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How Leading Shared Services Centres Worked in Lockdown

With the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia bringing many new challenges for all of us, our Finance Shared Services team organised several virtual sessions with industry leaders to discuss some of the common challenges faced. 

During these sessions, leaders from shared services centres (SSCs) exchanged their experiences during the lockdown as well as some of the initiatives they started to maintain productivity and keep morale high during the lockdown. Some of these leaders represent: 

  • Large manufacturers of consumer and industrial goods 

  • Global pharmaceutical companies

  • Professional bodies

  • Leading finance organisations


Working under lockdown

Given the nature of SSCs, when the MCO was announced in Malaysia, it was critical for them to maintain business as usual from the get-go. However, this brought about significant logistical challenges for some not used to remote working.

What’s interesting is that the main challenge was not about making sure employees got their work done and met their KPIs. Instead, the discussions revolved around their employees’ MCO experience and what the company could do to support them.


Here are some of the challenges they faced:


  • Productivity

  • Communication

  • Employee engagement & well-being

  • Onboarding

  • Employee concerns



Most organisations had already issued laptops to employees, so even with the MCO, people were immediately connected. However, moving from multiple screens to doing everything on one small laptop screen is undoubtedly an adjustment which takes some time, and internet connections for some employees have not always been stable.



Another common challenge was in communicating with candidates for introductions, phone screening and interviews. For most, adjusting from a desk phone to mobile was frustrating. However, some companies, such as ourselves at Ambition, have rolled out cloud-based softphones, which has enabled good levels of connectivity through desktop or mobile applications. Most organisations talked about a huge increase in using tools such as MS Teams, Zoom & BlueJeans for their team meetings, 121s, and team building activities!


Employee engagement & well-being

While there have been many positives on the work front, such as increased collaboration through virtual means and more regular catch-ups, there have also been negatives, including a feeling of isolation for some colleagues, and the lack of camaraderie that the office buzz encourages. For many companies, this was a significant issue that they tried to combat by regularly organising activities and even providing support services such as anonymous counselling via employee assistance programs (EAP). The leaders shared a variety of employee engagement activities such as virtual cooking competitions, karaoke sessions and even baby photo guessing contests.



This was a problem most of them faced. The pre-pandemic onboarding process was a physical one, but when the lockdown began, the process had to be made virtual, and delivery services had to be used to send assets/equipment to new employees. There is also a similar issue for employees who resigned and had to return company assets, so a little flexibility had to be given. 


Employee concerns

The SSCs leaders also highlighted they had more employee concerns to address. As some companies had expatriate employees, there were concerns about expiring visas, especially with the closure of immigration offices. For companies who had new employees joining, newcomers were concerned about their job security and had to be reassured that their offers would not be rescinded. 


Post-lockdown challenges

With the number of cases on a decline and the country easing out of lockdown, SSCs are already looking at post-lockdown measures. Some of the questions that came up as they were coming up with their post-lockdown plans were:

  • Do we continue remote working?

  • How can we encourage social distancing in offices?

  • What about employees with children and the challenges they face?

  • Do we relook into our real estate needs?

We could see that most of the challenges revolve around coming up with new post-lockdown Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs). For the foreseeable future, the option to continue working from home is still made available to employees, especially those who may need to take care of children or live with individuals in high-risk groups such as the elderly or those with chronic illnesses. 

As we go through these uncertain times, rest assured that we will do it together. We will continue to speak to industry leaders and update you on the latest happenings. For useful resources, head over to the Resource Hub the Ambition team has put together: COVID-19 Resource Hub

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