Hired a Consultant? Read These 5 Tips First

Perhaps you recently won a large contract and you need more hands to handle it. Or, perhaps a team member needs 12 weeks of FMLA. Or, you simply realized you need expertise from an outsider. Whatever your need, finding a consultant qualified to lighten your load is the easy part. Managing them for mutual success is the challenge.

Many organizations that decide to hire a consultant will prepare for the financial impact, but they often overlook, or at least underestimate, the planning it requires to effectively use one.

This goes beyond having shared understanding of the scope of work, reporting structure, deadlines and payment terms. It’s in the HOW you will work together. Here are five ways you can set your organization up for success with a consultant:

  1. Onboard them like a new employee. Don’t just share policies and procedures, share the unwritten rules, like office culture, shortcuts, and expectations. For example, do you have a short-hand language you use internally? Expect email responses after 6 pm? Are there shortcut documents or branding standards you expect everyone to use? Be sure to share and review these with the consultant in detail before they start.
  2. Consider a Weekly (or monthly) One-on-One. Whether your consultant works remotely or is on site with you, it’s important to connect regularly to provide feedback on their performance and get feedback on yours. You can use this time to answer questions, assure their work needs are being met and to evaluate together whether the work you have assigned is the right match for their skills.
  3. Be Open to Outside Perspectives. No one knows your business better than you – and your consultant will strive to deliver work products that meet YOUR standard. But the consultant may also have a better way and not always feel comfortable sharing it. So, proactively invite that feedback. Make sure the consultant knows, all ideas welcomed.
  4. Keep Talking. Everyone knows project scopes can evolve, or even just your thinking about how to tackle a project evolves, so you may find yourself not actually using the consultant in the way you originally thought you would. That’s okay. Just remember to keep your consultant informed of your new thinking, so they have a chance to adapt – or even contribute to – the evolution.
  5. Partner in Problem Solving. Remember that your consultant likely has other clients. Consider that they might not be able to perform your task (or get back to you) at a certain time on a certain day, or they may have standing meetings that conflict with yours. It can be tempting, and frankly easier, to just reassign the work to someone else on staff, but that may overwork your staff and just defeats your reason for having the consultant. So, speak with your consultant if this becomes an issue, and let them have a role in resolving it with you.