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Overcoming the GIC Talent Challenge (Part 4 of a Four-Part Series)


To play a more strategic and innovative role, in-house service centers need to establish more robust workforce development and talent acquisition programs. (Last of a four-part series)

As businesses seek to move their global in-house centers (GIC) further along the maturity curve, their goal is to shift the GIC from a tactical cost-cutting function into a more strategic and innovative organization.

In our previous articles, we’ve explored two challenges that businesses face in this endeavor, including sustained cost optimization and supporting the use of digital technologies. A third challenge is the need to gain better control of the talent supply chain. As organizations struggle to acquire, retain and motivate employees with the necessary digital skills, domain expertise and leadership qualities, talent cost advantages can deteriorate over time. According to recent research from Everest Group, GICs expect significant challenges in hiring people with the skills likely to be critical for service delivery in the future. This is due not only to high demand for top digital skills generally but also talent attrition, which can be high in GICs with poor career advancement opportunities and lackluster employee engagement.

Highly motivated and digitally talented workers are more likely to be drawn to businesses with a clear sense of purpose and dynamic culture, or to organizations that promise access to cutting-edge technology. Such is not always the case with established GICs that execute a very specific or narrowly scoped business process in, say, banking and financial services, insurance or healthcare. GICs serving this role don’t always offer a compelling career path, either laterally or vertically. Why would promising talent opt for a GIC when they could choose to work at a start-up or a technology services provider with more room to grow?

Upping the Talent Quotient

Businesses with established GICs, however, can up their talent game by developing a more progressive and forward-thinking workforce strategy. Here are just a few steps to consider:

  • Articulate a long-term vision: From an employee engagement and retention perspective, the biggest challenge for GICs is the limited scope of their future vision. To attract and retain leading talent, it’s essential for individuals to feel they can mature and grow with the organization. Even if the GIC can attract top candidates with a compelling opportunity, ambitious employees will want to know “what’s next” after a year or 18 months on the job. With no path forward, top talent will likely move to the next big opportunity.

    To offset this risk, GICs need to create a compelling roadmap that entices new employees and continues to engage them once hired. Career path clarity is particularly important for GIC employees working out of a regional center that’s far removed from the parent company.

  • Motivate with a compelling organizational purpose: The current generation of talent wants meaningful work, and wants to work for organizations that have a meaningful purpose. 

    Communicating the company’s overall value proposition and market focus provides context for new and experienced talent alike, and shows employees that how the organization gives back to the community goes a long way. As most major organizations have philanthropic foundations and green initiatives, these businesses should promote these programs during the sourcing and recruitment processes and keep employees aware throughout their tenure. They should also create initiatives that allow employees to participate in these community programs, which will create a sense of community service and elevate employee morale and productivity.

  • Offer a robust upskilling/reskilling program for technology transformation: Lifelong learning is imperative for the future, both for individuals and organizations. Given the technical skills shortage, GICs need to assess their current workforce, identify areas for upskilling and reskilling, and implement robust training programs to sharpen and hone employee skills. According to Everest, the majority of GICs believe upskilling/reskilling is key to addressing changing skill requirements; however, while many have explored pilot initiatives, most are still in the development phase of instituting a program (see Figure 1).

    To evolve into a more strategic and innovative role, GICs need to shift the skills and competencies of their current workforce into broader and more complex roles either within the same area of work they do now, or retrain them for new roles in a different area of work. The training needs to move beyond “how to handle a difficult claim,” for instance, to “how to work as an agile team.” Ideally, the training opportunities would include technology education, as well as soft skills, and be available in a variety of formats, both online and instructor-led.

    By combining the training program with a career-pathing framework, the GIC can help employees share the responsibility for their individual development. When employees are given a clear learning roadmap, they’re empowered to select between managerial or professional tracks and take the required steps to progress along the path. Particularly for lower level but ambitious employees, it’s essential to provide a framework to help them move the needle on their own career.  It also helps employees realize the organization is taking an interest and making an investment in their personal and career development.

Source: Everest Group
Figure 1

  • Fortify the connection between the GIC and parent company leadership: Too often, there’s a sense of disconnect between employees in the GIC location and the parent company. To increase the GIC’s alignment with and commitment to strategic goals, this gap needs to be closed. Business leaders need to be more engaged with the GIC workforce, through continuous communication and a more frequent visible presence. This sense of connectivity helps inspire GIC employees to feel like they’re a fundamental part of a larger purpose and that their role is vital for business success.

    In addition to increasing the visibility and involvement of corporate leadership, businesses also need to develop local GIC leadership. Not only do senior leaders at the regional center need to be a champion of their workforce and an advocate for the work being done, but it also needs to be clear that they’ve got a clear channel to the business’s senior leadership. Employees need to feel that local leadership is connected, influential, and empowered.

    Ideally, GIC leaders are chosen from the local geographical region, as this underscores the business’s confidence in the local leadership, as well as its commitment to leadership career paths for current employees. A GIC leader who is clearly backed by senior leaders from the parent company can act as an authoritative, trusted champion of the business vision and the GIC’s role in it, catalyze employees into action and inspire the next layer of digital influencers.

  • Encourage pockets of innovation: The people with the most innovative ideas are not always those at the top of the organization or headquartered at the parent company location. The people who live and work in the GIC’s regional location — and are intimately familiar with the business’s processes — could offer the most valuable ideas on how to do more with less, improve processes or change products and services to make them more relevant to new markets. It’s essential for the parent company to encourage, solicit, consider, guide and fund the execution of these ideas.

    Not only should ideas be welcomed, but new roles and programs should be instituted to formalize development of small innovation teams and supporting mentors. GIC employees need to feel their voices will be heard and that they have a role in supporting or influencing the strategic vision of the business.

  • Look to partners: When it comes to the speed required for digital innovation, it’s become clear that “going it alone” is not viable.  Partnerships are needed to fill skill gaps and to form a self-perpetuating ecosystem. Regional GICs are in the best position to be aware of the local start-up community and the most promising pockets of digitally minded local businesses for potential partnerships.

    By increasing their exposure to regional developments and capitalizing on strategic partnerships, GICs can keep their finger on the pulse of industry advancements and invigorate the digital agenda.

Moving Toward Workforce Transformation

Without a clear workforce development strategy and plan for attracting and retaining top talent, existing GICs will struggle to move to the next level on the maturity curve. As a result, the GIC could forfeit its cost advantage, opportunity to become an innovator and its connection to business objectives. As businesses evaluate their GIC investment and determine next steps, GIC talent transformation programs will become essential to success. This may include re-evaluating the work environment to better accommodate millennials, developing new and differentiated employee talent programs, or creating regional employee development centers to go where the talent is. By thoughtfully reskilling and motivating talent, GICs can transform their workforce to accelerate the transition into technology and innovation hubs.

This is the last of a series of articles on how businesses can optimize their GIC strategy. The first article discusses the changing role of GICs and the need to move up the maturity curve. The second explores the need to spur digital adoption, and the third addresses GICs’ productivity and operational cost pressures.

We invite you to visit our GIC landing page and take our no-obligation GIC assessment. For more on this topic, you can also watch our webinar, “GIC Trends from the Outside-in.”

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