Survey Finds Urgent Need for Shared Services Executives to Elevate Key Competencies

Russell Reynolds Associates Shared Service Leadership Survey

At a time when shared services executives are playing an increasingly strategic role and being asked to help transform their organizations, critical skill gaps could undermine their ability to deliver, according to survey findings released on March 8 at the 16th Annual North American Shared Services & Outsourcing Week, one of the industry’s preeminent gatherings.

“In addition to doing everything they were doing before, like process improvement and cost reduction, shared services leaders are now expected to be globally-astute change agents who can deliver real competitive advantage to their companies,” observed Shawn Banerji, the survey’s author and a managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates, a global executive search and assessment firm. “Because of these changes, the competencies that shared services executives need to succeed are changing as well. Savvy shared services leaders need to keep ahead of these changes to stay relevant.”

The 2012 Russell Reynolds Associates Shared Services Leadership Survey asked senior shared services executives to evaluate the importance of 14 different competencies, as well as their team’s performance against them. The 14 competencies were grouped into four categories: People Leadership, Performance Orientation, Agility and Strategic Orientation.

Key findings from the survey include:

• 75% of respondents cited “people and relationship” competencies—including communication skills, negotiation and influence, partnering and relationship building, and people leadership—as highly important. However, only 25% report that shared services leaders are effective in this area. “This says two interesting things,” according to Banerji. “First, these executives, who traditionally orient around very ‘hard’ and measurable activities like process improvement, are now saying softer skills around people are more important to business success. Second, they admit to having a lot of work to do when it comes to people management.”

• Despite shared services’ increased responsibility for driving corporate strategy and business transformation, less than half of respondents rated Strategic Orientation competencies—including visionary/transformational leadership, business acumen and analytics, strategic planning and global outlook—as highly important. “We think this is a real blind spot,” notes Banerji. “81% say “change leadership” is highly important, so shared services heads understand that they have a big role to play in terms of getting their firms from A to B. The problem is, they haven’t clearly defined what B is. They’re not setting a clear strategic vision. And with only 12% saying they are effective at change leadership, this issue is potentially a real problem.”

“Now we have solid evidence around what matters,” said Banerji, “as well as a clear roadmap for shared services leaders. Companies that act on this information and address the gaps that exist should see significant impact on their teams’ results over time.”

The online survey was conducted in February 2012. Sixty-two responses were received, representing a wide range of industries. Eighty percent of respondents were at companies with 5,000 or more employees, and fifty-five percent were at companies with 25,000 or more employees.

About Russell Reynolds Associates

Leadership for a Changing World. In today’s global business environment, success is driven by the talent, vision and leadership capabilities of senior executives.

Russell Reynolds Associates is a leading global executive search and assessment firm with more than 300 consultants based in 40 offices worldwide. Our consultants work closely with public and private organizations to assess and recruit senior executives and board members to drive long-term growth and success.

Our in-depth knowledge of major industries and our clients’ specific business challenges, combined with our understanding of who and what make an effective leader, ensures that our clients secure the best leadership teams for the ongoing success of their businesses.

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Survey Finds Urgent Need for Shared Services Executives to Elevate Key Competencies