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The critical role of communications at Global Capability Centers

Global in-house centers (also referred to as shared services units or global business centersor offshore captive centers or global capability centers) have evolved over the years worldwide to be strategic vehicles for organizations. These teams improve efficiencies, drive change, derive value, reduce risks and enhance the organization’s reputation. Most centers are considered research & development hubs for their parent organizations. It is estimated that there are over 2000+ such centers around the world with a majority of them based in India. For the purpose of this article, I will refer to them as global capability centers, a recent and more evolved term mentioned by the Everest Group and NASSCOM.

Having spent a significant part of my career managing communications at such centers I am hoping that the following pointers will help practitioners, leaders and human resource professionals make their communication investments add value to the business, within and outside the firm.

Driving change and efficiencies

For the uninitiated, organizations who want to consolidate and bring efficiencies to their businesses consider either working alongside nearshore partners or location agnostic in-house entities to retain control, use their scale and build capabilities that generate value for the business. Organizations invest in global capability centers as opposed to using third-party service providers to manage information technology systems, financial operations, supply chain, data analytics and a lot more. Lower barriers of entry, government incentives, high quality talent, language capabilities and secure environments are among the reasons for organizations to select and establish their global capability centers. Often, they establish a small set-up to test the waters and grow in strength based on the confidence they get from the local talent and the quality of output.

Over the years, in India for example, such centers have significantly grown over the last few years – India alone has over 1,100 centers employing over 8, 00,000 people. These centers contribute to USD 20 billion worth of revenue and 20% of exports with the majority of the work in research & development and software product development.

The critical role of communication

While a lot is written about the cost arbitrage or operational effectiveness of these centers, there is very limited appreciation of the role communication plays in connecting staff, driving change and improving connection with the parent companies. There is no doubt about the critical role of communication in such set-ups. From helping leaders communicate their strategic priorities to plotting approaches to involve and engage staff; from drawing on the parent company’s heritage to advocating the organization’s social commitments; from promoting the team’s capabilities to propagating the center as an employer of choice, there is a significant amount of communication energy invested at every level.

This isn’t an easy task considering the macroeconomic considerations, business landscape, cost pressures, parent company expectations and relationships needed to engage in the local market. The talent marketplace is very competitive and to attract and retain the best talent, global capability centers must continually innovate, present their best stories, collaborate with the local communities, and lead industry-wide initiatives and more.

Enhancing the case for global capability centers

To add to that, in global capability centers, staff have lesser opportunities to engage directly with customers. With limited line of sight, it therefore becomes imperative for the organization to invest more effort to connect employees to the business and help them think creatively about ways to add value. Often, some organizations prefer to stay low-key due to compliance and regulatory challenges while others prefer to distance themselves from the local market dynamics because of the nature of their business. Be it a privately held entities, policy implications or the product or services they sell; for example, the retail, alcohol or mining industries. There are other aspects of communication is often ignored. For example, driving change, managing crises, or communicating a business continuity plan – essential for the everyday functioning of a center.

The communication team is therefore integral to the success of the global capability center operations. Organizations that tap the power of this team and appreciate what the function can deliver are able to derive the most value, improve their brand recall and drive efficiencies.

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