Interview questions I never want to hear again

Interview questions


As a candidate and as a recruiter I have heard many an interview question. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Here are some interview questions that I have been asked….and I never want to hear again!


‘Sell me this pen’

This was my interview for my first-ever full-time job. Now granted, it was for a telesales role, but this is still one of the worst things I have ever heard. I don’t know how putting an 18-year-old on the spot to sell an item that is a necessity really has any bearing on how I would perform selling financial services products over the phone.

‘I tend to hire graduates and you don’t have a degree, so why should I hire you over someone fresh out of Uni?’

To give this some context, I had been working in recruitment at 3 years at this point and had managed a team. The director of this business posed this question to me during my first stage interview. Not only is a degree irrelevant to my ability to do my job (which I had been doing for the past 3 years without a degree), but it actually felt pretty belittling. Needless to say, I didn’t return for a second interview – which I got invited to, despite my lack of education!


‘If you could be any animal what kind would you be?’

I never know what to make of these questions, I think people use them to try and judge character or personality, based on what people answer. In my opinion this question poses any use. Especially as it just makes the candidate overthink their answer. SO, if it is simply being used as an icebreaker, you have probably made them tenser than anything. FYI – I would be a penguin.


‘Why should we hire you?’

Now I don’t disagree with the principle of asking this question, I think there are definitely better ways of phrasing it. This comes across as super aggressive and puts people on the spot. If you rephrase this to ‘What skills and experience do you have that you feel would be beneficial for the role’? It allows candidates to put some thought into an answer and doesn’t make them feel like they are on the back foot.


‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’

I don’t like this question on many levels. You don’t know what the interviewer is trying to gauge with this. If you say in the same role, do they see you as unambitious, or loyal? If you say you want to progress, do they feel threatened by you, or think you won’t stick around? Are they trying to gauge whether you are planning on having children? There isn’t much value in asking this question alone


What are the worst interview questions you have ever been asked, and how did you respond?


For all things HR Shared Services or 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.


Food and drink that let me know it’s Christmas!

At this time of year, there are certain foods and drinks that let me know it’s Christmas. It also probably reveals my age, as the ‘kids’ probably won’t understand the excitement about these things – they are somewhat nostalgic!


So, here’s the down-low on my favourite Christmas treats:



To the uneducated eye, this looks like a bottle of egg yolks.

To those who know, it is the key ingredient for Snowballs! Mainly seen at Christmas, but as a teenager, this was the drink my Grandad used to make me all-year-round! Yes, my parents let me drink from the age of 14, get over it. I was an 80’s child, and now I’m practically T-Total so their tactics worked. However, at Christmas, I cannot resist this!


Chocolate covered Brandy Snaps

These are like Christmas crack! As a child, my mum always brought out the chocolate covered brandy snaps with our Christmas night buffet, and I always got in trouble for taking all the white chocolate ones. I get bought a box every year now, and they are lucky if they make it to Boxing Day!


Mint Viennetta

I hate Christmas Pudding. There, I said it.

I’m pretty sure I am not alone. Sadly, it is one of the things that I have not grown to like as I’ve got older. So, instead of Christmas Pudding, I have always had Mint Viennetta as dessert. We did divert slightly to the Morrissons version of Viennetta in Toffee for a while (a.k.a Toffeelicious) But in the end, we came back to Mint Viennetta.


Cinzano & lemonade

This was the second alcoholic drink I discovered I liked as a teenager. And I discovered it on Christmas day. I literally don’t know anyone else who likes Cinzano, hell, I don’t even like it any more! I enjoyed it one Christmas Day and then it was never the same again. Weird!

However, my mum buys it every Christmas as it is my Great Aunt’s fave. Every year when I see it it reminds me of that one Christmas.


Homemade Chrismas cake

Now I am going to preface this by saying I don’t like Christmas cake. Shocking, right? I actually don’t like any traditional Christmas foods – that includes mince pies.

However, every year, my mum makes a Christmas cake. She starts it in October and feeds it alcohol right up until Christmas day. One slice and you will be p***ed for a week!


What are your favourite foods that you only get at Christmas, or that remind you of Christmas past?


For all things HR Shared Services or 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.

Thursday Brunch: what did we learn?

As a great man once said, ‘I have a dream’.

I had a dream too. It was to be on Sunday Brunch.

So, when we were brainstorming with Masgroves about how to make our events more engaging I said: “Have you ever watched Sunday Brunch? I really like how they interview people” and that was it…Thursday Brunch was born!

During 2019 we have run 3 Thursday Brunch events, gaining more interest and traction every time!

