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How to: Find an HR supplier

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Finding the right HR supplier is not only time-consuming it can also be incredibly confusing and difficult; see this expert guide on how find that needle in a haystack.


The sourcing of the correct suppliers has been the key role and also headache since time immemorial for personnel managers and those with responsibility for the HR budget.

Where do you start when looking to source the correct supplier for your needs? How can you be completely sure that the supplier you select will be right for your organisation’s future growth and staff development?

These are just a few of the numerous questions that have to be considered.

So let’s take each of the key routes that those with responsibility for the HR budget must consider when sourcing a supplier.

Search the internet
Searching the internet is, without a doubt, one of the most popular methods via which to source suppliers. The simple fact is it’s straightforward to type what you are looking for into a search engine and press the search button.

But is this the right method to search for suppliers?
Using the internet might be the way to search for a supplier of payroll services, for example, but even after undertaking such a search on the likes of Google it will take a long time to sift through the 1001 providers of such activities spread throughout the UK to find the correct one for your needs.

Anyway, the highly specific supplier suitable for your business needs is unlikely to be clearly listed in the results in an online search via a traditional search engine. The reason is that whilst the likes of Google attempt to index everything in the world, what is obvious is that the more they index; the more difficult it is for the user to find what they are looking for. The Google directory is just too broad.

Instead, it’s best that personnel managers liaise with a leading specialist information provider with many years’ expertise and heritage in providing in-depth information and insight on the industry. Such an information provider should be able to list free of charge, and in a highly digestible format, in-depth information on the payroll supplier. Tools that can do this include www.findasupplier.info. This is what those within the HR industry want and require.

Industry wide directories?
Those in personnel should not forget that industry wide print directories are a vital source of information on potential suppliers. It is interesting how we all get excited about the ‘new’ search engines phenomena considering that directories have been the search engine of information for decades.

Specialist paper directories continue to have a strong future, not just for those involved in HR, but beyond. Directories with a strong heritage within a particular business sector offering a huge range of up to date in-depth information on those within it including its suppliers, are still seen as ‘bibles’ for the practitioners within that sector.

Many people still reach for directories and keep them next to the phone or on their desks as a vital source of information. The days of a paperless environment, whether at home or in the office aren’t with us just yet.

Approach from a salesman?
It’s easy to disregard sales people as those annoying individuals that distract you from your work with phone calls, e-mails, etc, and who stop you in your tracks at industry exhibitions!

However, you need to remember that sales people are not knowingly going to waste your time – as this costs them money. If they have an offering that they think is relevant to you they will make contact. Do spend a little time hearing what they have to say, as it might be something that could be of benefit to your business.

From exhibitions/conferences attended?
Following on from being approached by salespeople, exhibitions and conferences provide the perfect opportunity for those with responsibility for the HR budget to have in-depth face to face conversations with potential suppliers.

Such events are an advantageous use of time for both suppliers and potential clients who can meet each other and forge relationships.

Word of mouth?
Personal recommendation is probably one of the best ways to select a supplier with a third party vouching for the competency or success of a particular supplier.

It’s important to note that recommendations from other HR decision makers within your industry sector on suppliers are key – even if they are your competitors.

Competitors are likely to have the same needs and requirements as you, so you should pick their brains when the opportunity arises. Also it’s worth noting that no reputable supplier will ever betray client confidentiality.

Furthermore, if looking at training courses for example, speak to those who are to be trained, on who they recommend. Staff will feel valued that they are being listened to, and they may have picked up valuable information on potential courses in the course of their roles that you have not.

Is outsourcing always the answer?
Ask yourself before you outsource to a supplier – do you need to do it? You should not ask yourself this for the sake of saving money which could result in a job poorly done. Of course not outsourcing can often save money, but you should only handle the required task in-house if you have the time and resources available to carry out a professional job.

Trade press
Always peruse the industry trade press for opportunities to spot potential suppliers. Don’t only look at who’s advertising or placing inserts, but look at who’s in the editorial. If a third party, such as a journalist is able to provide some comment or some positive insight on a business, then listen to what they have to say, they have credibility within the industry. If you like what you’re reading keep these companies in mind or get in touch with them.

At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer to sourcing a good supplier that will meet your requirements. But if you take into account all that’s covered in this article – it will set you in good stead.

Alister Barclay is the Editor of The Personnel Manager’s Yearbook and Online Editor of www.findasupplier.info/hr at AP Information Services

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Annie Hayes

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