Garfieldhug's Blog

This & That Including What Ails

Seeking Consultants? Select With Care

on October 16, 2013

Sunday Times is always my favourite read over the weekends. I literally read it cover to cover, including the Careers section.

I read once that one has to be careful selecting talent or procuring consultancy services. I cannot agree more. Given great IT technology, documents are easily milled. This is where HR’s mantra of “paper milling” is on radar to discern amongst those who may be guilty of this.

The same for consultants or where consultancy services are marketed. I went through an interesting exercise once. The consultant was from UK (do not get me wrong as not all consultants from UK are bad) and he is to me, a “freshie” with little work understanding of the culture or work methods of Singapore. I could understand that he wanted to garner experience working in Singapore through a consultancy firm but the question to me was if he was a good fit.

It is easy to come packaged as an expatriate, with glitzy brochures and or company souvenirs of note books. Still I shuddered when looking at the covers of the note book as it came in triangles and in multiple colors. It reminded me of turgid designs that Van Gogh used and I could understand Van Gogh as he was mentally affected during his painting years. To me, being a HR practitioner, this seemed unnerving as it did not put me at ease looking at the triangles and associative colors. It put me off really. I had wanted to give my 2 cents worth of feedback but held my tongue as I did not want to rain on their parade! Further, constructive criticism may not be welcomed.

I went through an hour of questions and answers by this Team whom I shall call John and Tom. John is a local Singaporean and Tom is the aspiring expat. Neither complemented the other and Tom led the question and answers using a recording device. To me, this was again a “no-no” to obtain constructive feedback. I wondered how many would agree to this interview commissioned by the boss for a tape recorder. It reminded me of how “honest” can feedback be elicited!

The questions came fast and furious with no time for a participant like me to think. It irritated me that Tom kept looking at his watch. I knew he was on a clock but to make me respond honestly and truthfully was a challenge when my interviewer kept looking at his watch. It showed me he was either disinterested in me or he was just going through the motion as he was not really interested but he had a fee to earn.

One of the 50 questions asked over an hour (which is about 0.83 minutes per question) – of which we started 10 minutes later, one of the questions asked of me was why I am with the job I chose and another was – use one word to describe the company I worked with.

Hmm – given the turgid triangles and Tom’s attitude for interview, I told him I wanted to see an SME grow ie use my talent and skills set to grow the company as I had a belief and a patriotic streak in me. As for the one word to describe the company, I told him “chaos”.

Tom’s fee did not come cheap and given the quality of his work, I must comment that it would be a sorry waste of resources as I have been a participant at larger organisations whereby consultants had elicited feedback in a formative manner with the right ambience and setting. I maybe bias but I was unimpressed with Tom. He had no understanding of our local culture, industry and the business specifics related to it. Further he failed to pick out that I was not a production operator – I am not a foreign worker nor do I work on the shop floor. I was in the business of people management.

As a consultant, the least he could have done was to read up on our company’s business, the people’s background or positions, roles they hold and ask specific relevant questions that can relate and augment his fact finding consultancy work.

So, I can agree with the articles recently featured in the newspapers – there are consultants and there are consultants. To select a consultant, we should not judge on if the marketing rah rah was good but the essence of the consultant and his team. Sure signs of potential set backs would be the consultant’s background, ability to understand and integrate what he knows of Singapore, economic trends and labor laws within Singapore and especially the business of the organisation it is intending to offer their service too.

In a nutshell, Tom did not impress and given my cynical outlook, he did not garner my respect and he pales beyond comparison with other consultants I have worked with in previous environments. UK or otherwise, it is not the country but the people who run the business that makes a distinct difference. This is my humble opinion and view in adding to the merits of the newspaper article reported. We must be alert to whom you choose to help you with your business ideals!

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