November’s event was by far the best yet, with over 60 attendees, a line-up of fantastic speakers and our hosts – Stuart and Tony from Masgroves – really knocked it out of the park!

This Thursday Brunch, we gathered together to discuss ‘What leaders want, an alternative look at employee engagement’.

What did we learn you ask?

Don’t get too intellectual about it!

We can get too intellectual about engagement at times – particularly when it comes to company purpose.

You cannot just create purpose and expect people to care about it. It’s about helping people understand what’s important to them and then find some alignment to that.

If you work on a production line and do the same process 20 times a day, do you care about purpose or do you just want to get your job done?

Some people want to come into work, work hard and go home and there’s nothing wrong with that! Shoving engagement down someone’s throat isn’t going to make them engaged.


Keep it simple

The employer/employee deal has skewed. A lot of it is being driven by what we see on LinkedIn that other people are doing, rather than what the business and employees need and want.

Not asking what people want is a huge mistake. Doing initiatives that you think people will like rather than what they actually want is a risk. By doing things people haven’t asked for, it can disengage on a number of levels.

Every business is individual – dogs at work and beer fridges are great, but that doesn’t mean that is what your people want. Keep an eye on the basics and go with your gut on what will work.

For example – your IT hardware is hugely out of date. Are people more likely to leave your business because you don’t have a beer fridge, or because you haven’t invested in a decent enough laptop and operating system for them to do their job effectively?


Create psychological safety

Create an environment where people feel comfortable saying things that are unpopular and challenge the status quo. Creating an open environment where people can say what they mean is key, as is creating space and time to have those conversations. Tell stories about people challenging things within the business – put them on a pedestal. We need diversity of thought – the conversation may not lead anywhere, but let’s celebrate the fact the conversation was had.

So, what are your thoughts? What are you doing in your organisation to truly engage people and have meaningful initiatives to add value?

You will all be excited to know that we have our entire Thursday Brunch itinerary planned out for 2020, including the new ‘The Big Brunch’.

You can see the whole agenda for 2020 here.

If you want to be added to our event mail list sign up here.

For all things HR Shared Services or 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.


Promoting wellbeing in the workplace

Workplace Wellbeing
Workplace Wellbeing


We recently held our third run of The Forum, discussing the importance of promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. For those of you who don’t know, The Forum is an exclusive quarterly event for HR Directors to ask, share, explore and learn.

This quarter, we were talking about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and it sparked some very interesting conversation, so I thought I would give my opinion on a few things!

First, a few stats:

  • 83% of people go to work when they are unwell
  • 59% of people who are off work on long-term sickness are off due to mental health problems

I think one thing is very clear – work wellbeing is a hot topic right now! Whilst I think organisations have come on leaps and bounds in terms of supporting wellbeing in general, I also think some organisations can turn it into a gimmick or photo opportunity – a bit like when everyone slaps the rainbow on the corporate logo for pride month…



Money or money-worries can be the root of a lot of stress and mental health issues. Some organisations have been running some great initiatives to combat this.

PKF Cooper Parry have allowed people to choose when during the month they get paid. The NHS has been offering same-day pay for its flexible employees. I think these approaches are innovative. It provides the flexibility that people need and empowers people to manage their finances and feel in control.

One thing I’m not a huge fan of is these new apps that allow you to access some of your next month’s salary early. I know they are marketed as being used for emergencies and a lot of them have limits on how much you can access, but I do feel that for some people (me included!) it would encourage you to frequently spend outside your means and always be living in a deficit, meaning you would be accessing money early every single month.



Flexible working, agile working, unlimited holidays…does it work? Do people really use it?

I am very lucky to work for an employer who offers flexible working. And when I say that I mean ACTUAL flexible working. What this means is that I can work from home, when I want, without needing a reason. On a Thursday I finish work at 4 pm to go and visit my nan who has Alzheimer’s and I don’t make the time back up. What I do, is deliver all the work I need to in the hours that I work.

Flexible working isn’t being allowed to finish at 4 pm on a Friday or starting an hour earlier/ skipping your lunch so you can leave early and it definitely isn’t being allowed to go for an appointment in the middle of the day as long as you make the time back.

The unlimited holidays I’m not 100% sold on, which is probably because It is now November and I still have 9.5 days holiday to take before Christmas. I’m not great at taking holiday. But I do see the purpose of it. Say you have a special occasion, honeymoon or the opportunity to go on an extended break, then it would be great to utilise.



There must also be engagement in workplace wellbeing and organisations need to empower and equip individuals to self-care.

