Effective Talent Management for Shared Services Organizations – Creating a Stable and Engaged Workforce

April 2015

ScottMadden administered the third cycle of its multi-year survey on talent management for shared services during SSON’s recent Shared Services & Outsourcing Week. This study captured core practices for attracting, engaging, retaining, and developing top talent. Below are some interesting things we’ve learned from our survey respondents so far:

  • The most effective sources for attracting talent include internal posting within the corporation/organization, internet job boards, and employee referrals.
  • Single-function SSOs indicate receiving more value from external hires while multi-function SSOs favor internal hires or see no difference.
  • Regular communication continues to be ranked as the most effective tactic for engaging employees and building culture in SSOs, followed by award and recognition programs.
  • Upward career potential is the biggest driver for retaining staff.
  • Almost 80% of respondents report having defined career paths for their SSO.
  • Nearly 60% report having performed succession planning for their SSO.
  • Job shadowing continues to be the most popular method of on-the-job training

By managing talent well, SSOs benefit by having a stable, engaged workforce that has the skills to meet the future needs of the organization.
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Effective Talent Management for Shared Services Organizations Creating a Stable and Engaged Workforce


  • 2014 Survey Highlights
  • This survey was administered during Shared Services & Outsourcing Week 2014, hosted by SSON. ScottMadden has conducted this survey over the last three years of the event. Highlights from the survey are summarized in the following report. Survey Participants. Multi-function organizations represent a third of the total survey population. The majority of participants have been operating three or more years, with 46% operating more than five years and 16% operating between three and five years. Finance & Accounting continues to be the most popular function within the SSOs participating in the survey
  • Participant Demographics
  • About the Survey
  • How long has your SSO been in existence?
  • Which major functional areas are included in your SSO?

Summary Findings


  • Talent Management Continues to be a Differentiator for Leading Practice SSOs. The topic of talent has been prevalent on recent shared services conference agendas as shared services leaders seek to optimize their workforce. Effective talent management includes well-laid plans for recruiting talent and managing the use of contractors, engaging and retaining talent through a variety of tactics, and developing talent to build future leaders for the SSO. By managing talent well, SSOs benefit by having a stable, engaged workforce that has the skills to meet the future needs of the organization. Attracting Talent Internal sources such as internal postings and employee referrals continue to be viewed as the most effective sources of finding talent. Respondents from single function SSOs indicate a preference for using external hiring to fill positions rather than internal hiring. Engaging and Retaining Talent. Similar to previous reports, upward career potential is rated as the top driver for retaining talent. Additionally, multi-function and mature operations rely more on monetary incentives than additional training opportunities. Regular communication and award and recognition programs continue to be the most effective tools when engaging existing talent within the participating SSOs. Career Paths and Succession Planning. Almost 80% indicate their SSOs have defined career paths, with about half of those including progression to other positions outside the SSO. To varying degrees, all participants indicate having succession plans in place for some or most leadership positions, but nearly 30% do not have plans for individual contributors
  • Developing Talent 84% of participants indicate having formal development plans for their shared services organization Of these, 50% develop plans for all SSO staff Job shadowing continues to be the most popular method of on-the-job training There is little variation across the preferred training methods among the different demographic groups, although mature organizations view job swapping as more effective than simulation training

Attracting Talent


  • Responses are fairly balanced about which approach produces better hires. The most popular response shows participants acknowledge seeing no difference in effectiveness between internal and external hires Single function SSOs indicate receiving more value from external hires than multi-function SSOs. This suggests multi-function organizations are able to leverage talent across the different functions within the SSO When asked about the most effective sources for talent, the top choices were: Internal posting within corporation/organization Internet job boards. Employee referrals Career or job fairs and other types of advertising were among the least effective means of sourcing new hires
  • Survey Highlights
  • Which approach for filling positions produces better SSO hires?
  • Which sources of new hires do you find most effective for staffing your SSO?


  • Regular communication continues to be ranked as the most effective tactic for engaging employees and building culture in SSOs; award and recognition programs are rated as the second most effective. Upward career potential is the biggest driver for retaining staff among survey respondents. Additionally, single function SSOs and less mature* organizations indicate using additional training opportunities to retain talent while multi-function and mature operations relied more on monetary incentives
  • Engaging and Retaining Talent
  • Survey Highlights
  • Which of the following tactics do you find most effective for engaging employees and building culture within your SSO?
  • What is the biggest driver for retaining staff in your organization?
  • *SSOs in operation for less than five years


  • Nearly 80% of participants report having defined career paths for their SSO. A mix of vertical and horizontal career paths is the predominate choice among all groups in the survey Multi-function and less mature* operations are slightly less likely to have career paths
  • Use of Career Paths
  • Survey Highlights
  • Do your career paths include progression to other positions outside your SSO?
  • What best describes the nature of the career paths you have defined within your SSO?
  • *SSOs in operation for less than five years

Succession Planning


  • Nearly 60% of respondents report they perform succession planning for their SSO Mature* and multi-function SSOs are more likely to have formal succession plans. Among the single function SSOs in the survey, succession planning for non-leadership positions is limited to 25% or less of the positions. Mature SSOs are more likely to have succession planning in place for a larger percentage of leadership roles within the organization
  • Survey Highlights
  • What percent of leadership (supervisor and above) positions have a succession plan?
  • What percent of leadership (supervisor and above) and non-leadership (individual contributor) positions has a succession plan?
  • *SSOs in operation for more than five years

Development and Training Programs


  • As seen earlier, upward career potential and training opportunities are cited as two of the top three drivers for retaining staff. Half of the participants create development plans for all of their SSO staff. More than 80% of the respondents without development plans represent SSOs in operation for less than five years. Job shadowing and rotational assignments are viewed as the most effective training methods used across all demographic groups. Mature SSOs view job swapping as slightly more effective than simulation training
  • Survey Highlights
  • What types of on-the-job training do you find most effective?
  • To what extent are individual development plans used within your SSO?

To learn more about leading practice talent management for your shared services organization or to participate in the next cycle of this survey, please contact us.

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