Providing ‘shared services in the cloud,’ or via Cloud Computing, has become the convenient on-demand method for technology companies to development and distribute their services. This online model offers a great many benefits both for the firms creating services provided via this technology as well as the client companies leveraging these offerings to enhance their businesses. But what about the end user experiences of the shared services offered by today’s technology? And in particular, what about HR Shared Services?

HR Magazine convened a panel in 2014 to ascertain the pros and cons of the HR Shared Services model. As reported by author Katie Jacobs in her article, ‘Can shared services provide a quality HR service?’ – the short answer is a resounding ‘yes’ as the experiences and results of the panel were explained and examined:

  • Valerie Hughes-D’Aeth joined UK outsourcing services company Amey five years ago and was struck by the dispersed nature of service provision, with five business divisions and five HR teams all doing things in slightly different ways. “I thought we could bring them together to save costs but, more importantly, to improve service to the business,” she said. Five years on and costs have been reduced by about 30%, and service levels have gone up. The shared services model helps support Amey’s fast-growth model and frequent acquisitions. “If we hadn’t had the HR shared services center set up, we would not have been flexible enough to adapt to that growth, it’s been very important for us to have that slick HR shared services model in place.”
  • Vodafone began exploring shared services for HR two years ago, as prior to that time the focus was on managing local businesses and getting the quality right, explained Bernd Flossbach. Since then, the telecom giant has moved quickly, integrating multiple functions into one shared services center. The implementation has already achieved 20% cost savings, but Flossbach is adamant that customer service quality comes first. “Our focus was not on reducing headcount, but on making sure we are still delivering the quality we need in our local markets.”
  • At InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), shared services centers are set up in-house and across four regions (the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific and China). “Our brands are brought to life by our people, so having a consistent approach to how they are hired and developed is really helpful,” said Faye Frater. “HR is about enabling us to deliver our employment brand consistently worldwide.” The expectation that moving to shared services will help drive productivity. “That should free up a significant amount of time within our HR team to get to the higher value-add HR activity that they simply don’t have the capacity to get to today.”

Hughes-D’Aeth stressed the importance of feeling like one team: “It can’t be ‘them’ and ‘us’. Everybody in the function sinks or swims together. If you can’t get the basics right in the shared services center, however much OD or fancy coaching you do, it won’t work.” Open communication and before-and-after examples have made a huge implementation difference at Amey; where they’ve used actors to perform skits demonstrating the process differences between manager and employee before and after implementing shared services. IHG takes another tack – investing time in outlining and telling a “clear story” about what is going to be different – and the benefits to all.

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