Hiring and letting people go are some of the most important decisions that every business must make. Often times, these decisions can make the difference between a failing organization and one that thrives. Why? Because the key to longevity is to have an efficient workforce. Sometimes, however, issues may arise that put the employer in need of some extra assistance.
Think about the number of seasonal companies that go through an increase in demand during a specific time frame. For them, hiring new workers may not be a great option because they only need that extra help temporarily. In these cases, they resort instead to a very common practice amongst employers – they hire a third-party consultant. What are some benefits to this method and why should more organizations consider it?
Specific Subject-Area Expert
When a construction company enters the tax season, it will usually have to find a certified public accountant that can aid with the preparation of its tax return. After all, most construction workers are not accounting experts. Counting on them to complete the company’s return would thus be a quick way of generating problems with the IRS. Instead, the business will hire a tax expert who can handle the return for it professionally. So, the first benefit of outside consultants is their area-specific expertise: they are more knowledgeable about a specific topic. By hiring outside consultants, businesses can avoid exposing themselves to the risks and legal liabilities involved in trying to do something that their own personnel have no formal training in.
According to an author, consultant, and philosophy professor from New Jersey, William Jaworski, the most important advantage to hiring consultants is the unbiased perspective they can provide. According to Jaworski, the past forty years of social scientific research shows that everyone has cognitive biases—dispositions to make judgments based not on objective information, but on one’s own subjective perceptions and ideas. These biases, Jaworski explains, are part of our evolutionary heritage. In the environment in which humans evolved, it was advantageous for our human ancestors to develop a host of psychological dispositions such as dispositions to form judgments by very little information. “If you approach a prey animal such as a rabbit,” Jaworski explains, “it doesn’t stick around to see whether you pose a real threat; it bolts right away. Why? Because in the past rabbits that bolted right away had a survival advantage: the cost of being wrong about a non-threat was lower than the cost of being wrong about a real threat. Likewise, humans who were able to make snap judgments and act decisively by little information had a survival advantage, and we have inherited those dispositions.” The problem, says Jaworski, is that there are some contexts in which those dispositions can be harmful. These include contexts, like a business, in which accurate judgments are at a premium. In these contexts, it’s important for businesses to do what they can to filter out biases.
Businesses can seldom expect their workers to be unbiased about the company since the workers are materially involved in the enterprise. In fact, a lot of their jobs are directly connected to the success of the venture. So, asking for their unbiased opinion would generally be a mistake as they cannot objectively provide it. Outside consultants can provide the needed objectivity. Their task is extremely clear. They come in, analyze the business, and create a report. To them, there are usually no incentives powerful enough to generate the biases that are likely to influence the judgment of the business’s own employees. As a result, they can provide businesses with a clearer, more objective sense of what steps need to be taken to improve their prospects.
A popular quote that is often misattributed to Albert Einstein claimed the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. This is also a problem that many companies will face at some point. Namely, they will find themselves in a rut after spending a great deal of time trying to solve new problems with outdated methods. And when discussing new ideas, they might be unable to come up with anything fruitful as they never needed that type of creativity. Well, consultants get paid to create new ways of solving things. Thus, they will come into the business with a fresh set of ideas that many other workers may never have considered.
Uplifting Employees’ Morale
William Jaworski reminds that the key to longevity is to have a positive atmosphere. This is important because it motivates people to stick with the company in the long-run and minimizes turnover—something that in turn reduces the cost of training new personnel. Of course, not every organization can keep all of their employees happy. In fact, most of them will be unable to do so. In that case, businesses should have a backup plan that will allow them to uplift the employees’ spirits. Once again, consultants can be a solid option for developing such a plan as many of them have a lot of professional and personal experience in this area.
Adding to the Workforce
Ultimately, if one does not recognize any of the benefits mentioned above, there is still power in numbers. In other words, a consultant may come in handy to simply offer an extra pair of hands if a large, short-term project arises. In fact, most seasonal businesses hire their consultants for this reason specifically. Then, when the rush is over, they can terminate the relationship with the consultant without any backlash. Why? Because in the vast majority of cases it is clear that this is to be a temporary position, and so there is no expectation that the employment relationship will last beyond the project’s completion.