch their shared services function, seeing only their own function heads as the customers of the services. In reality, of course, all managers and employees of the business will be consumers of the products and services of shared services. So whilst it is right to ensure your own function is fully aligned and has bought into the new shared services model, it is equally important to go directly to the business heads when shaping the service – particularly, when agreeing on the business purpose and measures of success for the Service Proposition, and the charge-out method for the commercial model . These tend to be the big-ticket items where strategic alignment is key to success.

A service proposition document or agreement does not have to be long and bureaucratic. It is not War & Peace! It’s an executive summary agreement, which needs to be readily accessible and quick to read. The best SPDs are at most 6 or 7 pages in length.

So, what about the detail at the operations level below this executive agreement? How best to ensure that the right things are happening, in the right way, on the ground, as well as 30,000 feet up in the sky? How best to manage customers’ expectations regarding what’s in and what’s out of scope? And, how best to create a common understanding of processes, products, services, and responsibilities?

This is where the service level agreement has a role to play. It is a document with a lot more detail than the service proposition itself. Your SLA gives your service proposition legs!

Branding your agreement in the right context at your company.

Service Level Agreement, which describes the working relationship with third-party vendors, is sometimes referred to (for purely internal operations or captive HR shared services) as an Operating Level Agreement. Whatever your business context or whatever language used to describe your OLA or SLA, there are some fundamental principles to build into your thinking when designing and agreeing on this document.

It is vitally important to see the SLA/OLA as a communications tool, an output of an agreed way of working between the stakeholder parties at an operations level; something that by its clarity helps to prevent conflict and that provides a way to measure service effectiveness. The document that encapsulates all of the above in word and spirit should be seen as a living framework for an evolving and organic relationship of transactions between the stakeholders and providers. Don’t see it as something to file away or to be used to hit people over the head with when things go wrong! See it as something that will be amended and adjusted by agreement, on a predetermined frequency. As Shared Services evolves and grows and continuous, improvements are made to process effectiveness, leveraging technology and new ways of working so these can be updated and reflected in the document.

What should a good SLA or OLA include?

  1. The processes to be included and the products and services of those processes.
  2. A list of the processes which are out of scope at this point – to manage customer expectations.
  3. Conditions of service availability – hours of opening and days of operation.
  4. Service standards – times for delivery of services should be recorded in a number of working days (rather than say 24 or 48 hours) to manage expectations and be clear about closures of operations for bank-holidays or weekends.
  5. A R-A-C-I matrix – to show who is responsible, accountable, needs to be consulted and informed, regarding process steps. This ensures role clarity in completion of tasks.
  6. Cost versus service trade-offs, to manage expectations about “workarounds” or “just as a favour” requests.
  7. Clear escalation procedures and timelines so that when something goes wrong it can be resolved by the right person, in the right role, at the right time.

Governance and Reporting

For governance of the SLA/OLA it is also important to be transparent about how service effectiveness will be tracked – KPIs and metrics of outputs based on time, quality and cost-effectiveness criteria are included here. In addition, it is vital to report on service effectiveness to key stakeholders using agreed formats and frequency. See my article on measuring effective shared services performance on the SSON website for more examples. One-page dashboards; billboards with lots of colour and headline-only statements; and traffic lights (showing mostly green of course!) are effective ways to visually represent service and operating levels.

Measuring service satisfaction through quick customer surveys and focus groups which engage with the customer on an emotional level is just as effective as hard output metrics, which keep the score on time, quality, and cost-effectiveness of delivery.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for the introduction of SLAs/OLAs:


  • Discuss first with your customers, colleagues and stakeholders before you document your thoughts.
  • Gather information and insights about what can practically be delivered by the Shared Services Centre before making proposals on service and service levels.
  • Understand the complexity of processes by mapping them “as is” and where possible to streamline “to be”. Size up the volume of work and resources required to manage the processes to be included in the service proposition.
  • Consider a phased approach to introducing processes into your shared services operations – some now, some later … rather than the “big bang”, all-at-once, approach. Be clear about what is not in scope in phase 1, and record this in the service proposition and service level document.
  • Establish ground rules and ways of working with your customers and stakeholders so that the mindset is that of “partnership,” and “win-win together”, not “us versus them”.
  • Do build insufficient time to complete your SLA and SPD. Time to understand the processes, agree who does what, establish tracking mechanisms, agree supporting materials (e.g. process maps), debate to gain consensus, gain approvals, sign-off, run pre-launch education and briefing sessions, can take around three months under good circumstances.


  • Introduce SLAs simply as a way to plug the gaps after a complaint from a customer – it’s not a document to hide behind. Meet to sort out underlying problems first, rather than paper over the cracks with a written document.
  • Write an SLA without any input from your customers. Ideally, involve them in reviewing first and second drafts, which themselves are written following discussions, customer interviews, or process review workshops.

Finally, remembering the famous Oscar Wilde quote, “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression”, do see your SPD and SLA/OLA as an output of something you do with the customer, not something you do to the customer. Get as much face time as you can with customer representatives in the design of your shared services. These documents will then follow as the icing on the cake!

Thanks to Simon Brown for sharing his thoughts and tips with us on successful shared service governance.

