Let’s suppose you’re an HR buyer. You’re experienced. You’re competent. This isn’t your first rodeo. And as much as you believe that logic and process will dictate what you buy, there are several emotional impacts that will absolutely factor into the bets you make.

The following list is derived from the work of the incomparable David Maister* as applied to our corner of the buying universe. HR service providers, it would serve you well to keep these ten items in mind as you prepare for your next pursuit.

What It Feels Like to Be An HR Buyer

  1. I’m feeling INSECURE. I’m not sure I know how to detect which of the finalists is the genius, and which is just good. I’ve exhausted my ability to make technical distinctions.
  2. I’m feeling THREATENED. This is my area of responsibility, and even though intellectually I know I need outside expertise, emotionally its not comfortable to put my affairs in the hands of others.
  3. I’m taking a PERSONAL RISK. By putting my affairs in the hands of someone else, I risk losing control.
  4. I’m IMPATIENT. I didn’t call in someone at the first sign of symptoms (or opportunity). I’ve been thinking about this for a while.
  5. I’m WORRIED. By the very fact of suggesting improvements or changes, these people are going to be implying that I haven’t been doing it right up till now. Are these people going to be on my side?
  6. I’m EXPOSED. Whoever I hire, I’m going to have to reveal some proprietary secrets, not all of which are flattering.
  7. I’m feeling IGNORANT, and don’t like the feeling. I don’t know if I’ve got a simple problem or a complex one. I’m not sure I can trust them to be honest about that; it’s in their interest to convince me it’s complex.
  8. I’m SKEPTICAL. I’ve been burned before by these kinds of people. You get a lot of promises: How do I know whose promise I should buy?
  9. I’m CONCERNED that they either can’t or won’t take the time to understand what makes my situation special. They’ll try to sell me what they’ve got rather than what I need.
  10. I’m SUSPICIOUS. Will they be those typical professionals who are hard to get hold of, who are patronizing, who leave you out of the loop, who befuddle you with jargon, who don’t explain what they’re doing or why, who …, who …, who …? In short, will these people deal with me in the way I want to be dealt with?

Behind every HR buying decision is a human (or more likely, a group of humans), so always keep that in mind.

HR buyers, what else would you add to this list? Your comments are encouraged, so let’s keep the conversation going.

(*Source: David H. Maister, Managing the Professional Service Firm, 1993)