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Going Beyond Shared Services

Posted on 2019-07-18 08:10:00

When one describes shared services, what typically comes to mind is a ‘factory-style’ environment where staff carry out routine functions. However, this is no longer the case, highlights Patrick Khoo, CIO of Averis Sdn. Bhd.

In striving to be an “insight partner”, Averis goes beyond traditional reporting to providing analytics and recommendations to its customers. This offers ample learning opportunities for trainees and new hires who join the company, where they gain knowledge of not only the shared services business but also the different industries in which they operate.

Averis Sdn. Bhd. is a shared services business supporting the RGE (Royal Golden Eagle) group of companies, providing four core services: Finance, Human Resources (HR), Information Technology (IT) and the recently-added Shipping Docs, which manages the logistics of the group’s exports.

RGE, which manages a global group of resource manufacturing companies, is involved in diverse business sectors such as pulp and paper, palm oil, fibre (rayon manufacturing) as well as clean energy. The privately-owned group has footprints in countries such as Indonesia, Canada, Brazil, China, Middle East, Bangladesh and Spain, and is headquartered in Singapore.

“Essentially all the manpower, payroll, finance, IT – and now export logistics as well as other related functions – for the worldwide operations are supported by Averis,” explains Patrick Khoo, its new Chief Information Officer (CIO).

“What’s different about Averis is that most of our departments wear two hats: we carry out shared services – serving about 27,000 employees across the globe and also 300 business entities; and we also focus on advancing governance, setting standards and procedures for the entire group. For example, our IT department wears both ‘service provider’ and ‘Group IT’ hats.”

While most shared services businesses practise a typical “lift and shift” model, Averis makes it a point to implement the Japanese philosophy of ‘Kaizen’, which focuses on eliminating waste or wasteful practices. The company puts this into practice through internal business processes and customer interactions, in which staff are encouraged to more intimately engage the businesses to investigate and help solve operational and workflow issues.

As part of this, the company encourages a “JDI” (Just Do It) approach which encourages staff to introduce new ideas or suggestions for improvement. This gives employees room to implement their ideas without the traditional red tape and approval processes.

In striving to be an “insight partner”, Averis goes beyond traditional reporting to providing analytics and recommendations to its customers. This offers ample learning opportunities for trainees and new hires who join the company, where they gain knowledge of not only the shared services business but also the different industries in which they operate.

When it comes to hiring talent, Patrick looks for two things: attitude and aptitude. “Apart from aptitude (for the job), the attitude of wanting to learn and contribute is important; not just asking ‘what’s in it for me’ but a desire to contribute to the organisation.”

“We run a programme for Management Trainees – or Management Associates as we call them, and we look for those who not only qualify academically but also those who are dynamic, and can grow into different roles rather than ‘stovepipe’ in one area.”

Mainly targeted at candidates with a background in finance or HR, Averis’ two-year Management Associates Programme (MAP) welcomes fresh graduates, specifically those within 15 months of graduation. The associates are rotated every six months across different job functions depending on their background, and may even have the opportunity for an overseas stint.

“Apart from local graduates with a CGPA of 3.2 and above, we prioritise good communication skills and confidence to interact with all levels of staff, not just peers but up the line as well. At the end of the day, we are looking for leaders rather than managers, so we hope these associates will one day take up leadership roles in the company,” adds Patrick.

Averis also runs a Scholarship Programme that sponsors the tuition fees of full-time undergraduate studies in Accounting and/or Finance as well as IT with partner universities. As part of the programme, Averis provides internship opportunities during the course of study to develop industry-related skills, as well as secure entry-level jobs. Upon graduation, scholars can springboard their growth through the MAP, should they choose to and if they are the right fit.

Employees also get the chance to grow their careers not just in Averis but also across the RGE Group of companies through rotations, international assignments and direct transfers.

“That way, our employees have dual career paths, i.e. the business of shared services and as people managers or specialists,” adds Patrick.

Since assuming his role in February, Patrick has sought to introduce a more dynamic, fun and transparent culture at Averis, steering away from the traditional stereotypes of a shared services organisation.

One way he does this is through a weekly breakfast ritual with his staff. Every Friday, ten staff are selected to have breakfast with him outside the office, where they can discuss all types of work and even non-work-related issues.

“About 60% of our staff are under 30, so it’s important that we create a sense of belonging for them,” he shares.

Through the Averis Recreational Club, which organises workshops for its staff, he also hopes to introduce a counselling programme to benefit younger staff who may need guidance from someone more experienced in their field. The company also runs an annual CSR event in which staff can get involved in charitable causes aligned with the core values of the company.

By Hyma Haridas


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