For all things, HR Shared Services, change and transformation and if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, email me on

You can view more about Kate Wass our HR Shared Services specialist here.

Why won’t top-performing shared service professionals join your business? And what to do about it. Download our free eBook here.  

5 challenges when setting up a shared service centre

Challenges when setting up a shared service centre

Shared service centres (SSC) are becoming part of long-term business strategy and their numbers have increased significantly since the mid-80’s. Most organisations create SSC’s to improve efficiency, deliver cost savings and generally provide a better service for its customers and suppliers, as well as internal users.

But not all of them reap the benefits. Time and time again I hear about shared service centres failing and it’s usually down to one (or more) of the following challenges:


Every shared service centre needs a good leader. When going through periods of change, you need a leader that can not only influence the team but customers, suppliers and stakeholders too. A good leader will show resilience and will also be approachable. A leader needs to be strategic, and drive the SSC forward, but also needs to manage it from an operational perspective. Having the wrong leader can leave a team unhappy and disengaged. A good leader will look beyond the SSC and look at the impact this will have on the wider business, as well as the end user.


For a shared service centre to be successful, engagement must be a priority. This doesn’t just mean engaging with people who are working within it, but anyone that uses the service. A clear and positive message needs to be delivered about any changes that are taking place and how it may affect them. Managing people’s expectations and thinking about how it will affect them but delivering the message about how the changes are beneficial to THEM. Communication is key! It’s important that the project teams provide progress updates so you can celebrate success and quick wins, but also ensuring how external stakeholders may be impacted. Find out what drives people and how you can make THEM successful.


Technology is one of the most important factors of a successful SSC. With emerging technologies such as RPA, blockchain, analytics and The Cloud, to name a few. Tech will be one of the biggest investments when setting up a shared service centre. People say if it’s not broken then don’t fix it, but just because it works, it doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient way of doing it. SSCs are utilising technology more than ever. It can reduce headcount, eliminate errors and be more time efficient, but if it’s implemented wrong, or isn’t fit for purpose, it can create more problems than anything. 

Planning & strategy

The planning and strategy behind setting up a shared service centre is the most important part, in my eyes. Will this be a captive SSC, or will some functions be outsourced to a third-party provider? Location is also key, and you will need to ensure that the talent pool is sufficient for your requirements. Processes need to be transitioned; systems need to be integrated but this will have an impact on BAU responsibilities. Once setup, forward planning is crucial too, as you look to expand or consolidate different business units/regions into the SSC.


“A business is only as good as its employees.” I’m sure we’ve all heard that before?

People are one of the most important factors of a shared service centre. Without the right talent, SSC’s wouldn’t be able to deliver the service. It’s essential to have subject matter experts who can monitor compliance updates and implement the changes when needed. It’s important to gauge the talent pool in the area in which the SSC is located, as skill shortages can be a huge problem, particularly if it’s a European SSC with language speakers. Believe me European language speakers with specific experience is hard to find!

Although there are many more characteristics to think about, these will give you a strong foundation to have a great shared service centre.

If you would like to discuss further, email me at

You can view more about Sam Perry our Shared Services Executive Search expert here.

Why won’t top performing shared service professions join your business? And what to do about it. Download our free eBook here.  

5 ways to ensure your new senior executive’s onboarding success

Ensure success

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal looked at 264 new employees and found that the first 100 days of employment are crucial for building rapport with management and co-workers.

Without support or direction, employees often don’t end up staying with the company past four months. That’s why for us, onboarding is one of the most important parts of what we do.

Beyond any company induction, our experience tells us that the most successful hires have a clear understanding of their development plan and how they will fit into a ‘new’ culture together with a deep understanding of how easily the candidate will successfully navigate the first 3 to 6 months of the new job.

Many companies are aware of the benefits of onboarding new employees as opposed to simply training them. With adequate support from leaders, new hires tend to feel more positively about their job and work harder.

We place many senior executives into appointments, it is rare for a client to have what might be deemed as a full induction programme. Yes, there are often off the shelf programmes, but they aren’t really tailored for people joining at a senior level.

It is also difficult for senior people to know who to turn to. There is a mentality that senior people should be able to work it out for themselves. That isn’t always the case, we are all people after all.

Here are some ways you can ensure your new senior executive is successful.

External coaching

External coaching is one way that senior leaders can have someone to talk to during the first 100 days, someone who can help them get their plans in order and to ensure that they get their messaging right.


Although mentoring is similar to coaching, giving someone to talk to and discuss thoughts and ideas, it is longer-term. Mentoring can continue way past the onboarding period to ensure continuous success.

Engaging with the culture

It’s important for the exec to assess and understand the values, beliefs and attitude within the business early on.

Aligning with stakeholders

Ensuring your new senior executive has the support of bosses, peers and other colleagues will help to make the transition smooth. Set up meetings early on to encouraging relationship building.

On-demand video

Normally your onboarding material is an informal combination of meetings, handbooks and notes. Have you thought about a tailored program for new executives? Some companies are using video – incorporating all relevant info to bring senior executives up to speed as quickly as possible.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Keen to understand more about our ‘first 100 days’ programme and the impact it has on new joiners? Get in touch with me directly