There are other options to engagement surveys, for example, to get people to spend time thinking about themselves. People don’t just need to think about how they feel, but also what impacts those feelings, what are the root causes?

There are now apps that are a self-coaching platform and can be used with employees to enable them to assess their work happiness. These are an interesting alternative to employee engagement surveys and encourage people to think about the underlying motivations to their happiness – even as far as their work relationships, identifying which are high quality and which you could/would like to improve.

Anna Cleland’s app Workhappy is a great one to check out.


There is so much good happening in workplaces (and some crap here and there!) that I think we are making strides in workplace wellbeing, but there is still plenty more to be done.

It would be great to hear about the initiatives you love or hate, and what else you think needs to be done.


For all things HR Shared Services or 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.


The pros and cons of office dog(s)

Any of you who are friends of re:find will know we love an office dog! So much so that we have two who join us on a regular basis.

But having dogs in the office isn’t all cuddles and playing fetch. Here are my pros and cons of having office dogs.

Pro: stress reduction

It has long been known that having a dog can reduce stress. Virginia Commonwealth University 2012 study showed that people who brought their dogs to work showed reduced stress levels and higher levels of job satisfaction. Providing the dog is well behaved it is fun having it around. And if you are having a crappy day, they are always happy to give you a cuddle.

Con: allergies

I suffer from allergies; however, I am allergic to pretty much anything you can be allergic to. That includes dog, cats, horses, rabbits…basically anything with fur. The issue is I also love animals. Whilst my allergies aren’t severe, what it does mean is if I touch an animal, I have to wash my hands immediately. However, when Teddy decides to sneeze on my ankle…well let’s just say getting your ankle into a kitchen sink is not the easiest!

Pro: increased activity

When working in an office, it can be very easy to sit at your computer all day and before you know it, it’s 5.30! Having a dog naturally encourages you to be more active. It’s a great excuse to get out and take the pooch for a walk at lunchtime. Getting some fresh air and stretching your legs can also be great for your positivity levels.

Con: your food is no longer your own

Anyone who knows me knows this crucial piece of information about me. I. DON’T. SHARE. FOOD.

Sadly, dogs don’t understand what this means. Teddy stands at my feet when I am eating. I avoid making eye contact and I pretend that he isn’t there. Then he barks at me and taps my hand with his paw. Then I have to wash my hand because of the allergies. I sit back down to carry on eating, he touches me, I have to wash my hands. Well, you can see where this is going! It’s easier just to give him the piece of chicken from the outset.

All of this being said, I love having the dogs in the office. They bring a bit of fun and entertainment I genuinely do feel happy that they are around!

Here are the dogs you will find lurking around our office:

The Silent Assassin (AKA Teddy)

This is the sneakiest kind of dog….he pretends to be uninterested; he sleeps for most of the day and snores really loudly….but you rustle a food packet or ping the microwave and he springs into life like a jack in the box! That being said, he is very well behaved and is always very appreciative of a lunchtime stroll. He also loves strangers.

Pros: Loves a good fuss – if you are having a bad day, he is happy to give you a cuddle.

Cons: Watch out for your chicken, this guy will stop at nothing to get a nibble on your lunch!

The Energizer Bunny (AKA Gracie)

She’s a fun dog! She is happy to see everyone, bounces around the office quite happily. Give her a stress ball and she will be content for hours, although she will rip it to shreds. She can be a little noisy at times, but she provides endless entertainment.

Pros: Loves to play games and is always up for a walk.

Cons: Will bark the minute you pick up the phone to someone important.

So, what are your thoughts about having dogs in the office? Do you have any? What do you love/hate about having them around?

For all things HR Shared Services or 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.  

Phrases heard in recruitment offices that make my skin crawl

In recruitment, we like to think we are ever-evolving animals and that we have moved on from the pinstriped three-piece suits and working 13 hours a day. In the main part, I think this is true, but there are still some of you out there. You know who you are…. you are probably the one reading this and getting ready to blast some hate my way because I’ve touched a nerve. Either that, or you really are so hanging from last nights weekly team drinks that you just don’t have the energy, but at least you beat the office record for jaeger bombs downed, followed by press-ups completed. #ladsladslads

Anyway, here’s a trip down memory lane, the worst things I have heard in recruitment offices.

‘Ring the deal bell’

Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise we were on the London Stock Exchange in the nineties! Are you really that self-congratulating that you need to ring a bell to let the rest of the office know you have actually done your job?

Referring to candidate placements as ‘deals’ also makes me want to scratch my eyeballs out.

