We know that consultants can be invaluable in bringing an outside perspective and industry expertise, yet oftentimes it isn’t clear when you may “need” a consultant. Below we have broken out recommendations on when to hire consultants and when it doesn’t make sense to do so. Read on for how to tell the difference!
WHEN TO HIRE A CONSULTANT
- To Gain an Outside Perspective – It is impossible to overstate the value of an outside perspective in helping clients think outside the box of their day-to-day company-entrenched lens. Consultants not only offer an outside perspective but an educated one based on competitors within a clients’ industry. This type of experience and benchmarking would take years to develop in-house, if ever, whereas hiring a consultant can fill this need immediately.
- To Utilize Focused Expertise – Some clients may shy away from hiring a consultant on the grounds that they would rather build the expertise in-house. But why choose when they can have both? Hiring a consultant not only tactically fills an immediate capability gap within a team, but it also allows client staff time to develop this same skills-set via educational courses, on the job training, and one-on-one partnering with a consultant.
- To Fill a Specialized but Temporary Need – Consultants fill specialized temporary immediate needs among client teams for work that has an end date, such as project delivery phases. Hiring a full-time employee to meet a temporary need is costlier in the long run since they wouldn’t be leaving when the project is completed.
WHEN NOT TO HIRE A CONSULTANT
- When the Scope of Work Isn’t Clear – Due to the specialized nature of consultant skills, clients should have a clear scope of work for the consultant to carry out during the engagement. While some flexibility is reasonable, the way to ensure the expectations of deliverables are met is to be clear in the scope of work what the consultant will be delivering. This helps to level-set expectations on what is within scope and out of scope.
- To Backfill a FTE Role – When day-to-day operations are at risk due to team bandwidth and staffing shortages, it can be tempting to hire a consultant. However, this means paying a premium hourly rate for non-specialized work, which is not the best use of company funds. On the consultant’s side, they might be less than enthusiastic to be assigned tasks that a lower-powered resource can perform. Clients in this situation should consider hiring a contractor instead – at a low hourly rate, who can complete day-to-day tasks. Clients may even elect to hire this person permanently once their contract is complete!
- To Perform Work That is Ongoing – Projects are by definition temporary, however vague the end date may be. Hiring consultants for work that doesn’t have an end date (even a flexible one) is more appropriate for full-time employees. Consider too that paying consultant rates for specialized talent and then not making use of that talent is a poor use of the company budget and a poor use of the consultant’s time.
In sum, we recommend hiring a consultant when a client has a temporary need for a highly specialized skills-set and a skills gap within their team. In other instances, it might make more sense to hire a contractor or draw from the existing talent pool to meet business needs.
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