In defense of consultants

My name is Holly.  I am a consultant.  Who would have thought 4 words could be perceived so derogatorily.  Many times I find myself squirming when I listen to how badly consultants are portrayed by just about everyone.  We are seen as purveyors of snake oil, greedy, sneaky, liars and cheats.  Granted there are consultants like those, but I happen to know quite a few and we aren’t all part of a band of thieves roaming the land seeking out the gullible yet moneyed firms.  If you think of your consultants as part of your larger pool of talent, you may discover that you’ve got resources you didn’t consider you had.

Here are five great ways to use a consultant:

  1. External research and synthesizing best practices – let’s face it, research can be time-consuming and time is one thing my clients consistently don’t get enough of.  Don’t just ask your consultant to research, ask them to help you make sense of the information for your industry, current business challenges, etc.  It may take a little longer, but will be much more valuable in the end.
  2. Strategy-planning – when you are in charge of a unit, you are typically tasked with developing strategy, but it’s hard to orchestrate and participate, so this is a time when it is smart to call on extra help.
  3. Design work  – this can be the fun part of your job, but you don’t have to give up all the good stuff, just get yourself a sidekick, one who will collaborate with you, not present you with a fait accompli.
  4. Program audits – sometimes I’m asked to come in and develop a new strategy, and along the way I find out that there are lots of great things that already exist in-house and there is potential to re-purpose content, which can be quicker and cheaper.  Conducting an audit will not only give you insight to what you have and what’s working, but may also help you flesh out some of those skeletons in the proverbial closet.  To paraphrase Shrek “better out than in”
  5. Contingent staff – instead of trying to figure out how to justify hiring another FTE, why not consider a “retainer” – hours per month that you think could enhance your ability to deliver.  Maybe this is a “thought leader in residence” or a OD consultant for a myriad of projects, rather than per project.

In a future post, I’ll talk about some of the things to look for when choosing a consultant, as well as working with one.


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

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5 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yosie Saint-Cyr and Holly MacDonald. Holly MacDonald said: My post for Fireside HR – In Defense of Consultants: https://hrblogatresearchvoice.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/in-defense-of-consultants/ […]

  2. See – told ya – here’s a freebie from a consultant: http://www.hrvoice.org/story.aspx?storyid=6501&issueid=924&pagemode=displaystory&regionid=10 (and a good one, too!).

  3. […] the right consultant Posted on July 16, 2010 by hollymacdonald I wrote before in defense of consultants.  Today’s post is about choosing the right consultant.  I am the right consultant for some, […]

  4. […] with a consultant Posted on July 30, 2010 by hollymacdonald OK, so you’ve followed my advice and selected a consultant, and now you are wondering how this relationship might evolve.  How are […]

  5. […] is the amount of time I might put into Twitter actually going to be worth it?  As a consultant (I shouldn’t be ashamed to label myself as such), obviously I am interested in whether or not it will help me sell my services, but as a learning […]

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