Are We Stepping Over Dollars

by Sharlyn Lauby on January 23, 2011

A reader posted a comment on one of my older posts titled Do Something. Anything. You can check out the entire comment here.  I took the comment as (1) human resources needs to step up and bring value (2) doing the actual work is what brings value (3) if consultants provide the bulk of the work, there’s no need for HR .

You will get no arguments from me about human resources needing to provide value.  In fact, let me expand that to say everyone needs to provide value.  But I don’t necessarily agree with the consulting part…maybe that’s because I’m a consultant.  But hear me out.

The other day, one of my Facebook friends had a status update that said he was typing email addresses because he only had them on pieces of paper (not electronic).  This person is a fellow consultant, author, business person, etc.  My first reaction was why is he typing email addresses?  Is that the best use of his time?

It reminds me of the new Kayak commercials.  You know, the ones about spending hours to find the best deal versus having someone (in this case Kayak) help you find the best vacation deal.

Is it possible that people are stepping over dollars to pick up quarters?

Now, back to consulting.  In some cases my clients hire me because they don’t have someone with my experience in-house.  But in many cases, my clients hire me not because they don’t have the expertise but because they don’t have the time.  And their time is valuable.  Recognizing that you need a consultant and hiring one can bring value to a company (especially when you need something done fast).

I’m not going to get into how to go about hiring a consultant. That’s another post.  My point is hiring a consultant is not and should not be considered a failing.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  You still have to understand the best use of consulting dollars within your budget and then manage the consultant and the project.  And, to do that, you need more than a little skill and knowledge.

I use this same philosophy with my company and personal life.  A few months ago, I got a flat tire.  My immediate reaction – call AAA.  Not because I don’t know how to change a tire.  But because my time is more valuable.  For less than $100 a year, I get free services (along with other benefits).  AAA came to the scene and changed my tire in less than 30 minutes while I responded to client emails on my iPhone.  That brings value to me – and to my clients!

I understand over the past couple years, budgets have been tight.  Maybe the money wasn’t there.  So you buck it up and do it yourself.  That’s cool.  Or maybe it’s like Mr. Bartender and the yard work.  He likes it so he doesn’t want to pay someone to do it.  Somehow, I don’t think that logic applies to typing email addresses.

But as the economy continues to push forward, companies will have to make this decision on a regular basis.  Should I do this task/project in-house or does it make sense to look for an external partner?  Using an external partner doesn’t absolve the department from responsibility or diminish their abilities in any way.  It means they know the best way to provide value to the organization.

Image courtesy of sushi♥ina

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RMSmithJr.SPHR January 23, 2011 at 7:28 am

Adding value, for me, means throwing out my To Do List, and replacing it with a Daily Contributions list. This is part of my evolution and growth, forward and upward. Ask the value proposition question, is this activity worthy or worthless?

So far as HR going away in ten years, wasn’t that also said ten years ago?

Sharlyn Lauby January 24, 2011 at 8:17 am

You’re right. People have been saying the same thing for years. Maybe we all need to adopt the “daily contribution” mindset. Thanks for the comment.

Jason January 24, 2011 at 9:08 am

In an earlier post I put forward this question “If consultants are being approached for ‘everything under the sun’, then do we really need this additional HR headcount?” In their book ‘HR Business Process Outsourcing’, Dave Ulrich et. al. suggest ways to deliver the administrative work of HR through outsourcing. According to them, much of the administrative work of HR, e.g., payroll, benefits administration, staffing policies, training logistics etc. must be carried out more efficiently which is why most large firms have either built service centers and invested in HR technology, or have outsourced these transactions completely. With this out of the way, HR can now focus on ‘value addition’!

AAA changing the tire of your car quickly and for ‘free’ definitely makes sense. But let’s say you’re getting 300+ emails a day in addition to 100+ comments on the website, what would you do? Would you hire an assistant to respond to all them or would you prefer to answer them yourself? Hiring an assistant is a cost to you and may get the job done but would this add value (in terms of knowledge) to the numerous readers who read your blog religiously? You could play ‘strategic’ and outsource/offload only certain tasks (speaking arrangements, ads etc.) to the assistant while you focus on the core tasks. In the same way, we in HR need to answer a simple question how do we organize ourselves to deliver more strategic HR (value added) work after outsourcing the administrative work? This does not mean we should not utilize the services of a consultant; it just means we need to try as much as possible to serve as ‘internal consultants’ ourselves to our respective organizations.

Elizabeth January 24, 2011 at 12:06 pm

With so many HR staffs having been reduced, it seems to me that time is very precious. In my business (HR communications), our clients appreciate the fact that they can outsource the work to us, have us work as an integral part of their team and not have to worry about it.

A do agree with Jason in that HR pros need to understand where they can best contribute as “internal consultants” and use outside resources to do the other work. As with all things, it’s a balance. And lets not forget that there’s a lot of knowledge/experience to gain by working with a good consultant…which HR pros can then use within their organization.

Sharlyn Lauby January 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Thanks for the comments! Trying to figure out what tasks to outsource and which to keep in house is definitely a challenge. I believe your industry and corporate culture might help determine the best approach. I’ve said it before, one of the ways that HR pros can provide value to their organizations is by understanding project management and vendor management. This would help human resources not only identify the right things to outsource but effectively manage the activity.

rob coates May 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm

14 months on still a relevant debate – consultants are here to stay, we do the work that others don’t want or understand and take the flak when it doesn’t run smoothly, we’re a great excuse when someone is not really sure if what they are suggesting is really going to work…..that being said it does make life kind of exciting.

Jamy January 23, 2013 at 6:45 am

Great article Sharlyn. Especially liked this one a lot “You still have to understand the best use of consulting dollars within your budget and then manage the consultant and the project. ”

There are some tips on embracing human resource outsource by us here http://www.talentproindia.com/blog/entryid/45/embracing-human-resource-outsourcing

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