Sector Branding Without Taboos

press release

In their Business Breakfast on the 30st of November, the Hungarian Service- and Outsourcing Association (HOA) sought answers to the most burning questions of the Shared Services sector. Is it even recognized as a sector, or is it just considered a part of Business Services? How can it simultaneously be one of the most rapidly evolving sectors, and the one surrounded by the largest amount of misinformation and stereotypes? Is there anything but monkey work going on in Service Centers? The event, titled „Sector Branding Without Taboos” had the goal of fitting over 15 years of experience and a variety of perspectives in a panel discussion. The goal was successfully acheived, with professionals like Mikós Koczor of Thermo Fisher, Sándor Baja of Randstad, István Lenk of Eaton, and Ahmed Ismail of Knowledge Pyramid being present. The event was moderated by the president of the HOA, Monika Slomska.

Service Centers are popular destinations for investments, FDIs even, as well as for fresh graduates and career changers. Yet, the general awareness of them seems to be at a rather low level, be it potential employees one is asking, or leaders in other sectors. Therefore, in order to brand a position or a company effectively, the sector needs an exact definition. Or does it? According to Baja, we should not get stuck on the definition, as companies are „getting complex operations, collaborating, moving their resources left and right”. Definitions are melting together, and that is not a problem, we still know what they consist of, the knowledge is not lost. Ismail on the other hand says, we can use the existing definitions, instead of feeling like we need to re-define everything from scratch. Definitions as well as KPIs exist already, we just have to apply them correctly to the region and time we live in.

The latter is of key importance when conducting studies, too. We need to know what exactly we are measuring, otherwise the data we get might show tendencies that are not representative of the actual changes happening. For instance, several studies from the last year falsely showed a decrease in the number of employees of Service Centers, because their targets were different from those of the ones preceding. In Lenk’s opinion we should always count local Centers in as well, like the ones on site at a bank, operating in the back office to support its processes –  not all shared services need to be outsourced. Another issue is that studies often forgo maintenance, and only focus on tracking growth, which is yet to be replaced with the best practice of taking a holistic approach to the lifecycle of Shared Services. Markets are moving, the pandemic accelerated digitalization and thus growth – accurate tracking methods are now more important than ever.

Another effect of digitalization was the current golden age of remote work. Do investors still need to consider the building of large offices and rural development projects? Or did home office kill on-site? Ismail says, it just transformed it. For community events, knowledge sharing, and administration, the infrastructure offices offer is still crucial. It can help strengthen company culture and decrease fluctuation. For everyday work? Not so much anymore. Which makes entering the sector, or expanding in the sector a much simpler and cost effective process for investors.

So how do we match these changes to the right, adaptable, motivated workforce? Baja says we should not wait for education or HR to catch up, we should rather work together with them to increase the chances of potential new joiners already being well informed about the sector before submitting their application. It is our responsibility as well, to increase sector awareness. This can be done in collaboration with universities, too, for instance, the University of Pécs has already joined an SSC-specific educational initiation this year.

Lastly, Koczor added, as leaders it is not enough to be loyal to our companies. If we do wish to grow the sector, then we need to be loyal to the sector too; establish a common strategy, even if starting small, and join forces.