Gilead Sciences, Inc: An International Shared Service Delivery Model

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Les Gil

Human Resources iQ speak with Les Gil, Senior Director of HR Shared Services at Gilead Sciences, Inc. a biopharmaceutical company based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Can you give HRIQ readers a bit of background on your company's shared services journey?

Gilead Sciences is a biopharmaceutical multinational company, with employees in 25 countries. We have approx 4,000 employees worldwide, 2,800 in the US and about 1,000 in Europe.

We went live with HR Shared services in the US in 2007, and have been developing a new International service delivery model since July 2010. We are now about half way through a 12 month project for capturing work and bringing it from 19 European countries to our center near London, UK.

How big of a change management task did you expect in introducing a shared services center, and how did you prepare?

Gilead Sciences runs very lean, and so there’s always more than enough work to do. The HR Business Partners in our international locations are embracing the chance to offload some of the more transactional work to Shared Services. The change management challenge therefore has been more in winning trust that we can actually do the work remotely and also in trying to standardize processes as much as possible. In our smaller countries, some of the HR work has been carried out in-country by finance or general administrative staff, and so our work capture activities have included those roles along with HR Business Partners and third-party benefits and payroll administrators.

How did you win over key stakeholders in your shared services center initiative and keep senior management engaged?

Implementing HR Shared Services is part of a larger shift in HR service delivery, which has seen the growth of COEs in international covering Total Rewards, Talent Acquisition and Learning and Development. The Country HR Business Partners have typically driven the communications of the new model to the Regional and Country Management teams. At the time of go-live for Shared Services in a particular country, we have held an all-employee event, with the prime Shared Services Associate for that country present. We have placed great emphasis on fluency in multiple languages, and having our Associate present the support model in person in local language has really helped the local employees to accept the service shift and to "put a face to a name".

What functions have you moved to the shared services center and what criteria did you use to select them?
Scoping the services is absolutely critical and was something that we got wrong at the outset. After about 6 months we realized that the services that we were providing were not consistent across all locations. We called a halt and decided that the scope should be defined by criteria that included (a) the work must be doable remotely (by email, phone fax etc) (b) It should be relatively standard across all locations (c) it should be high volume (d) the transfer of work should provide an overall productivity gain for HR (e) the scope of work should support the expansion of the COE footprint (particularly TA and L&D) (f) it should be low risk and low relationship. Given these criteria, we were then able to agree the initial scope to be; on-boarding and off-boarding of employees, data maintenance and supporting correspondence, online policy maintenance, general policy and program call-center support for managers and employees, administrative support of core HR L&D offerings, employee service award program management, leaves and vacation tracking and relocation support.

Did you experience any resistance to the introduction of shared services?

We have not met any resistance in principle. But, everyone has a full plate, with competing priorities, so we have had to work hard to ensure that we gather input from all of the parties involved to capture the process detail and drive communications.

In what ways have information and communication technologies improved the efficiency of shared services?

Because of some technological delays, we have yet to implement our CMS or telephony systems in our international center. As a result, our case tracking and statistical reporting is currently very manual, although our CMS and telephony will be going live in July 2011. With this, we expect to see good productivity gains as 80% of our cases are by email, and our CMS will open email cases automatically. We will also be able to provide better metrics that we can feed back to our stakeholders. In parallel to introducing Shared Services in each country, we are releasing updated Employee Handbooks in local language on our intranet that should aid employee self-sufficiency and reduce basic requests for information.

How did you decide whether your shared service centers should be local, regional or global?

Logically, HR work is either global or local (country). However, multinational companies often organize regionally and so support functions tend to follow suit. Our regional headquarters infrastructure made it a relatively easy decision to organize at that level. We did consider near-shoring the HR Shared Services team to a lower cost location, but felt that in order to be successful, it needed to be co-located with the rest of the regional HR team. This has positively affected knowledge transfer and teamwork, but also contributed to the initial scoping issues mentioned above.

How do you plan to keep evolving the shared services model now that it is up and running?

We are in the middle of our go-live project plan, with about half the countries now in scope, and are on-track to complete by the end of the year. As we build out the model, we are also introducing a governance model that will enable input from our stakeholders on how to further increase scope of services and processes supported. In addition, Gilead is expanding geographically, so more countries will come into play. Once we have a few months’ experience of managing the processes we will take a LEAN look at how we are managing the work, and there are further technology investments to be made (e.g., absence management) in 2012 that will help improve our internal productivity.

Interview conducted by Human Resources iQ Editor, Alexandra Guadagno.