I have run into a real business challenge, and in discussing it with my colleagues, many of them are experiencing the same. The challenge is internal Human Resources. Senior executives with their own budgets and P & L responsibility want to hire me (an outside consultant) to help them with development planning for their team or as an executive coach and as soon as their internal HR gets wind of it, they put a stop to it. First of all, I don’t think that internal HR can tell someone with their own discretionary budget that they cannot spend the money, but they put up such an internal tantrum that is causes the business leader to pause. Why?
If you are an internal HR executive, please tell me why you are threatened by a business leader who wants to seek help from a specialist? I understand that jobs are scarce and everyone is trying to protect their own positions. The official line is usually “we have those resources internally, you don’t need to spend the money”. I have not seen an organization yet that has enough internal resources for learning and development solutions (workshops, eLearning, performance coaching, IDP’s, conflict mediation, etc.) to meet all the needs of the organization. Most of the time, budget cuts hit learning and development first and left is a Human Resources department that has primary responsibility for compensation, benefits, compliance, workers comp, recruiting and employee relations, who is also asked to do Talent Management on the side.
Internal and external consulting are two different animals. As hard as it is to hear, it needs to be said that an internal employee relations specialist, training specialist, or even talent management guru will not have the same impact that an external specialist will. That is just the cold reality. I have been both an internal and external consultant. I have been that frustrated internal consultant that resented external consultants who always got more credibility, more visibility, and (frankly) better results than we could internally. I suffered from the egotistical attitude “if it’s not invented here it could never be as good” and “our company and culture is so unique, effective performance solutions can only come from within”. Both of those statements are false and a mantra that internal TM professionals use to try and convince their organization of the same.
After being an external for 11 years now, I understand why the results are different. As an external, I bring best practices from multiple companies and multiple industries that I have experienced hands-on. As an internal can you say that? As an external, my client can share confidential information about their real performance challenges that often involve supervisors and peers without risk of repercussion or exposure. As an internal can you say that? As an external, my livelihood depends on my responsiveness devoting undivided attention to my client’s needs. As an internal can you say that?
As an external I often work with internal HR and like having a strong partnership between us. But it is important for HR to see when it is in the organization’s best interest to use outside professional services and please work with us, instead of against us.