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Cycling Concepts and HR: Drafting

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There are actually quite a few HR bloggers who are also cyclists.  Thomas Otter is a leading candidate, as are the other Systematic and Jeff Hunter.  I’ll also join the cyclist crew, although not nearly as gung-ho as I used to be.  Consider the following posts to be an ode to cycling and the 2008 Olympics as I make my feeble attempt to connect cycling principles with HR.

One of core competencies for any cyclist is to learn to draft.  Drafting simply means that a cyclist can get behind another rider and save between 20-35% of their effort, simply by not having to cut through the wind.  It’s the same concept used in auto racing.  In a bike race, this is why the entire pack stays together as a single entity – nobody wants to get left behind to fight on their own.  When one gets left behind, they generally get left very far behind while everyone else finishes substantially ahead and much better rested.

The same goes for HR.  We have our partners in the vendor space, and the hope is that we are riding their functionality, technology and services to our success, but that they also gain from both fees and product development opportunities.  The idea here is that in today’s HR world, we are so completely dependent on our various vendors to execute their part of our service delivery model, that if they fail, we simultaneously fail as well.  If their service levels drop off, those are in fact our service levels, and while we may get some of our fees back due to service level agreements, the fact that our customers have been let down does not change.

One of the key attributes of drafting in a bike race is that the person(s) riding into the wind at the front of the group are only there for a short amount of time.  This is a shared burden.  With our HR vendors, sure we pay them for services, but their being a vendor to us is not really what we’re looking for.  As kitschy as it sounds, the truth is that we’re looking for partners who can help us deliver services.  This simply means that we have more to give back to our vendors than simply the fees we’re billed for.  Whether it’s identifying enhancements, being references when service is great, participating in networks with their other clients, or whatever you can think of, a partnership means much more than fees for services.

Every once in a while someone in a bike race does fall back.  They had a bit of a crash, or perhaps a flat tire.  Hopefully in the process, they didn’t slow too many people down with them.  These incidents are a fact of bike racing – it happens.  And honestly, it happens with our vendors too.  When someone falls behind, it’s often customary for a few people in the back to drop back and lend a hand.  Your vendors will not always be perfect.  However, if you have a partnership with them, you know things will go wrong and you’ll work together to correct the issues.

So in the spirit of partnership and cooperation, hopefully your vendors are giving you more than what you need.  And if so, give back a little bit too.

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5 responses to “Cycling Concepts and HR: Drafting”

  1. Thomas Avatar

    Lets find a way to ride together. It may take some planning. But I will be doing something similar to this again next year.

  2. Louise Barnfield Avatar

    Excellent analogy, and topical too…what with the Olympics as well as the not-too-distant Tour de France! 😉
    I’m an enthusiastic cyclist, but definitely not a speed merchant, so count me out of anything that has the word ‘race’ in it. 🙂
    I’ve completed 6 century rides in past years, fund-raising as part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. We’re definitely more about the journey, rather than who gets there first! 🙂
    Many of us ride those events in small groups of 6-8, with compatible skill levels. Pacelining (drafting) is critical to the success of the group. Ideally, for all the reasons you mention, no one gets left behind; we all cross the finish line together.
    The difference in a race (a la Tour de France) is that individuals might seem oh-so buddy-buddy for 99% of the day, but when it comes down to the final few hundred yards it’s every rider for themselves and hang the rest!
    Do my century rides more closely fit your idea of vendor partnership? I guess it depends how keen you are to retain that team spirit of cooperation long-term! 🙂

  3. systematicHR Avatar

    Thanks guys – I would love to ride. Unfortunately I’m about 4 pounds over my race weight at the moment, so no speed demon stuff for me. (I have not raced in ages).

    Stay tuned, there are 3 more of these feeble attempts to conenct cycling to HR coming while the olympics are still on.


  4. Meg Bear Avatar

    I’ve just committed to a 50k ride myself (not at all a race!), which I know is not much, but I’m planning to haul 35lb of toddler on the back + assorted snacks and changing supplies. I think 4lbs is in no way a good excuse (I’m just saying).

    Excellent topic though, I think the concept of drafting works not only for vendor/partnership but also within teams against a shared goal or project. Way to get the conversation going!

  5. Thomas Craven Avatar

    Hey I am currently riding as much as possible…and selling HR softwareon as much as posssible too! Check me out…email me who are you? Did we ever riace together?