Do consultants pose a threat to your company culture?
Combined, Americans spend over one billion hours freelancing or consulting each week. One in three Americans have worked as a consultant in the past year, and 61% of those people say they do so by choice – likely due to the flexible hours and competitive pay (for more information, read Upwork’s “Freelancing in America” report).
On the flipside, companies are relying on consultants more and more to lead complex projects, bridge the gap following an employee’s resignation, or provide support for a very specific skillset. These businesses are taking advantage of a highly skilled, ready-to-start workforce that can quickly make a big impact and relieve pressure on the rest of the team.
But what happens to that culture you’ve carefully cultivated when you add a bunch of consultants to the mix? You’ve codified your guiding principles, invested thousands of man hours into brand management, and carefully hired a workforce of like-minded individuals. How can these temp workers ever really ‘get it’?
They can’t. Unless you make their cultural initiation a priority.
What temp workers are, and what they aren’t
The word ‘temp’ evokes a lot of feelings – and many of those are less than desirable. Hiring Managers tend to think of temp workers as placeholders, and as such they fail to devote the same level of interest to their onboarding and initiation.
But ‘consultants’ – the more PC term our industry has come up with – are so much more than temporary fillers. As cited above, 61% of consultants choose this lifestyle willingly. They are not out of options; they WANT to work with your company to help build something impactful. What you’re tapping into is a growing group of people who are constantly self-educating, improving their skills to remain competitive, and learning from a variety of companies and situations.
They’re an invaluable source of knowledge and they play an important role in your company. So why neglect their cultural conversion?
Set the tone with your direct hire staff
A strange thing happens when you mix direct hire and consultant workers – you get a splintering of your workforce. Somehow, without your knowledge or intention, the consultants are treated as second class citizens. It’s not really something you can put your finger on, but you know it’s happening.
It is your responsibility, as the Hiring Manager or executive, to set a positive tone with your existing workforce. If you’re excited, they will be too. Introduce the new person as a member of the team and explain what value they’ll be able to impart during their weeks or months with your company. This shouldn’t be an unplanned, 30-second introduction – it should give your team members a solid sense of the kind of person they are welcoming into their ranks.
Little things can make a big difference
It’s hard to devote significant energy to every new person who will be joining your company for a few weeks/months. Your time – and that of your subordinates – is valuable. But so is your culture.
Lucky for you, you can protect both your time and culture with a little smart planning. All it takes is 15 minutes:
Send a welcome email notifying your team of the new consultant. State your excitement, offer information on their background, and briefly explain why you chose them. Encourage your team to reach out and show them the ropes.
Sit down with your new consultant and explain the basics of your culture to catch them up quickly. At Proven Recruiting, we have five guiding principles that we often reference in conversation – this would be a good place to start.
Let them in on some company-specific traditions. Do people rely on Slack for most communications, or Outlook? Is it normal to have impromptu meetings, or is this a calendar-first kind of company? Give them the information they need to fit in.
Invite them to company events! If you’ve hired a consultant from an outside firm, they may primarily feel loyal to that company. Make them feel at home with your people by including them in happy hours and off-sites.
All you’re doing is setting your consultants up for success, both professionally and culturally. No one likes to feel out of place. Help them understand what makes your company worth joining. If you don’t – and you allow uninitiated consultants to work at your office – you risk damaging the culture you so value. Plus, happy people do their best work.
Next time you’re looking to hire a consultant, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We work with hundreds of Finance, Accounting and Technology professionals from the staff level to the C-suite, and we’d be happy to make an introduction.