The Bit in the Middle

August 05, 2015

Being head of HR is a thankless task. At worst you are a necessary overhead, an unproductive expenditure and at best, you work for a boss that actually gets it, who understands the value you provide but won’t give you the budget to do anything new. “Why did we hire expensive experts and still need to outside help?”

HR is no different from any portfolio; expertise is layered and varied. Organizations hire for a particular set of experiences and sometimes a project falls outside that range and your company needs experiences or skills that you just don’t have. That once in a career project that you have never managed before.  

HR is not an operating function and not always possible to demonstrate a tangible project ROI especially when you have never gone through it before. HR is always at a disadvantage.

We have written before about choosing the right external partner and the perils of managing projects without the experience. This time we want to focus on a way to mitigate project risk rather than pass on an opportunity because you don’t have the knowhow.

A former colleague frequently reminded me that it takes only a little extra to go first class. He wasn’t talking about flying (actually he may have been) but the little it required to be better. Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’pworth (half penny’s worth) of tar is the nautical equivalent; don’t spoil the whole for a small amount. In this context we are referring to expertise. Obtain approval to proceed is contingent upon convincing colleagues that you have it and can tailor a solution that meets the individual needs of your company - the art of the possible.  

If you believe the advice you need will come via LinkedIn you should probably stop reading now and go back to the cat videos. What about consultants - they must have the skills and they do, but not the experience. They will bring the same approach that they rolled out the last five times including to your competition.

The purchase of Towers Watson by Willis saw the last of the independent consulting firms disappear. While continuing to emit the image of preeminent knowledge worker very few consultants these days have actually worked inside a company other than a consulting firm. Margins shrunk, the industry consolidated, and solutions became canned to enable faster implementation and increased profitably - while continuing to remain expensive.  

Any big consultant will want to deliver the lowest quote and you are liable to be persuaded that it is not what you need if you ask for anything tailored. Uncertainty over margin, lack of in house experience and knowing you are unwilling to incur the cost of their learning can only mean a standard approach. You can have any color you want so long as it is black.

So here is where the bit in the middle comes in.

You know you need this solution for your company. Big consulting has the efficient approach but not the experience to differentiate your organization and make it a standout success. You may not have the expertise but there are plenty of folks out there who do; semi retired or former senior HR people who are going to be able to help. They have undertaken these projects perhaps several times before and you will find them in your network if you start to ask.

They may not have the desire or capability to implement, but they certainly can impart their wisdom and make you a better informed purchaser. Collect their thoughts on how to modify the standard, manage implementation and the pitfalls to avoid. Pay for the advice to deter the well meaning amateur. A few hours from the general HR budget is the ha’pworth of tar and will help you seal the approval you need and save thousands during implementation.

Completely independent and without compromised objectivity caused by wanting a bigger project these experts will be only too willing to offer a few hours of expert guidance. As the boomers exit the work place don’t overlook this important source of knowledge.

Call us and find out more about harnessing temporary expertise for your project 905 842 7916.

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