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Research Report

Provide transition support to both department-based and shared services staff

October 23, 2019

One of the most important elements of shared services implementations is ensuring that affected stakeholders clearly understand the fate of their jobs across the transition. Staff may fear their positions will be eliminated, even after providing decades of service to the institution. Some campuses falter by stating that position reductions are a primary goal of shared services, when any reductions will actually come from departures and retirements. Other institutions falsely promise no jobs will be eliminated or affected, perhaps overcompensating for concerns about staff and faculty resistance.

More on this topic

This resource is part of the Ease the Transition to Shared Services with a Plan for Change Management Hurdles Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.

Solution: Proactive transition support
Clearly communicating transition pathways and offering support for staff and unit leaders assures stakeholders that decisions will not be made without their involvement.

Smoothing the transition

Staff that have secured a place in the new shared services organization have concerns, too. They are frequently overlooked in change management plans, even though shared services may present as much uncertainty for them as it does for unit-based employees.

For both constituencies, providing clear transition pathways, support, and training helps to maximize engagement across the implementation process.

Constituency #1: Unit-based staff

During the transition to shared services, some unit-based staff will likely have part of their duties moved to the consolidated unit, leaving them with a gap in their workload. Without careful planning around staff transitions, units may be left with staff compensated at a full salary without commensurate duties. This scenario, if left unaddressed, undercuts the efficiency and savings opportunities introduced by shared services.

Consequently, during the transition to shared services, unit and department leaders should analyze current workloads and capabilities. To manage the excess capacity of unit-based staff, unit leaders can work with HR partners to restructure positions and potentially entire departments. Ideally, redesigning roles and duties should take place before the shared services transition to provide staff with maximum clarity about their future roles. Completing a workforce survey as part of the shared services design phase can help facilitate planning conversations.

Campuses that do intend to reduce positions have a number of tools at their disposal. Some create incentives for employees to exit the organization, opening opportunities to realize savings via attrition more quickly. For institutions that intend to keep all staff, leaders should clearly explain how individual staff may be redeployed or retrained, if necessary, so that uncertainty about their future will not lead to resistance. While time consuming to create, individual transition plans that explain how the campus will support the staff member, whether through retraining, redeployment, early retirement, or a buy-out, offer maximum support across implementation.

Constituency #2: Shared services staff

Shared Services Perks

UNC-Chapel Hill: Provides staff with a welcome package, state-of-the-art technology, and standing desks

University of New Hampshire: Provides free parking for staff at remote location

University of Michigan: SSC director meets with each group of new hires

Staff moving from units to a consolidated service center may also question what awaits them in new world of shared services. Experienced campuses attest that perks, small and large, can smooth the transition and make staff feel more comfortable in their new roles. The University of Kansas, for example, allowed shared services staff to keep their chair (if wanted!) and phone number from their previous office. Shared services leaders hosted a welcome breakfast on the first day and designed a renovated workspace for staff to enjoy. More substantially, the university adjusted compensation so everyone in the center started at least at the same pay level in exchange for doing the same work.

In addition to these perks, shared services leaders should invest time and resources to foster a common skillset among staff. This “basic training” focuses on developing skills that staff may not have learned in their previous units, like process improvement and a customer service mentality. The below share more details about these programs at the University of Kansas, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.

Basic Training for Shared Services Staff

The University of Kansas

Onboard staff as new employees

  • All shared services staff go through the same onboarding process, regardless of tenure
    • Ensures all staff receive consistent messaging
    • Promotes team cohesion
    • Prepares staff with different backgrounds for new role
  • New employees are paired with a mentor

University of California Berkeley

Run shared services “bootcamp”

  • New hires in research admin service center go through boot camp, focused on skills staff need for current role and future roles
  • Two-month formal mentorship program
  • Professional development program broken into tracks

University of

Create service mindset through onboarding

  • All SSC staff trained to incorporate Lean in their work
  • Learning culture emphasizes soft skills: improving service, managing difficult customers, communication, and collaboration
  • Goal to make all staff proficient within 90 days
  • Leverages business school’s “positive organization” framework

More on this topic

Shared services is a tried-and-true method for increasing the efficiency and quality of administrative service delivery, but shared services initiatives tend to evoke fears of layoffs, increased administrative burdens for faculty, and expensive consulting engagements with questionable returns. Use this resource to better understand shared services, take the readiness diagnostic, and look at example maturity models.