How to select an HR Adviser to ensure ‘bespoke’ isn’t just an excuse to charge more…

HOW often do you see the words ‘bespoke service’, ‘targeted’, ‘tailored just for you’, ‘made to order’, ‘custom made’? Way too often I fear! It has become one of those phrases in the good ole game of business buzzword bingo – the game where you sit in a presentation and wait until the supplier in front of you uses the various phrases that will score you a point on your bingo card. It’s now alongside such things as ‘blue sky thinking,’ ‘client focused,’ and ‘let’s connect’ such is its disregard.

I have to confess ‘bespoke’ was a word littered over my website at one stage but I hope I have found them all and deleted them by now such is my contempt for that phrase. (A prize for anyone who spots one …)

TrueHR and TrueHR Isle of Man really do create an HR Service, with training and development needs, from scratch to meet our clients needs, but we would rather you see that for yourself than listen to noise about how unique it is.

So what should it mean? And how can you ensure you are actually getting what they claim you are paying for?

It should mean that the entire package is created from scratch, after all the phrase comes from the old verb bespeak – to speak for something, and originated, it is believed, in the tailors’ domains of Saville Row, London where custom made suits were just that – made from scratch and unique. Today, bespoke stands for anything that is customised or made to order, or, as I have suggested, something all too frequently to describe something that is used when service providers try and sell you their off the shelf package, tweak it with your logo and use that to raise the prices!? Or am I being too cynical here?

So, what should ‘bespoke/targeted’ HR service’ be?

It should start with a chat with the client to understand exactly what the issue at hand is to determine the best way to assist.  I don’t mean an idle ‘the sales staff aren’t doing great so we need  a performance review process’ but a more definitive look. Why aren’t the sales staff doing great? Is it their telephone skills? Is it their motivation? What has the customer feedback been? What have the sales figures been? Is it the morale? What have the absence levels been? And work out the specifics of the issue.

After the specifics, set your objectives
So often the objectives of an HR service are assumed and not enough questions are asked. A one size HR service does not fit all. But a HR service provider cannot hope to be bespoke/targeted if they don’t know what their customer is trying to achieve. Once they’ve had the investigatory chat indicated above, an HR service provider should brainstorm all possible content to meet your needs. I would ask to see this – then watch the ones who aren’t really bespoke/targeted pale in panic!

Next it’s about structure and style of delivery
Yes, a HR service provider can guide you on delivery style ie ‘this works better face to face’ or ‘ooh you can do that remotely’ but they should also be open to change and your suggestions. Ask them what works and why. Ask them to explain how that style would meet your objectives and enhance the delivery. Once you are happy with that you can move on to the emphasis that you want them to put on various elements or projects.

Finally, the support materials
The glossy bound policies are very attractive and sure they make you feel you have had extra value for money, but not if they have just dusted off ABC Company’s logo and replaced it with XYZ & Sons logo instead. I’m all for utilising some material from templates – there’s no point reinventing the wheel after all, but make sure that your HR service provider hasn’t been sidetracked looking at existing material and trying to make it fit rather than working on new material that would fill any gaps in what YOU require. It’s only through actually writing the material, retyping everything, that I find that the material becomes real, that your objectives start to get the context I want and you get the emphasis you need.

The HR Service provider also needs to take the time to go through it – not cut and paste, so ask them for copies of ‘similar’ materials and see if it’s all too samey before you part with extra cash for that ‘bespoke/targeted’ package they promised you.

Think you could now select the ‘bespoke/targeted’ HR Service provider you want?

Why not save the bother and just ask us!