The role leadership plays in shared services

The role leadership plays in shared services
The role leadership plays in shared services

What is the definition of leadership? The person who leads or commands a group, organisation, or country.

Many people ask me what defines a great shared services leader. Whilst this can encompass several different traits, there are usually a handful of personal qualities that a shared service leader should have and demonstrate. Whatever those traits and qualities, there is no doubt the role leadership plays in shared services is huge.

Traditionally, shared service leaders have been judged on their hard skills, such as cost reduction, operational excellence and delivering results. However, it’s 2019 and times have changed. More and more shared service functions require softer skills and more people related skills, to drive success. I guess this puts the saying, “A business is only as good as it’s people.” into perspective.

Communication and vision:

Creating a clear message and vision for your employees is the key to success. Just because something isn’t ‘broken’, it doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. You need a leader who takes the time to fully engage with the team, helping them understand the journey the business is on and influencing them to drive continuous improvement and change. Managing the change agenda is key, and you need to be passionate about this to engage stakeholders and ensure the right message is being delivered. I referenced the saying “if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it” – Imagine trying to change a process, when the individual has done their job like this for the past 10 years. It takes certain skills to get that person to see the benefits in the change.

Embrace technology:

You need leaders who are not afraid to embrace technology. Artificial intelligence and robotics are reshaping the way shared service functions operate. Whilst many think that AI will inevitably lead to headcount reduction, not only does it eliminate monotonous tasks and recurring processing activities, but it gives humans the chance to utilise their skills and add value in a different capacity. AI eliminates errors, increases efficiency, improves the customer experience and, over time, is more cost-effective. Good leaders need to embrace new technologies to help upskill their existing teams.

Look beyond the SSC:

Whilst the above point talks around efficiencies, leaders need to look beyond the shared service and think about effectiveness beyond. What impact does this have on the wider business, as well as your customers and suppliers? Shared services functions aren’t just created to reduce costs, they need to demonstrate high productivity and quality of service, not just internally.

Focus on talent:

Finding good shared services talent is hard. But once you have managed to secure the best talent, it’s important for leaders ensure they retain, develop and progress them.

  • Create an exclusive onboarding programme, so that employees feel valued, and have a clear understanding of what’s expected.
  • Build structured career paths. Give your employees the appetite for progression and encourage their personal development.
  • Maintain a great culture and working environment, where employees feel valued.
  • Reward success.
  • Just because it’s work, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way.

Upskill your existing staff:

It’s important that leaders upskill existing staff and keep them motivated. Having worked in a high-volume invoice processing role, I can relate to some shared services employees when they say their job is repetitive and sometimes mundane. The same monotonous tasks you must do, day in, day out, can be soul destroying. I had the task of solely processing invoices within accounts payable department and it was a delight when a colleague went on holiday, or there was a chance for some rotational training. When you’re given a new task, the chance to learn or simply just do something a bit different, it’s amazing how much you put your mind to it and have a different attitude towards it. As technology and AI develop within shared service functions, as previously mentioned, it’s even more important to upskill your team.

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