May 27, 2021

Global Mobility and Shared Services Centers

Whether and how to integrate a shared services model with certain elements of the process

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With the right approach and ongoing assessment, training and communication, using a shared services center (SSC) to manage certain aspects of relocation can bring several benefits to organizations, including supporting the continued strategic elevation of the global mobility function.

That’s the conclusion we drew following research with several multinational organizations - 69% of which report either currently using an SSC, or indicated a strong likelihood of doing so in the future.

In Fragmenting Global Mobility: How Organizations Are Leveraging Shared Services Centers – we look at the key drivers of using an SSC model, various approaches to the types and levels of activities that can be outsourced to them, and what some of the most important considerations are when deciding whether it’s the right fit for your organization.

 

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While controlling costs is often an important reason to consider taking the shared services approach, it’s not the only one.

Moving some of the more transactional activities away from the global mobility team can allow them to focus on upskilling and bringing more strategic value to the business. Some organizations also report improvements to the employee experience by being able to expedite their response times.

No matter what the reasons are, there are several approaches organizations can take to integrate an SSC model, and essential considerations for setting up for success. Advanced planning, training and ongoing communication are all key, as many of the organizations we surveyed reported multiple challenges if any of those areas were insufficiently addressed.

Nearly half (46%) of respondents, in fact, reported that they still have some way to go to get processes working effectively, while 12% admitted struggling with the interface between global mobility and the shared services center. Only 8% of respondents reported that their shared services processes worked seamlessly.

Is the Shared Services Model Right for You? Some Key Considerations

Our research revealed a wide variety of activities undertaken in shared services operations. They ranged from such low-complexity, transactional tasks as issuing assignment letters or answering questions around travel bookings and credit cards, all the way up to the highly complex handling of employee briefing calls or even, in some cases, full caseload management.

A fundamental question when determining the scope of work for a shared services function is whether there will be direct interface with relocating employees.

Our survey found:

61%

27%

13%

15%

Leverage an SSC

for basic administrative

tasks only
 

Leverage an SSC for basic

and more complex

administrative tasks
 

Leverage an SSC for

administrative tasks

plus some case work
 

Leverage an SSC for

administrative and

in-depth case work
 

We identified five main areas that should be given careful consideration when shifting work into a shared services center:

    • Timing
    • Location
    • Structure
    • Implementation
    • Ongoing Management – of both the SSC and global mobility teams

From a timing perspective, one of the most important things to ensure is that policy is in place and working well before anything is moved. One global mobility leader shared that their biggest mistake was to try to do everything all at once, including re-designing global mobility policies at the same time as attempting to move certain elements into the shared services team, greatly complicating and protracting the process.

Once policies are set, you’ll want to ensure a thorough review of your processes, too, with a critical look at how things are working in reality vs. on paper. Identify what works well, and what could benefit from such improvements as automation. The main goal is to avoid shifting defective processes to begin with. 

Another key piece of advice is to ensure that the technology comes first and then build shared services processes around that. It’s much more difficult to implement global mobility technology and the associated processes after activities have been relocated.

Another key lesson we took from our conversations was that where an organization locates any offshored global mobility activity can make a real difference. There may be little choice if an existing structure is already in place, but if there are options, it’s worth researching:

    • The local labor market, including the skillsets available and the extent to which the infrastructure for SSCs is already established
    • The workplace culture
    • The regulatory environment

How you structure the shared services team will clearly depend on the scope of work you intend to move. You should consider whether a single hub shared services location or the use of regional centers will be the better option. This in turn will drive decisions around how the working hours of the shared services team will operate.

Finally, our research confirmed that phasing the migration of work is important, as it allows both the existing mobility team and the shared services team to master one activity at a time and is an efficient use of resources while the day-to-day work continues. Having processes mapped and templates and checklists in place is a great advantage, but teams need to have the flexibility to adapt where necessary.

A key takeaway is that for organizations to fully realize the gains of moving activity into a shared services center, investing in training to upskill the existing team is as important as the investment in training the offshored team, and ongoing communication is essential.

See a more in-depth version of our research –

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Stuart Jackson

Stuart Jackson

As Account Director at Sterling Lexicon, Stuart focuses on working with clients to optimize their global mobility solutions. Stuart has worked in global mobility for 19 years. His broad experience of working with different program sizes across a variety of industry sectors helps to bring success to clients' programs and wider business strategies. If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article or learn more about Sterling Lexicon, please do not hesitate to contact Stuart Jackson at stuart.jackson@sterlinglexicon.com.

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