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Great Consultants are Never "In Between Jobs" and HR is Never Part-time: When & How to Deploy Insource & Outsource Toolsets

With a wealth of auxiliary talent options available to company business plans, employers too often miss the mark in deploying the optimal schemata.  In any organization, flexible utilization of experts can create cost savings while simultaneously adding new problem solving opportunities.  Statistically, the most common related employer mistakes are either stagnation or selecting the wrong remedy.  The four primary categories for flexible talent utilization are each unique.  These are consultants, outsource firms, part-time managers and non-profit memberships, and in their uniqueness, these are not to be deployed interchangeably.  The following analysis is a blueprint to determining where to plug and play each option.  Let us start with definitions.

 

Consultant:  “an expert who charges a fee for providing advice or services in a particular field.”  Expertise relies upon extraordinary knowledge relating to a magnitude of employers and third party objectivity.  A consultant advocates specifically for and tailors programs on behalf of the retaining employer.

 

Outsource:  “to buy labor or parts from a source outside a company or business rather than using the company's staff or plant.”

 

Part-Time:  “working less weekly hours than the company’s typical hourly requirement for full-time.”

 

Non-Profit Association:  “tax exempt organization serving the membership as a whole without individualized attention… prohibited from advocating on behalf of or representing private interests” or, in other words, an intended “greater good” concern which is the exact opposite of consulting.  Non-profits are expected to substitute general population betterment in consideration for taxes not paid.  Non-profits by nature make great networking and collaborative organizations but cannot legally participate in the act of private interest consulting.  

 

Clearly, these definitions describe uniquely distinctive situations, at times mutually exclusive, yet many still erroneously use these ideas interchangeably.  The following is a breakdown of where to deploy each option and discussion of expected value provided.  The examples herein focus upon the field of HR Management and Organizational Development.

 

Non-Profit Associations can be a great source of access for publicly available information, to consolidate and discuss without concern for private interest and individualized attention.  Customization is limited but open door networking is high.  With the exclusion of private interest, members must take on their own responsibility to screen and select only applicable offerings and talent provided by such greater good organizations.  Especially in HR/OD, what is appropriate to one employer can be entirely irrelevant and inappropriate to the next employer.  Classroom learning, written publications and networking access are expected to be among top offerings, and these can be offered at great prices given the tax exemptions and other fiscal advantages awarded to these entities.  Individualized workshops, private employer advocacy, targeted strategic planning and custom programs are largely if not entirely prohibited.  Liability is more difficult to subrogate to a non-profit; therefore, reliance upon non-profits as "experts" can be challenging. Where customization and private interest is desired, the following 3 options are better suited.

 

Part-time Managers can be an outstanding remedy to those disciplines which are not required full-time by an employer.  Depending upon organizational structure, examples may include Training, Compensation/Benefits and Talent Acquisition.  Smaller employers without the headcount to support 40 hours weekly work in these disciplines can divert these activities reasonably to a smaller time increment per week.  Certain activities are more spontaneous in emergence and can be scheduled with less ease, making part-time management less appropriate.  These include legal compliance, performance management, employee relations and safety.  While a certain percentage of these disciplines can be compartmentalized to a part-time schedule, the organization needs at least a backup “go to” during all operational times.  Where part-time managers are utilized, there is typically opportunity to choose consultancy or outsource instead.  A challenge with finding a part-time manager is finding someone willing and able to consistently work only part-time and during the employer’s required hours.  Turnover can be high, jeopardizing the learning curve and cost efficiencies.  Semi-retirees can be a great option, provided they are still ambitious to learn proactively and do not demand to be paid for what they did well for a prior employer.

 

Outsource can be a great option where better efficiencies and/or outcomes are gained by using another dedicated entity’s site and resources.  Depending upon the company’s existing resources, possible examples include Employee Assessment, Training, Benefits Administration, Payroll and Talent Acquisition.   The most common outsource mistake is where labor intensive organizations rely inappropriately upon PEOs (professional employer organizations), temporary help services or RPOs (recruitment process outsource) for talent acquisition.  Used well, quality outsource companies in these fields can control costs and streamline efficiencies.  Used poorly, these methods can create barrier to attracting, selecting, engaging and retaining the right talent. Appropriate outsource of candidate assessment not only streamlines efficiency and allows expert input, but also very importantly allows third party unbiased objectivity, which is especially essential when incumbent talent is being evaluated.

 

Consultants and non-profits cannot be used interchangeably and by nature are mutually exclusive.  Consultants are entirely devoted to private interest concerns.  Top consultants understand that each employer is unique – in culture, brand, labor intensity, business plan and comprehensive operations.  “One size fits all” solutions do not exist in consulting.  A great consultant knows the difference and how to apply the other 3 options and will work collaboratively on that team, also offering his/her own resource team.  A great consultant works with and works for the employer, drawing upon multi-employer case studies without betraying any company’s intellectual property.  When selecting a consultant, it is critical to understand that consultancy is NOT the natural evolution of the seasoned professional who created success during internal corporate life… or was formerly entrusted by a successful corporate entity.  Successful consultancy requires the proven ability to simultaneously serve multiple unique organizations through never-ending research, analysis, adaptation and deep knowledge of multi-employer case studies.  As what works for one company need not work well for another, success for one or a few corporate entities is not necessarily transferrable predictive success for your organization.  Great consultants are never “in between jobs.” They are constantly in demand, loyally retained, adaptable, and they stay busy in any economy.  They do not rest on laurels and they hone their salesmanship… needing to constantly promote change and inertia.

 

 

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, September 14, 2010