Procuring HR services – the good, the bad and the very ugly

Posted in: Bloggery

We have recently had a really positive experience with a major company facing the shut-down of a significant operation.  We were invited into their process for securing high quality career transition services.

At this point, we don’t know whether we and our joint venture partner will be successful but the selection experience was really good. Given our experience with some truly dreadful selection processes, it was something I want to write about, irrespective of the outcome.

The brief was clear – and for once asked us (and our competitors) to define the best overall approach.  (No complex procurement software. No requirement to spend days assembling redundant information or to deal with extensive overlapping questions.)

In a first response to our first submission the client came back with an assessment of what they saw as the strengths of our proposal, where they saw the gaps and a request to respond to an array of questions they had on our material.  We were asked to attend a discussion with a group of key internal clients (including line managers) and to have those who would be doing the work on our side talk to their points and to further explain our approach. “No sales pitch from your principals please – we want to meet and talk with those who will work with our people…”

This turned out to be a rich dialogue: a discussion flowing backwards and forwards as we tested assumptions and discussed how success might be delivered and measured.  A sense of mutual responsibility was built: the desire was to deliver much more than a stream of brutally discounted career transition assignments. It was to build a holistic, comprehensive change program where we and they could contribute as one team.

Here we have experienced an entirely different process to many we have encountered with large organisations – where tenderers are left completely in the dark and dragged through a process requiring an immense amount of time and direct cost. Processes where in the end it gets down to discussion with a hard faced negotiator entirely focussed on price and divorced from any consideration of value or how success might be measured. Processes led by people who proceed on the assumption that HR leaders and line managers cannot be trusted, and nor, for that matter, can suppliers.

Whether or not we are the successful tenderer, this process has restored my faith in the ability of a large company to embed a genuine partnership-driven, value for money service selection process.