Understanding and serving the HR Buyer

Posted by Michael Gretczko and Arthur Mazor on May 12, 2016

The message from our HR Provider Day event attendees was unequivocal: They want providers to be real. HR buyers can see through false commitments being made by providers through the sales process. They expect transparency and honesty and tend to know when the wool is being pulled over their eyes.

When we themed our 3rd annual HR Technology and Service Provider Day, “Understanding and serving the HR buyer,” we were hoping to facilitate a robust conversation between HR buyers and providers. Mission accomplished, and clearly.

The 2016 Provider Day event, held April 21–22 at our Deloitte University campus, featured 40 attendees representing more than 30 providers across all areas of the HR ecosystem: RPO, Learning, Payroll, HRO, Benefits, and HR Technology. This year’s addition was the global HR buyers themselves—an inclusion that we will continue going forward. Events like these are helpful to connect the dots between ecosystem participants, align solutions to macro business issues, and provide a forward-thinking forum for human capital thought leadership and networking.

What HR buyers want

In an especially lively facilitated discussion between HR buyers and providers, the topic of the high bar for landing a client meeting was raised. “So what is the HR buyer looking for” participants queried. Responses could be summarized as follows:

  • Commit to serving the business: Buyers want providers to truly understand their business priorities and needs. Provider solution functionality should be tied to a business need; bells and whistles don’t cut it anymore in this environment.
  • Quantify value: Buyers want help to frame the value that services and software will deliver; providers who demonstrate a genuine interest in helping the client shape the value proposition may have a greater opportunity to become long-term business partners.
  • Help balance trade-offs: Cost isn’t a topic anyone really wants to discuss, but it’s a reality that drives a need for trade-offs to be made, and HR buyers welcome input from providers around how they might help achieve the balance.

HR buyers, for their part, generally accept the need to be more explicit about their requirements, and realize that at times there is not enough transparency in the selection process, which can be misleading to providers as to what is really required.

An eye to the future

HR buyers need to anticipate the future and work with providers on solutions that are adaptive and flexible for a changing world of work. Four major workforce disruptions were revealed in our Global Human Capital Trends 2016: dramatic demographic shifts; accelerated rate of change; digital tech everywhere; and the rewriting of workforce social contracts.

As Provider Day participants discussed the human capital trends emerging in response to these disruptions, buyers challenged providers for next-generation solutions that can anticipate and enable what may be the most important of these trends:

  • Design Thinking—may be the biggest opportunity out there; it is time rethink our processes end-to-end from the HR customer perspective. How do provider solutions support an HR customer-centric redesign of the employee experience?
  • Capabilities of HR—need to be responsive to the trends; continuous HR capability development is a non-negotiable. How do provider solutions support and augment the continued development of organizational HR capabilities?
  • Digital HR—is more than social, mobile, analytics, and the cloud; it is about embedded analytics at every step of the end-to-end process, delivered to the front line, just in time. How do provider solutions incorporate this new capability in a usable and actionable fashion?
  • Gig Economy—means it’s not about full-time employees anymore; social contracts are changing the global workforce. How do provider solutions account for the need to manage the global workforce, including contingent labor, in an integrated fashion?

Furthermore, HR buyers made it quite clear they cannot afford to risk everything on a big-bang approach, and need to be agile, and iterative, so they can meet prioritized requirements today while keeping one eye on the needs of tomorrow.

Let’s keep the conversation going

While cloud has unleashed a fierce competition in the market, there has also been a veritable explosion of innovation, solution diversity, and marketplace opportunity. Many of the HR Provider Day attendees were learning about each other for the first time and realized they can help each other in the global marketplace.

So while we are already considering additional innovations for next year’s event, we are especially eager to continue this conversation in social media about how to serve the HR buyer.

Whatever your role in the HR ecosystem, we warmly invite you share your views on this critically important topic in the comment section below.

Join us to continue the conversation on LinkedIn.


Michael Gretczko is a principal in Human Capital at Deloitte Consulting LLP and is the US leader for its Human Resources Service Delivery (HRSD) practice. He focuses on large, complex global business HR transformation.
Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the firm’s global practice leader for HR Service Delivery and HR Transformation Strategy. He collaborates with complex, global clients to achieve high business impact with a focus on transforming human capital strategies, programs, and services.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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