’Right guys, we are having 10 before 10/Power Hour’

What this actually says is that your manager is concerned that you lazy shits aren’t doing enough BD, so they are going to force you to make a load of calls in an hour in order to hit your pointless call KPI target. If you can speak to 10 decision-makers in an hour, then I’m betting you the quality of those calls probably sounds something like this:

Recruiter: ‘Hi, you got any jobs?’

Client: ‘No’

Recruiter: ‘Ok, thanks’ *whilst secretly punching the air because the call counts as a decision-maker spoken to*.

‘We are different from your average recruitment agency’

Oh really? That’s strange because I’m pretty sure the last 10 recruiters that called me were all different…so if that’s the case, where do I find all the average recruiters because I think I wanna give one of them a try?

Recruiters that truly are different, aren’t constantly telling you how different they are, they are busy just being different. Let your actions speak for themselves.

‘I’ve got a hot candidate’

Why? Have you locked them in an un-air-conditioned room until they sign your exclusivity agreement? Your candidate isn’t an object for you to brag about! Talk about them like they are an actual human being and not a walking fee.

So, there you go, rant over. This is purely a bit of fun and not meant to offend anyone. But this doesn’t just apply to recruitment. What are the worst/most annoying phrases you hear in your office?

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.  

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.  

Innovation culture…doable or black magic?

Innovation culture…doable or black magic?

We keep hearing it all the time…in order for shared services to be successful, they need to be continuously improving and innovating. But what is a culture of innovation? And how do you create one? Is it even possible?

A culture of innovation is when innovative ‘thinking’ becomes a cultural trait, second nature.

It is actively encouraged, and people live and breathe it from the bottom up.

It’s not just black magic, but in order to do this successfully, there are some key things to consider:

1 – Innovation should be encouraged across the entire workforce.

From the board to the cleaning staff, innovation should be encouraged from every employee of your business, with no exceptions.  We often think that ideas and innovations are created in brainstorming sessions. Make innovation a core responsibility of everybody’s roles and ensure it is reviewed frequently, don’t push it aside as an end of year objective.

2 – Empower your employees.

If you are going to set innovation as an expectation of your people, you need to properly equip them with the knowledge and tools to be able to do so. You also need to facilitate how people can share their thoughts and ideas in a positive and constructive way, to ensure they feel their voice is being heard and to make sure they know that no idea is a bad idea. There are a number of ways you can do this – either in 121s or group innovation sessions. Some businesses have suggestion boxes or an innovation section of their internal intranet.

3 – Take action.

There is always a risk that asking for innovation can lead to endless conversations with no real take away. The biggest impact that you can have on your culture is to take action. Now I’m not saying it is practical that every idea should be taken to prototyping/testing but, it is practical to show that all ideas are taken seriously and investigated, and giving a decision/outcome is critical to continually encourage people that their ideas are valued.

4 – It is ok to fail, as long as you learn!

Not every idea will be a success. Failure is inevitable. If things don’t fail, then the chances are you aren’t taking enough action on your innovation. Not every idea will be a success – and that’s ok!

The key here is to review the failure, figure out what went wrong, what could have been done differently and learn from it!

There are some organisations who do innovation really well. Amazon is a great example of this – where innovation has almost become a science to them. Everyone at Amazon is encouraged to submit improvement ideas through a simple template and are given sponsorship to try new ideas.

I would be really interested to hear how your company encourages innovation, as well as your opinion on any companies that do this really well.

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.  

Does internal customer service affect your external customer experience?

Does internal customer service affect your
external customer experience ?

The experience that your employees have, directly impacts the service and experience your customers receive.

 A pretty strong statement, but one that I absolutely agree with.

This week, Lynsey Kitching and I explored how the experience your employees get from their internal functions can directly relate to the experience your external customers get from your business.

The first thing to note that although I talk about shared services in this blog, the statement relates to ANY internal function within your business and the fact of the matter is that almost any role within an organisation can be linked back to the customer in some way.

Well the scorecard is green so we must be doing fine!

Lynsey, Owner of Lynsey J Kitching consultancy, spent many years working with National Grid. During this time, she headed up a project to improve service quality within their shared service function.

People often use scorecards as a measure of success within shared services. But just because your scorecards are green, doesn’t mean your customers are happy with the service they are receiving. How are you getting feedback?

Lynsey used NPS (net promoter scores) to get internal and external customer feedback and began looking at their low scores/detractors and found there was a direct correlation between feedback and performance on both internal and external NPS.

