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Culture and Communications – a Missed Opportunity for Global Business Services Leaders?

Global Business Services (GBS) centers are pivotal to the success of their organizations. Those which have invested in their staff, are focused on becoming digital-first, growing capabilities within and communicating effectively are equipped to lead in the future.  

Facing into challenges 

As centers grapple with the changes brought in by the pandemic and increased expectations from staff, there are a few key challenges facing leaders. The rise of remote and distributed work, the need to adopt technology rapidly to meet growing demand and delivering optimal solutions with the best talent, practices and systems. Most mature GBS centers are expanding to taking on core areas of work beyond support functions, managing work from anywhere irrespective of the maturity of the tasks and upskilling staff to take on more than they were primarily assigned to do. 

All these aspects put stress on various parts of the business as change and transformation measures must align with revised organizational goals. In highly competitive local markets and environment where GBS centers are located, the battle for talent is immense. Take for instance, the market in Poland. According to the 2022 ABSL Business Services Report, in the first quarter of 2022, such centers employed 400,000 staff, increasing the share of the employment market in Poland to 6.2% and a significant improvement in exports by 15.1% year-on-year. Despite knowing that the shift to distributed working is inevitable and with 80% of centers willing to move to the newer model, very few are able to bring about change that suits their organizational culture, practices and structures. Interestingly, the report indicates that leaders realize the value of self-determination and that which gives more control in the hands of staff related to their working preferences, learning and careers.  

Attraction, retention and reputation are crucial  

Hiring is a challenge with 74% surveyed in the 2022 Payroll Report sharing their frustration with getting the right talent – more pronounced in the IT firms. Furthermore, according to staff, the biggest barrier to effective working, is the lack of good communicationThis is topped only by ‘flawed procedures’ within the company. Lastly, a Deloitte study states that 66 percent of those who plan to leave their firm feel that communications have been ineffective.  

With GBS entities striving to move up the value chain and prove their worth to stakeholders and customers beyond HQ, it isn’t easy to become an innovation center (driving ingenuity and expansion) from just being a cost center (reducing operational fees) or serving as a quality center (that standardizes and builds consistency in processes). It needs more than just gimmicks as some centers are resorting to while attracting talent – such as offering hot air balloon rides or boat cruises for new hires.  

Need for consistency and transparency 

Such initiatives are great if what follows is consistent employee experience. When staff face broken systems, toxic cultures and inconsistent manager and leader behaviors and even poorer communication, they head for the door. The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) can’t rely on showering ‘cool’ benefits and compensation as differentiators – because they aren’t. Very few have even defined their EVP, leave alone percolating it down to the frontline staff. After a while, every company begins to look and sound the same! If you change the company logo and replace it with any other – no firm stands out.

The need of the hour is to make culture your differentiator and reinforce communication as a key measure of manager and leader competence. If you have leaders and managers who can’t articulate what the company stands for and why the workplace or work is worth the time and effort of staff, there is very little hope. Staff seek autonomy, the opportunities to work with experts, the ability to become masters of their trade and be part of a larger cause. Strong diversity and inclusion policies and practices helps to cement the foundation of the brand and reputation. 

Which centers are offering these promises in their employer branding messaging? How many leaders are addressing culture and communications proactively? When was it last a part of key company meetings and 1:1s?

Yes, there are fires to fight and stakeholder expectations to be managed. But aren’t these symptomatic of cultural deficiencies and ineffective communication? 

So why culture?  

  • That’s because you can replicate everything else but the DNA of the organization – why you exist and what you stand for. A recent study looking at the influence of the ‘Great Resignation’ discovered that the biggest predictor of people leaving was indeed – toxic corporate culture. A culture that drives disengagement and deflates morale and productivity. What’s more – toxic culture is 10.4X more likely to lead to attrition than compensation!  
  • Similarly, a 2022 EY study among the younger generation found that company culture does influence staff retention. Especially, when employers take a proactive stand on societal issues that matter, they are viewed positively by prospective employees. 
  • The link to communication is even more stark. Those organizations which are perceived as transparent communicate more frequently than others. In the process, they de-risk their culture and avoid losing good staff.  

Why communication? 

  • Most leading global business services entities are focusing on building a strong brand image to attract talent – that is where communication plays a leading role. Externally, the reputation of the brand can convince prospective candidates that they are making the right decision while joining and internally staff when involved early and consistently, are able to share a consistent story and be brand advocates that count.  
  • There are however risks and implications that employers must be aware of and address accordingly. For instance, employees today have more clout and reach than organizational social media accounts and that puts immense influence in their hands. Rather than clamping down and restricting staff from expressing themselves, employers can tap this opportunity to partner with employees to constructively curate messages that align with the values of the corporate brand and also enhance the employees’ outreach. 
  • Unlike thought earlier, overcommunicating isn’t an issue. In fact, a recent study has found that leaders are criticized more when they under communicate. More importantly, top leaders aren’t communicating their strategies well enough and that means it isn’t just staff who are unaware – even middle and frontline managers are clueless about the organization’s direction or the leadership’s plans. 

So, what’s the recommendation? 

As a global business services leader, the best way to ride the wave of progress and success is to focus on company culture and communication. In fact, according to Deloitte’s report, successful global business services organizations are investing in strong cultures, well-being and flexible work practices. 

Also, noted in the 2021 IMD’s World Talent Ranking, which measures worker motivation, quality of life, and employee training among 31 other criteria among leaders in 64 economies that:” Workers today are increasingly motivated by high quality of life, flexible working, and opportunities to train on the job, whereas previously, remuneration was the driving force behind their desire to stick at their jobs.” 

With staff getting more and more resistant to change, the need to reenergize staff in GBS entities will mean more emphasis on culture and communication. This is why Gartner predicts that by 2023, the top priorities for leaders will be staff experience, change management and leader and manager effectiveness – all of which are strongly linked to culture and communications. Any GBS organization and leader ignoring this will do so at their own peril. 

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Liked this article? Share your comments and thoughts here. 

Interested to read other articles on Global Business Services/Shared Services/Global Capability Centers’ communication? Look them up on the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network website where I am contributing author. 

  1. Roadmapping Global Capability Centers’ Communication Priorities and Progression  
  2. Communications as a COE for Shared Services Success: Charting a New Direction 
  3. Communications as a COE for Shared Services Success: Building The Strategy 
  4. Communications as a Center of Excellence for Shared Services Success 
  5. Crafting a Consistent Global Business Services Social Media Strategy 
  6. 5 Communication Approaches for Successful Knowledge Transitions 
  7. Designing a Consistent Business Problem-Solving Forum in Global Capability Centers 
  8. Starting Your Global Shared Services Center? Give Communications its Due 
  9. Building an Inclusive Shared Services Leader’s Communication Plan 
  10. Tapping the Power of Ideas in Shared Services Centers 
  11. Six P’s that Differentiate your Global Center 
  12. 4 Shared Services Communication Strategies Guaranteed to Work 

Keen to read more research insights on communications? Look up my website (www.intraskope.com) and blog (www.aniisu.com).

Have other ideas on communications and want to partner? Reach out to me on [email protected]

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