What We’ll Cover In This Piece:
- Why keeping a one-team mindset and encouraging collaboration between consultants and employees is beneficial
- The importance of onboarding consultants quickly and efficiently
- How consultants can help advise managers in a support system role
Estimated Time to Read: 8 minutes
Related Article: 3 Hiring Pain Points–And How BenchWatch Solves Them
As a manager, hiring consultants means you can do more for less. Consultants bring a high level of talent and experience at a lower cost than a full-time employee. From a financial perspective, hiring consultants is a no-brainer.
However, using a consultant workforce requires effective management.
Regardless of how talented your consultants are or how low they’ve set their bill rates, if you mismanage them you’ll be missing out on most of their potential value.
This article is going to prescribe three management practices that will allow you to get the most out of your contracted workforce, starting with:
1. Keep A One-Team Mindset
It can be tricky to integrate consultants seamlessly into your team. Your full-time employees and consultants have different contracts, trajectories, responsibilities, even different badge colors. However, they have to all come together as a cohesive team.
An inexperienced project manager will allow the consultants and the full-time employees to work isolated from one another.
Sometimes, this means the project manager will treat the consultants better than their full-time employees, delegating “less important” work to their full-time employees. This is a mistake–nobody should be given any preferential treatment. Each person is just as important to the team’s success as the other.
Other times, this means the project manager will isolate all of the consultants in one small shared office.
Separating the team into tribes like this stifles collaboration. The whole project slows as a result, which can get expensive when you’re paying your consultants by the hour.
If you want your team to come together successfully, you have to force them to share a space—both in terms of their physical workspace, and their responsibilities.
The best project managers will actually mix-up their teams intentionally so that consultants and full-time employees are forced to collaborate.
2. Onboard Consultants Quickly, But Efficiently
One of the challenges of working with consultants is getting them up to speed fast enough.
You need your consultants to be able to work with the same autonomy as full-time employees in order to get the most out of them, but full-time employees typically have been through training programs and have spent significant time in your organization already.
Consultants don’t have that. They need a specialized onboarding process.
The best companies prepare onboarding materials that educate consultants on the company, from its history to its structure, and the project they’re working on, both its scope and their role within it.
Consultants don’t need to be trained on new skills—you contracted them because they already have those. What they need is a thorough education about the project they’re coming onto.
Once that’s in place, it’s incredibly easy to get a large team of consultants up to speed and providing value quickly.
3. Be Transparent With Your Consultants
Consultants can be some of the best advisers you’ve ever had on a project–a sort of neutral, 3rd party support system.
A consultant has usually been on many similar projects at different companies, and can give you insights as to common obstacles and strategies for overcoming them.
Consultants are also the ideal mediators. When full-time employees are having real problems with management, consultants can bring the concerns to management in a way that doesn’t come across as insubordinate.
When management is having problems with a full-time employee, inversely, consultants can bring up their concerns with the employee as a co-worker, not as a boss.
The best managers will use consultants in this capacity—as mediators, advisors, sometimes even as therapists. Not using consultants in these ways limits the value you get out of your contracted workforce, and will hold your project back from progressing as smoothly as it should.
Consultants Are Only As Good As Their Manager
When you’re hiring full-time employees, you have to make a lot of difficult judgements:
- Does this person have the potential to grow within our company?
- Am I confident this person won’t washout in their first year?
- Can this person learn the skills I need them to learn to succeed?
You don’t have to make any of those with consultants.
- Consultants aren’t going to grow within your company.
- If a consultant can’t deliver, you end the contract. No severance, no mess.
- Consultants are hired because they already have the skills you need.
The only real question you have to answer when you bring on consultants is this:
Do you have the management skills to get the most out of them?