”The initial NPS scores and supporting feedback from customers was the shared services team were not accessible, our customers didn’t know what we did, email dot boxes didn’t work, and our processes weren’t transparent. That led us to develop our service proposition…to be responsive, reliable and easy to deal with. And act straight away – implement a service management tool to remove dot boxes, set up a pop-up help desk at our largest colleague office and work on improving our first identified colleague journey – how to buy goods or services. In the first 12 months the NPS score improved by 22 points.”

Story time

One of the biggest detractors on Lynsey’s NPS for external customers was a lack of consistency/continuity with people when solving an issue.

An example of how shared services could affect this score.

Your payroll administrator processes the wrong payroll data for your account manager. Your account manager gets paid incorrectly. When he tries to speak with shared services, he gets passed from one person to another with nobody really taking accountability for the error. Account manager becomes disengaged and starts job hunting and leaves his role. Your customer calls up to speak to their account manager only to find they are no longer there. Said customer is on their fifth account manager in 2 years. They are sick of having to re-introduce themselves to someone new and spend time getting them up to speed. Your customer leaves and goes to another provider.

Now I appreciate this is a pretty drastic scenario. But it happens.

‘Every role in shared services can be connected back to the customer and, as a result of this, every role within shared services is hugely important’.

Your Payroll administrator thinks they are the lowest part of the value chain. How can what they do affect your customers, when they don’t even speak to them?

And there lies your problem. Your shared services team doesn’t understand their purpose and they don’t feel empowered to deliver service to the best of their ability.

The leadership role is to set the climate and enable their teams to look at the bigger picture and how their role has an impact.

You need to move from talking in process and transaction terms, to talking about colleague journeys and experience – from setting strategic objectives to individual performance management. Empower your colleagues to step away from process when needed to improve experience (obvs balancing any controls/regulations).

So, there you have it! How internal customer experience can affect external customer service.

If anyone has undertaken a similar project, both Lynsey and I would be really interested to see any hard data relating to customer service and employee experience!

If you would like to speak with Lynsey about her consultancy services, get in touch and we will connect you, or you can catch her on LinkedIn.

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.  

Shared Services vs. Business Process Outsourcing – who will survive?

Shared Services vs. BPO

There has long been an argument between Shared Services and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) – is one better than the other? I think both have their merits. However, in the evolving world of shared services and outsourcing, will one become extinct?

BPO is the process of engaging a third-party vendor with the right skills and resources, to carry out work on your behalf.

Shared Services relates to the creation of an autonomous business unit, based on-site, which carries out these processes for multiple functions within an organisation (HR, Finance, procurement).

The services that BPO and Shared Services provide is generally to remove manual, operational and often repetitive tasks out of your everyday work.

Business Process Outsourcing

BPO is often thought to be more efficient, due to it having better systems and processes. It is frequently based offshore, so labour costs and overheads can be significantly lower than having this service in-house.

Outsourcing can often be implemented quickly and more effectively, due to the experience of the resource within these companies. The transition to an outsourced model may not offset the savings you make and the increase in the quality of the work you receive.

Feedback is often that BPO can be seen as ‘faceless’ or lacking the human approach that people sometimes want from these services and in a world where employee engagement and experience is paramount, this can cause real issues.

Shared Services

Shared services can be a better solution if your needs are bespoke. BPO can often be one size fits all, and if you have requirements that are specific and processes that aren’t bog standard, then a shared services model may be the best choice.

However, the implementation of a shared services function within a business can be slow and painful. More often than not this is due to lack of experience internally to deliver this and if systems, processes and data are not clean and efficient, the service will fail.

If the service fails, it can be hugely damaging to employee engagement and if people aren’t engaged to use the service, then they will revert to old habits, rendering the service useless.

Is there a place for both?

People seem to believe that in the long term, only one of these will survive. My opinion is that there is a place for both. If you have high volume of standard processes which need carrying out without knowledge of internal factors or processes, then BPO is probably for you.

However, if you have unique processes and you have the time, money and resources to do this properly, then shared services is the best option.

Before you decide whether to implement a BPO or Shared Services model, you need to do a thorough diagnostic on your business and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What the end goal is for your organisation in changing to a new service delivery model? If it is purely to save money, then shared services isn’t for you.
  • Do you have management engagement and support?
  • Are your systems, processes and data fit for purpose?

Once you have the answers to all of these questions, you should be able to make an informed decision.

So, what do you think? Do you think shared services or BPO will become extinct in the long term?

For all things HR Shared Services, change and transformation get in touch with us via the info form below, 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.