Eastern Europe’s larger economies have been popular investment locations for multinationals for a quarter century. Blessed with skilled labour pools with comparatively low employment costs compared to their neighbours to the West, various operation types have grown and flourished. One particular area where the region has truly grown is in shared services. Based on popular demand, Willis Towers Watson recently conducted a survey amongst shared services organisations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania in order to help companies better understand how employers are addressing their more acute HR issues, specifically meeting their diverse language needs and retaining talent.

Europe’s Back Office

Europes back office

While Eastern Europe’s most popular shared services locations increasingly compete on a global scale (especially with similar locations in Asia Pacific), the focus for many operations continues to be servicing the day-to-day needs of business and clients across Europe. Based on the languages typically sought by employers, centres supporting countries outside of Europe remain a minority. It could be argued that this creates more as opposed to less pressure when it comes to meeting language needs. By supporting country operations and their clients, the complex array of languages across the region means that simply working in English isn’t always sufficient. Staffing commonly needs to account for the need to be able to service their client in a dozen languages or more. 

Supply & Demand

While language abilities are always in demand, this doesn’t mean that all languages are equal when it comes to the value they represent in the market place. When asked for which languages they typically paid a premium in order to attract the right candidates for junior professional roles, languages which are less-spoken internationally – such as Swedish – were far more likely to command a premium than those which are easier to find. In contrast, less than a fifth of companies said they paid premiums for English-language skills.

which languages are employers willing to pay for

An Integrated Approach to Retaining Talent

The best retention strategies are always cost effective and address multiple organisational needs beyond simply keeping people from leaving. In the case of shared service centres, this has led to the most commonly-noted retention tools being programs which not only address what have traditionally been acute turnover trends among experienced staff but also the common need to have to invest heavily in staff training when they’re on-boarded.

Most common retention tools


How much of a success these shared services policies are at keeping staff will remain something to measure, especially whilst on boarding through education and career planning makes for better and more skilled staff, it can also open them up to competitors as freshly trained, skilled, employees. Those with premium languages and these skills will continue to command the market. However will comparatively low employment costs be maintained as competition picks up?

What will remain though is the need for organisations to serve clients in their native languages, shared services will not depart anytime soon continuing to grow the market and maturing the HR decisions made within them. This mature approach continues to need to be integrated with business goals and bottom line.