Why HR Managers should not become plumbers and why IT techies charge the fees they do.

Posted by on March 12, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

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Many years ago I was told the story about an IT technician who was called to an executive’s office to fix a computer. The techie arrived, opened the machine, turned one screw, closed it and fired it up. It worked perfectly!

When the executive received the account for USD 255 he was incensed. He phoned the techie, demanding to know how turning one screw could possibly cost so much.

The techie calmly replied that he’d only charged USD 5 for turning the screw, but USD 200 for knowing which screw to turn!

Last week my gardener came running nervously into the house shouting that there is stream coming from my roof. I went outside and saw that he was right. All along the gutter there was indeed steam and litres of water flowing into the drainage system. Panic ensued. Especially when it happened again later in the afternoon.

A quick inspection in the ceiling revealed nothing worthy of alarm, but I phoned my plumber anyway. He immediately diagnosed the problem as a faulty thermostat and suggested I switch the geyser off while not showering to prevent the overflow. He’ll be able to come around in a day or two to replace the thermostat. It was then that I asked him what I would need to buy, and how easy it would be to fix it MYSELF. He started explaining about male and female parts, sizes, diameters; sealing thread (I didn’t know plumbing could sound so racy). It was then that I recalled a similar incident years ago.

As a student, money was really tight – well for some things anyway. There as always enough to go racing in events on weekends and always enough, but not enough cash for a car service and replacing brake pads. So a mate and I figured it can’t be THAT difficult. We booked out a Saturday, bought the stuff and started. Needles to say, it took us two days instead of a couple of hours. We really did cock it up!

Common sense you might say. Get the professionals to do the things that they’re good at. And you’ll be right. Unless you’re the new HR Manager at one of my clients.

She’s new, I phoned her today to get re-acquainted after we met briefly when she took over from the lady I always dealt with. In the past, they did heaps of training. I billed them close to R 200 000 over a period of 18 months, and became “lunch friends” and a confidant to the CEO. I phoned her about some new programmes, and training with their new staff.

She told that her budget is very tight and that, when it comes to soft-skills training, she’s conducting the sessions herself, in-house. I asked what experience and knowledge she has in these areas of expertise. She replied confidently that she has very little, and gets her content from the internet and the manuals of suppliers (trainers) she has used in the past!
I was gob smacked. I wonder if her MD / CEO knows that this is the level of professionalism his most valuable asset (the people) is being exposed to? Sure it’ll save money in the short-term, but what about later on? Let’s see this for what it is.

Firstly it’s theft. The manuals and materials that she uses from previous suppliers are all subject to copyright. I’m not sure if I would trust my research generated training materials with her!!

Secondly, by what measure is anything you read / plagiarise off the internet the truth, or even remotely scientific? OK, some of it is. But for the most part it is the opinion or viewpoint of the writer.

And finally, training and facilitation is not about the content. Any monkey can regurgitate content and theory (and it appears that some do). The REAL benefit in getting professionals to conduct your corporate development work is their ability to convey a message, to create a learning environment, and to bring outside perspective to the training group.

So to sum it all up, you get a plumber to fix our geyser, an IT guy to work on your computer and a motor mechanic to fix your car. Here are 5 reasons to get a professional facilitator and trainer to work with your people:

1. They bring more diverse opinions and perspective into a company.
2. They are experienced at creating optimal learning environments that are memorable. They don’t just spew theory and content.
3. They are (should be) keeping up with the latest trends and research in their areas of expertise.
4. They can be held accountable.
5. They have the ability to bring fresh ideas (cross-pollinate) into your company. Often ideas that have worked at other companies or other industries.
6. In South Africa, you can claim the money (most of it) that you spend on these professionals back from your Skills Development Levy. So really, budget is just an excuse!!

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