Getting the Most from Your External Adviser

April 06, 2015

At every turn it seems, we are bombarded with how-to advice from “experts” who assure us that they have the right solution and all we need do is download the book, attend the webinar or buy the service. Just like the diet pill, it's easy and quick - just swallow, listen, watch or read.

While our attraction to a potential quick fix is high let's face it, if those diet fast solutions really worked, 30% of the population wouldn't be obese. We don't connect and from experience, we know that the quick fix usually doesn't work when we do. We continue to be attracted despite knowing that the message is wrong.

External help should deliver expertise, from solutions honed through multiple prior experiences; wisdom that you could not use or could not afford on a full time basis. HR help is no different.

Social media has created the impression that through a special interest chat group and a few new friends, even complex projects can be tackled and for free. Conversing with fellow professionals is unquestionably rewarding but using them as an alternate approach to tackle complex problems is perhaps not so.

Faced with this added competition, absence of the "next big thing" and lower revenue the quick fix has been elevated in the minds of some advisors, as means of attracting client attention by using, to promote these products, the very same professional networks.

Advice like with most things, falls into the category of you mostly get what you pay for. If an HR project requires expertise and it will create value, then build an appropriate fee into the project budget. Manage the cost as you would any other and use the following check list to help you get the most out of your advisor:

  1. Clearly identify the skills that you need and don't have internally - then choose an advisor that suits you. 
  2. Detail exactly what you think you need to do (and then add some more) - if you knew all of the answers you wouldn't need help. A well crafted project outline will help an advisor develop an accurate fee quote but assume that you don't know what you don't know and add a contingency. The fee should then be compared with the value that you envisage will be generated by the project.
  3. CYA  Consulting - there are times when we all need stakeholders to perceive that the very top advice has been sought. If nothing other than a household name will do, there is a price that comes with that. Assess the value in the same way as any other component and factor the fee and the benefits coming from the brand value, into the ROI calculation.
  4. Allow time for an advisor to get up to speed - it'll be frustrating as they ask dumb questions but think of it like a rental car - it'll go nowhere without the fuel. Fast food isn't instant. A solution that distinguishes your organization from the competition is worth taking the time to get right. Not doing so means getting an-off-the-shelf solution, often the same as the one just sold to your competition.
  5. Trust an advisor over the long haul - the value of partnering over an extended period and multiple topics cannot be underestimated. Knowledge of your business and its leadership will help you deliver optimum solutions and facilitate the most suitable advice and in the long run, will reduce the fees you pay for getting a consultant up to speed.

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