The Vector View on the Partnership Between Internal and External Practitioners

March 9th, 2016   •   no comments   

Vector Group_Working in Tandem_TheVectorView_blog

A few years back two of us presented the topic of Working in Tandem: The Partnership Between Internal and External Practitioners at the International Conference and Exposition (ICE) for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD now ATD). We saw a need then to more fully describe the relationship between the internal practitioner (HR, training, management, etc.) and the external consultant. In this case my colleague was a Senior Vice President in HR and I was–and still am–an external consultant.

We worked together on a project and thought it important to share what our perceptions were in developing that relationship initially and making it work. We presented our perceptions, our concerns and our best practices to a mixed audience of internals and externals. The Q&A following our concurrent session was lively and enough so that ASTD again selected our proposal and we presented the same topic but updated to Working In Tandem, Part Deux: The Partnership Taking Action the following year (2002 in New Orleans).

I saw some postings on LinkedIn recently that reminded me of this presentation. I dusted it off, updated it slightly and posted it here with this blog. I believe there is still value in the concepts because things have not changed much since I conducted research for this presentation back in 2002.

Here is what I found then that challenged both the internal and the external practitioners:

OUR FINDINGS: Current Trends



  • Continued downsizing
  • Increased shareholder pressure for short term profits, unforgiving marketplace (#3 trend – ASTD/AHRD 2001 Future Search Conference)
  • Continued acquisitions, mergers, and joint ventures (HP & Compaq, AT&T, Broadband & Comcast)
  • New companies must be able to get up and running quickly
  • 25% companies reduced or frozen 2002 salaries, 66% lowered planned salary increases, 40% lowering 2002 revenue and profit expectations, 30% anticipate staff reductions in next 12 months, 21% eliminated nonessential business travel, 46% reduced nonessential travel as much as possible (Organization Resource Counselors, New York)
  • Stock market woes
  • Severance packages are more generous (Lee Hecht Harrison Consulting)
  • Decline in consumer confidence – Jan. 2001 115.7, Jan. 2002 97.8 (The Conference Board)
  • Decline in help-wanted advertising – Dec. 2000 79, Jan. 2002 47 (The Conference Board)
  • Increase in unemployment rate – Feb. 2001 4.2, Feb. 2002 5.5 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Demographers forecast tight labor markets for the long-term (SHRM)


World Events

  •  Increased security (terrorist attacks, bio-terrorism, personal safety, emergency preparedness)
  • Continued global competition
  • Renewed importance of business ethics (Enron, Arthur Andersen)
  • Increased effects of globalization (#1 trend – ASTD/AHRD 2001 Future Search Conference)
  • Eroding trade barriers




  • Driving new ways of organizing work
  • Increased importance of end-to-end solutions for customers
  • Less than 1% of the world’s internet users have high-speed connections (making streaming video problematic)

Changing Demographics

  • Increased effects of diversity in the workplace (#1 trend – ASTD/AHRD 2001 Future Search Conference)
  • Increased contract and project workers (vs. traditional jobs)80% of workers are in jobs that don’t match their personalities and interests (Herman Group research)
  • 75 – 90% of doctor visits are stress-related (American Institute of Stress)

Workforce (Axon Consulting’s Loyalty Institute unless otherwise noted)

  • Showing highest level of workforce commitment in 5 years – 54% remain with current employer if offered similar job with higher pay elsewhere
  • 23% don’t believe their organization can recruit and retain the best talent
  • 30% don’t have faith in their organizations ability to reduce costs
  • 35% don’t believe their organization will be able to improve compensation or benefits in 2002
  • 4/5 of all workers have reexamined priorities – need to spend more time and energy on personal, family, and community activities and less time at work
  • 27% say their organization doesn’t understand the need for work-life balance
  • 1/5 concerned about employers ability to help during time of national and company stress
  • 18% feel job environment isn’t safe psychologically or free from intimidation, fear, and harassment
  • 10% more are planning on taking vacation (Xylo, Inc.)
  • Applications for non-profit and public sector work has increased substantially since Sept. 11 (SHRM)


Learning and Development

  • Change and promise (a positive shift is underway)
  • Changed focus: from traditional training to improving workplace performance
  • Increased demand for just-in-time training (#2 trend – ASTD/AHRD 2001 Future Search Conference)
  • Hasn’t changed significantly since Sept. 11
  • Lag in addressing globalization, environmental destruction, and worker equity
  • Short-term, reactive stance (often in response to short-term organizational pressure for profitability)
  • Increased use of Web-based delivery (safety and financial reasons)
  • Chief Learning Officers linking business needs to performance strategies and enhancing individual and organizational productivity

The ASTD Top Ten Trends*


Based on a Future Search conference held at ASTD’s International Conference last year (2001) entitled, Shaping the Future: Leading Workplace Learning and Performance in the New Millennium, they identified the following Top Ten Trends and listed them in order of importance:

  1. Money: increasing pressure from shareholders for short-term profits
  2. Diversity: growing cultural diversity; balancing local with the global
  3. Time: shorter time frames for learning
  4. Work: rise of virtual work; people are disconnected from each other
  5. World: changes in the world’s distribution of its population
  6. Meaning: in a world of change, people are looking for work that has meaning
  7. Change: with a quickening pace of change, people are increasingly resisting
  8. Knowledge: knowledge sector accounts for a larger percentage of the world economy
  9. Technology: technology continues to impact work and how people learn
  10. Careers: change between employers and employees; rise of the free agent worker

*Van Buren, Mark E. & Erskine, William. The 2002 ASTD State of the Industry Report, American Society for Training and Development, Alexandria, VA, p. 4

Back to the Future-2016

Are you seeing a great deal of difference between 2002 and 2016 in terms of challenges facing all of us?

There is still a high need for collaboration between those stretched internal resources and outside consultants with the necessary expertise to bring results.

At Vector Group

We work in partnership with our clients by establishing mutual goals, agreeing on expected outcomes and then developing shared accountabilities. We freely share what we know and we build our client’s internal capabilities to whatever level of expertise the client requests and supports.  To the extent that our clients desire it, our expertise stays with them.

In short, we always follow what my colleague and I presented way back in 2001-02. Vector Group is a values-led organization and we strive to live the following practices and model these behaviors in our work.

    • Regardless of what the client would like to hear, however painful, we are unflinchingly honest with our clients.
    • Add real value beyond the initial task.
    • No unexpected charges for time or administration. The meter never runs on phone calls or email. Nickel and diming is painful for all.
    • If we can’t do it, we’ll say so. We will point the client in the right direction with a referral or our best advice.
    • Clients see the same consultants from start to completion
    • Transfer of skills and knowledge from day one. Our commitment is to work ourselves out of a job.
    • We do not divulge client information. Our clients are assured that we do not betray their trust.

We look forward to hearing from you.



Gary W. Craig is the Managing Partner and COO for the Americas and Asia at Vector Group, Inc. You may reach him at [email protected]. Vector Group is a global consulting firm specializing in systematic organizational diagnosis and interventions to ensure that corporate strategy, culture, and infrastructure are aligned to achieve breakthrough success.  Please visit our website at or call us at (800) 566-0877.

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