Henkel’s SSC in Bratislava is now Global Business Solutions+

The company's new name is the result of its continuous evolution.

What started in 2006 with 20 employees providing transactional finance services only has grown into Henkel’s largest center, covering more than 30 language requirements in Europe and globally. Christian Schulz, president of Henkel Slovensko and head GBS+ Bratislava, explains how this change reflects the company’s growth over the past 15 years and what the organisation aspires to become.

Your organisation has a new name: Global Business Solutions+. Why did Henkel decide to change it from Shared Services?

Our new name Global Business Solutions+ is the logical consequence of our continuous evolution from performing transactional activities to providing comprehensive expert solutions.

To give some examples for GBS+ Bratislava: We established centers of excellence and concentrated expertise in multiple areas along the value chain, e.g. in sourcing, supply chain, controlling, robotic process automation, human resources, and tax & foreign trade.

That sounds interesting. Can you give some more insights?

Of course, just to name three areas out of many:
Our Ideation-to-Launch team is responsible for the integrated end-to-end- steering of master data management for new product implementation, leading to a significant acceleration of time-to-market.

Transport planning activities for all of Europe are concentrated at GBS+ Bratislava. Besides the operational cross-divisional optimisation of more than 5,000 deliveries per day the transport management team acts as a centre of excellence that supports transport planning teams in other regions, performs optimisation analysis based on big data and shapes the effectiveness and efficiency of transport planning processes.

Our consumer and shopper insights team, together with Global Market Research at our headquarters, captures insights from social media listening to adjust our brand and go-to-market strategies in response to shifting consumer habits and value perceptions. For example, the dynamics of suddenly growing or declining categories due to lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic have been captured in regular COVID-19 insight newsletters, enabling Henkel to quickly respond.

All these initiatives are accompanied by our digital journey. Meanwhile, we apply more than 300 robotic process automation (RPA) solutions. All of them were developed by the experts of our centre of excellence (CoE) automation. We leverage existing RPA bot solutions by connecting them with intelligent technologies, e.g. AI (artificial intelligence) and OCR (optical character recognition). We already have several solutions in place, for example in OTC (Order-to-Cash) for smart account receivables management and in master data management for automated visual checks of artworks.

How is Global Business Solutions+ organisationally embedded within Henkel?

Global Business Solutions+ with more than 3,000 employees is part of the finance organisation and consists of five Henkel-operated and two outsourced centres covering all time zones and all language requirements around the globe.

GBS+ Bratislava is the biggest location with more than 1,600 employees covering Europe and, in many areas, global responsibilities. GBS+ provides solutions along the entire value chain for all divisions and functions of Henkel in more than 60 countries.

GBS+ Bratislava continues to be a part of Henkel Slovensko taking advantage of the synergies between the teams working for the Slovak market and GBS+. Staying part of our established legal entity means that the change of our name does not affect any contracts or legal relations.

Our new name Global Business Solutions+ is the logical consequence of our continuous evolution from a company that performs transactional activities to one that provides comprehensive expert solutions.

What are the strategic priorities of GBS+ for the following years?

Our GBS+ strategy 2025+ is an integral part of Henkel’s strategic framework of purposeful growth and Henkel’s Finance strategic priorities.

We will contribute to drive powerful financial performance through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) synergy realisation, comprehensive GBS+ risk mitigation plans and by leveraging our expertise in AI, analytics etc.

We continue providing excellent business solutions, e.g. within the marketing team managing digital customer touchpoints (e.g. social media, e-commerce) and operating as an internal agency with experienced designers who create artworks as well as e-content across business units. Thanks to this in-house approach we meet business demands with high agility.

By further leveraging our strong Quality Management System, which includes our ISO 9001 certification, we will ensure compliance and continuous improvement in all our operations.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is part of Henkel’s culture. During the next five years we will further intensify our activities in CSR, supporting more local and global community activities and providing our highly engaged employees with multiple opportunities to contribute to CSR through volunteering activities.

Digital transformation is another priority of ours; driving automation further, leveraging new technologies, boosting digital process management, and establishing the foundation of a CoE Analytics are on our agenda.

Designing lean and simple processes and driving continuous improvements in all areas of our operations is one of our strategic priorities. And, of course, we will continue our strong focus on our people, our culture and learning and development.

Can you provide some examples of your focus on learning & development?

The knowledge and skills of our employees are the source of our success, which is why providing comprehensive learning opportunities, including digital upskilling trainings, are of key importance for the success of our teams and the individual development of each of us. Consequentially, we are providing a very comprehensive learning and training offer, enhancing Henkel’s rich global training offer through local external trainings, webinars as well as a broad offer of in-house trainings provided by employees to employees.

We want to ensure that our employees are truly in the driver seat of their professional development.

The key factor for a successful and engaging development experience is the transparent and consistent linkage of development and career paths. We want to ensure that our employees are truly in the driver seat of their professional development.

The pandemic changed the way people working significantly. What are your experiences and how will they influence work life after society returns to normal?

Fortunately, we were well prepared to change from working in the office to working from home, as all our employees are equipped with laptops including telephony. Everybody was already used to working from home thanks to our well-established home office culture. I am proud of our teams for now carrying out activities remotely, that were usually performed in the office, for example the onboarding of new hires. This agility enabled us to realise our planned growth by 150 new positions in 2020.

On top of that, our teams showed great creativity by establishing digital innovation workshops, virtual knowledge-sharing and team building sessions. We all learned a lot about the capabilities of digital collaboration tools but also the limitations of being reduced to remote cooperation. That is the reason, why we put a dedicated focus on “mental health” with a comprehensive offer of webinars, panel discussion and e-learnings.

Once the limitations due to the pandemic end, we will take the “best out of two worlds”. We will further focus on work-life flexibility as the last months showed that lots of activities can be performed from home, but collaboration in person at the offi ce will continue to play an important role.

You are celebrating the 15th anniversary of GBS+Bratislava this year. If you compare the early years with the current situation, what changed the most?

When we started in 2006, we were providing transactional finance services only and were dependent on the expertise of global and regional headquarters. During the first years, senior management positions were staffed with experienced colleagues assigned from abroad.

Today, we are a mature organisation that covers basically all business processes with a strong expert community and leaders, who developed and were promoted within our organisation. In addition, GBS+ Bratislava as well as our other GBS+ locations are a talent pool for Henkel globally. Every year, around 60 colleagues develop into positions in our divisions and functions. Or to put it in a nut-shell: While at the beginning we imported expertise and talent, we are now exporting it.

What is your ambition for the coming years?

With our clearly defined strategic priorities we already triggered multiple initiatives which will ensure that we continue our successful path of the last 15 years.

As our key assets are the skills and capabilities of our employees, we will continue to focus on all aspects of employee experience, especially in the area of learning and development. We strive to be the employer of choice for those who want to grow professionally.

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