Monday October 25, 2010
Jane Sunley looks at getting the best from your supply partners.
Recently learnpurple rolled out a bespoke online talent management system to an international player in 22 countries in 12 languages (including Thai, Russian and Balinese). The 7000+ people now using this system are not in desk jobs and so the logistics weren't so straightforward. However, where there's a will there's a way; everyone pulled together in a very focused way. The result? On Monday last week I received a call from the Global head of HR to congratulate and thank us for a seamless and universally well-received project. After the call, we sent an email thanking them for being great clients, they responded in equally enthusiastic tones. Don't you just love a relationship like that?!
I'd like to think this is down to sheer talent on our part. However it's far deeper than that. These are the main contributory factors:
Trust: the relationship had been established through an earlier business connection meaning that high levels of trust already existed. Trusting our advice and judgment meant that the project could proceed smoothly based on the credibility of our expertise. There was a very firm expectation to deliver on time, to budget and to standard - we all knew where we stood. There was no need for the client to micro-manage the process because of this trust - the client stood back and let us get on with our job while she and her teams got on with theirs. Even without a pre-existing relationship, this client is the sort of people with whom trust could have been established because she would have done her ‘home work’ and conducted a very robust interview before choosing us. I’ve only ever had one client really do this and I did feel as though I’d been put through the wringer several times over – afterwards though we found we had a very close and trusting relationship that never faltered over many years and still exists today.
Respect: Projects like this thrive on mutual respect. This client respected our expertise in the specialist area of 'joined up' talent management and trusted us to deliver. Easy, since she has existing knowledge and experience of our companies. Even without this prior knowledge a quick Google search would have resulted in sufficient collateral to proceed on a basis of respect for our track record of building award-winning solutions and approach.
Trust and respect open the doors to stimulating, often challenging ideas exchange, resulting in the best possible solution.
Courage: It took great courage on the part of the client in negotiating skillfully in tough times with an even tougher board to achieve sign-off quickly, thus enabling the project to proceed without delay with full support from all the stakeholders. I believe that companies that move fast in the current climate will win out - they leave the others standing. This client was decisive in decision making and stuck by her choices – sadly all too rare in uncertain times.
We once won a client account after almost five years of conversations and deliberations. We were delighted to finally have the business though I did wonder how different life would have been within their organisation if, for the last five years, their talent had been managed in the way it is now...
Emotional intelligence (EI): This is required from both parties to take the highs as a bonus and to deal with the potential lows well in advance of them developing. It takes EI to be able to have challenging conversations that allow both parties to question the norms and existing precedents. Please understand, this Global Head of HR is tough and knows exactly what she wants but she communicates in an intelligent way and we received those communications in an understanding and open frame of mind. Which brings me to:
Communication: This is important throughout the project and throughout the client organisation so that expectations are managed, concerns preempted and dealt with, feedback gained.
So when choosing a supplier - particularly a smaller more entrepreneurial one like us, make sure it's a provider who:
- Has a good track record and masses of credibility (take references by phone - don't rely on their own marketing)
- Is pragmatic and keeps things simple
- Employs specialists in their field who love what they do
- Is a cultural fit for your organisation and will work with you on and equal basis - no subservience and no haughty expertise
- Can help you to think clearly and make smart decisions (they'll make you look very good!)
- Care about you and your business
- Are people you actually like
Life's too short to struggle over procurement and project delivery - find someone you can work with and enjoy!