Questions to Ask When Bringing
By Janette Racicot
Published in Technology Meetings Magazine
Let me guess. You're doing more with fewer staff and less time. So how do
you work efficiently without sacrificing quality? One answer is to get help
from outside. Outsourcing will raise questions, but many managers have pondered
them before. Here are some of the big questions.
Is outsourcing really a good idea?
Look to your own company. Do you have an advertising agency, private counsel,
or an accounting firm? Could management whip up an ad, review a contract, or
track assets? Some jobs are best done by experts. Hiring independent professionals
can be less risky than using employees in areas outside their fields.
Here's an example. A major systems company was disappointed
with its annual training conference. Retention and product satisfaction were
low. Although it could have attempted to solve the problems, management engaged
a training professional. That consultant identified the issues, set content
standards, restructured presentations, and improved each presenter's delivery
in ways that never would have been attempted internally. The next conference
evaluations showed a major improvement. Worth the investment? They say “Absolutely!”
What jobs are best for outside experts?
Look to areas that require skills, standards, and consistency that may be
impractical or impossible from the inside. A professional trainer allows employees
to focus on the jobs that only they can do, such as strategic planning, product
design, and sales. If you wish you had more time and energy to dedicate to
certain programs, those may be perfect jobs for a consultant.
For example, a North American software vendor planned to expand its sales
channel training into Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. The company's
relationships, content, and planning processes had to be fine-tuned for each
country. One dedicated resource was able to customize the training content
and fill the seats in a dozen countries, leaving management time to build invaluable
relationships with international colleagues.
Could strategic relationships be affected?
If it's done right, they will be affected for the better.
When strategically important partners join to create a training event, the
process is inevitably full of complications. With so many “equals,” it
is impossible for one player to set and enforce goals, schedules, and standards
without risking long-term relationships. Plus, many of those players are
Investing in an objective third party may be the only way to ensure a smooth,
successful program. A single point of contact to set deadlines, ensure quality,
and resolve issues frees managers to work on strategic agendas and long-term
relationships, and is likely to provide a training event that none of the individual
players could have delivered on their own.
What about costs?
The benefits of hiring an outside training professional include rapid availability,
finite expenditure, and defined program conclusion. Of course, some budget
is required. You may find yourself comparing, say, a $60,000 fee for a four-month
project to a $50,000 salary if you wanted to hire a new employee to do the
job. The benefits of the latter include additional job responsibilities and
a dedicated commitment to your company.
But to really understand costs, think beyond salary costs. There are also
benefits, vacation, and facilities, and how about the opportunity costs incurred
during the interview, hire, and settling-in period? Don't underestimate the
competitive edge lost while you are waiting. Plus, can the salary you're paying
buy the years of experience you would get with an outside expert?
Janette Racicot is president of Racicot & Associates,
which specializes in helping companies improve their most important marketing
and traiing events. To share your thoughts with her, call (617) 484-3201,
or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.