Hiring managers face difficult decisions every day. Should I hire a permanent employee or an independent contractor? Which applicant best fits the position I am attempting to fill? However, no decision probably evokes as much tension as hiring a consultant. Consultants create tension because they are essentially management-level individuals with little perceived accountability, and their jobs are judging others by performance and position. It’s no wonder that consultants are mostly met with skepticism by the company’s full-time employees.
You may be able to avoid issues by learning how best to hire consultants. As with any employment agreement, you want to ensure that all communication with the consultant is clear and concise. Having a written brief that can be submitted for the consultant’s understanding may be appropriate, and working with your legal team to ensure that any agreement covers the necessary work product is a sound way of doing business.
Also, researching the consultant’s organization beforehand is always a good policy. Much like other occupations, consultants have specialties, and you want to make sure that you hire a consultant that is familiar with your situation.
These tips should help you find the best consultant for your needs. Whether you should hire a consultant or not, however, may be a bit more complicated.
When Hiring a Consultant May Be Best for Your Business
Hiring a consultant announces to the world that your business is serious about creating profit and restructuring. Almost all matters involving consultants are followed in various financial journals, which may mean free publicity for you and your company.
Internally, hiring a consultant should be rare and should communicate the severity of a problem or situation. Employees should never feel hiring a consultant is a common occurrence. Hopefully, that atmosphere will be conducive to cooperation with the consultant.
Here are two scenarios in which you probably should consider hiring a consultant.
1. A Workflow Process Is Broken and No One Knows How to Fix It
Most corporate veterans are aware of this scenario. A workflow process is completely broken and usually, one employee is running around trying to make sure the process doesn’t completely break down. This employee has a thankless task and generally doesn’t have the authority to make changes that may make everyone’s job easier.
Moreover, this broken process generally covers many different departments, so no one person knows exactly how to fix it. Even worse, sometimes senior employees fear change, so they throw up roadblocks that employees won’t be able to outmaneuver. In cases like these, a consultant can be a godsend. The consultant isn’t wedded to the process and doesn’t have any preexisting ideas, which may compromise efficiency. As an outsider, the consultant can mingle with every department, avoiding any social norms, which could hamper an efficiency increase. Also, consultants are difficult to “outrank,” so employees with their own petty fiefdoms tend to be bulldozed by a relentless consultant. All in all, having a consultant is positive in this instance.
2. An Outsider Is Needed for Interests of Fairness
Haven’t you wondered why nearly every Hollywood award show features an appearance by accounting consultants? Well, it’s simple. To achieve the perception of fairness, the host features consultants to prove that the vote counting is evenhanded.
Similarly, in your business, consultants are impartial when handling difficult situations. If layoffs need to happen in a department, a consultant can make decisions that will help the company’s bottom line but may be too difficult for full-time staff to make without coming off as biased.
With an outside consultant, ex-employees are likely to appreciate that their termination was nothing personal. As we all know, humans are tribal beings and form allegiances. If a manager fires an employee considered valuable by coworkers, they may become disgruntled, which will affect productivity. Using a consultant avoids these issues.
When Hiring a Consultant May Not Be the Best Idea
Hiring a consultant may not always be the best practice. Here are a few situations in which avoiding hiring a consultant may be for the best.
1. Everything Is Going Well with No Issues on the Horizon
While this may seem self-evident, hiring consultants when a business is up, running, and making a profit isn’t the best policy. Consultants are generally hired to fix problems, and while they can make suggestions to improve workflow, consultants may also find problems where none exist and suggest unnecessary changes. Also, a happy, productive staff may be upset with an unwarranted intrusion by a consultant. So, if everything is going well, why rock the boat?
Another situation to avoid is hiring a consultant without informing affected management first. Nothing diminishes the effectiveness of a consultant more than a manager who has been unnecessarily alienated. Inform all stakeholders before bringing the consultant on board, unless the stakeholder is part of the problem and can quash the implementation of the consultant.
2. The Company Already Knows the Solution to the Problem
Often, a company knows what the solution to a problem is but is unwilling to implement it. In this situation, a consultant may well be helpless and hiring one would be a waste of time and money.
For example, if an irreplaceable employee using a proprietary system has a poor attitude, the answers are obvious and probably won’t need a consultant’s perspective. Changing the proprietary system, forcing the employee to train a replacement, or reaching out to the employee and seeing if any negativity can be abated are just a few of the obvious solutions for this problem.
However, if the company refuses to implement these solutions (such as a manager who refuses to terminate a troublesome employee), it’s unlikely that a consultant will be able to fix the problem. While hiring a consultant in this situation may seem proactive, it simply is a procrastination technique and should be avoided.
Deciding When to Call a Consultant
Deciding when to hire a consultant is a tricky decision. Every company faces differing obstacles, and hiring a consultant may not always be the right call. Using the guidelines listed here, you can decide on the correct course of action quickly and confidently.
If you’re a hiring manager trying to find that perfect employee, contact us at Mapertunity. Our Geographic information system (GIS) will help you find a candidate close to your workplace, while our job portal helps you sort through resumes.