How to keep staff motivated in the Shared Service Centre environment: five must-know tips

By Robert Half on 8 January 2017

Shared service centres (SSCs) offer unique career development opportunities for finance professionals, say finance leaders in Singapore, and the key to keeping SSC staff motivated is emphasising and facilitating career advancement.

As an operation that primarily exists to facilitate efficiencies in finance processes for a regional or global business, finance professionals could be forgiven for thinking that as a career move, an SSC could breed more stagnation than success. However, according to local finance leaders, shared service centres are dynamic, inspiring places to work, and offer exciting career opportunities for the astute finance professional.

Robert Half asked three local finance leaders how to keep staff motivated within the unique environment of a shared service centre. 

1. Know how to keep staff motivated: Create a strong brand

In today’s market, brand is increasingly important. Whilst much attention is focused on building the brand of the company or of the individual talent, for Peter Hamilton, Global Policy and Control Manager, creating a strong belief in the brand of the shared service centre was critical in recruiting and retaining staff during a transition from an SSC located in Sri Lanka to a Singaporean-based SSC. Hamilton explains: “We developed a strong reputation as a high-quality employer. We created an image of an SSC being a great place to work; that it was a challenging, fair, informal and equalitarian environment. Then we delivered on those promises.”

2. Encourage exposure to other parts of the business

Hamilton asserts that the shared service centre environment offers a unique opportunity for finance professionals to broaden their knowledge base, which keeps team members motivated. Says Hamilton: “We introduced staff rotation so that staff can build up their experience and stay challenged. Staff rotated between accounts receivable, collections, billing, invoicing and data management.”

Amit Clifton Anthony, Regional Finance and Strategic Project Manager for Vopak adds that there are additional business benefits to staff rotation: “Rotating staff across different processes has the advantage of a flexible workforce that is skilled and can be deployed to meet business requirements.”

3. Understand the unique cultural motivations of the staff

If you’re managing a team at a shared service centre, there’s a chance that the majority of the team members may be locally employed from the country in which the SSC is situated. If you’re not from that country – which is often the case in expat environments such as Singapore – you will need to take time to understand the unique cultural motivations of the staff. Anthony shares his own experience: “In my experience, the Indian culture values one-on-one communication and the creation of an individual bond with each employee. That means, as a manager, you must take a very personalised approach to understanding how to keep staff motivated.“

Anthony reflects on how independent learning is very important in China: “I’ve observed a higher level of independence in staff in China versus in other countries I’ve worked in. I’ve found employees in China prefer to learn autonomously, so as a manager, you need to be sensitive to that and facilitate ways to improve their skills without being too intrusive.”

For Singaporean employees, flexibility in approach is key. “Singaporeans notoriously work long hours,” says Anthony. “It’s important to give them flexibility in terms of how they manage their day and their family priorities.”

Hamilton adds: “I’ve found that in the Singaporean environment, competition is very important. It’s important to acknowledge new ideas, so that employees can gain respect from their peers. We hold a variety of competitions each month, be it for software recognition or receivables collections or other key tasks.”

4. Provide incentivisation beyond the pay check

As with any business, it’s not all about salary. “We offer other incentives aside from cash,” says Hamilton. “Incentives such as healthcare, gym, and flexi-time programs help to motivate and retain our staff.”

For Hamilton, knowing how to keep staff motivated is about tapping into an employee’s goals and providing them the structure to achieve them. “We provide a really clear development structure and goals for our staff,” says Hamilton. “It’s not just a clock-in, clock-out mentality – we introduce competency-based frameworks and long term succession planning. Our finance professionals have a clear idea of how their success is being measured and where they are going.”

The shared service centre requires a specialised approach to keeping staff motivated in their roles in the long term. SSC managers must not only create awareness about the benefits of the shared service centre as a great place to work, but they must also provide ample opportunities for staff to develop their skills and drive their own career. As staff retention remains a high priority, SSC managers, like any manager, must take an active, flexible and personalised approach towards staff motivation.

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