As a buyer, your input in a provider’s client advisory firm can go a long way in improving service delivery. Just make sure you can make a commitment and that it’s a responsibility you enjoy.
Today’s HR executive has scarce time for adding new things to their already strapped schedule. However, there are opportunities to invest small blocks of time to help you achieve several diverse but fundamental objectives. Let me suggest that joining the client advisory board of one of your principal HR service providers can establish an important way to accomplish both strategic business goals and personal goals. And to make this even more appealing, through the popularity and effectiveness of web-based meetings, you’ll be able to squeeze a lot of value from a very modest investment of time.
Client forums and advisory boards are often an effective way for you to influence the services you have selectively outsourced. These boards provide an important channel to express your short-term needs as well as evaluate current and future outsourced service offerings. In addition, you will find that supplier-sponsored boards provide a unique forum for sharing general opinions on industry trends and technology, deliberating legislative issues impacting payroll/HR business processes, and exchanging views on current topics of common interest. You may also find the resulting network aligns with some of your key personal goals.
You probably will want to limit your participation to a single advisory board. Choosing the right board to join will help ensure your goals are met, and the sponsoring outsourcer will receive value from your membership. In determining which board, consider the following criteria:
• Relevance. Make sure all other members are part of the senior management team at their organization. Participants should be at a level to know and articulate their organization’s strategy.
• Style. Ask the sponsor what they seek in members. Is it forward-looking management styles? Will this board be characterized by a willingness to embrace new ideas and foster an open exchange?
• Influence. Consider carefully the board makeup and structure and meeting format. Look to see if the membership includes organizations that you want to link with at a board level. Talk with a board member and find out if members will take an active role in providing feedback. Are members asked to actively participate?
• Conflict. Only join an outsourcer’s board not considered a competitor to another key supplier to your company. This situation can make both you and the outsourcer unable to be candid.
• Scope. Consider boards with representation from a diverse base of industries. You may already have a network established within your own industry or sector, so access to a broader network can provide a meaningful balance. The best choices will come from boards where your outsourcer serves organizations like yours very well and your sector represents a significant market for them.
• Fit. Select a board that matches your credentials. Your participation is important to you and the board, so make sure that you have the domain expertise to help shape new services. Having insight into the basic values your outsourcer’s services bring to your organization is essential.
• Commitment. Look carefully at the commitment the outsourcer makes to the board, and review expectations from member organizations. Infrequent meetings mean you will have a hard time finding continuity or achieving your personal goals for a solid network connection. On the other hand, if the board meets more than three or four times a year, the time commitments may be too high.
Make sure you carry out your responsibilities to the board. As meeting times approach, prepare for the sessions. It won’t take long to consider which topics are important to share and what you hope to hear more about. Also, look for ways to participate. Ask if you can lead a topic discussion or even bring results from one of your key projects to the board for consideration. Just like you, other HR executives are looking for successes and challenges.
Of course you will want to evaluate the board to make certain it really is meeting your needs. Give yourself time through several meetings to assess how things are going. Since you joined an active board that is open to feedback, tell board leadership how the board can improve.
Most importantly, as a client advisory board member, you have the ability to influence your outsourcer’s service offering and delivery process. Not only is your input valuable, you will find the resulting changes and enhancements can help you achieve your business goals.