Onboarding Consultants: 6 Ways to Help Set Up Successful Engagements

By Robert Half July 12, 2018 at 10:53am

Businesses engage the specialized expertise of consultants for many reasons, which can include preparing for an initial public offering, executing a merger or acquisition, or meeting new compliance mandates. Consultants also often assist financial leadership with the change management necessary to make major change initiatives, such as business systems implementations, successful.

Consultants are used to jumping into new work situations on short notice, and businesses value their inherent ability to hit the ground running on their assignments. However, the consultants you bring into your firm can still benefit from a thoughtful onboarding process, especially if you plan to engage them for long-term and complex assignments.

Following are six ways to help set the stage for consultants to have a successful engagement at your company and tackle their assignments with even more gusto:

1. Organize first-day logistics in advance

Don’t make consultants waste valuable time on the first day of their assignment just figuring out how to get started. (You wouldn’t do that to a full-time hire, right?) Make sure all the get-going basics are sorted out for consultants in advance. Arrange for them to have logins and passwords to all relevant systems, a building access security badge, and a parking pass.

Consultants will also need a secure computer, or their laptop may need to be configured by IT to access your network. Also, make sure consultants have designated private space for making calls, meeting with stakeholders and, of course, focusing on their tasks.

2. Give them a sense of the ‘big picture’

Before you jump into project details, provide consultants with a brief overview of your company. Giving them the “big picture” view of your firm’s objectives and priorities, and how their work fits into it, can help ensure projects will meet deadlines and stay under budget. This background information will be important for consultants to keep in focus as they strategize their first and subsequent steps toward solving your business problems.

3. Explain where things stand — and where you want to go

Whether you’re working directly with consultants or through a staffing firm, you likely have already defined the project. You may have even communicated extensively with the consultants before their arrival. The devil is in the details, though, so kick off the relationship by making absolutely certain everyone is on the same page.

A good starting place is to explain what actions have been taken on the project before the consultants’ arrival and to outline the challenges your firm has been facing. Communicate expected results and deliverables, including dates for milestones and completion.

4. Formally introduce consultants to your team

Consultants will be well-positioned to perform their jobs optimally when they have full collaboration and a good rapport with all stakeholders.

That means they’ll need your help to know who the project stakeholders are and to meet them. The team members who consultants need to interact with directly will vary depending on the type of work they’re engaged to perform. However, even consultants deeply focused on business systems or data analytics during their engagement still need to know who’s who.

When you’re onboarding consultants, take these individuals around your office personally or set up video calls to introduce them to key contacts face to face. Also, send a department-wide email, so your staff members know who the consultants are, who they will be working with and, more importantly, why they’ve been brought on.

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5. Give consultants a good sense of your organizational culture

The more your consultants understand and feel connected to your firm’s organizational culture, the better they can deliver on their projects. As mentioned above, the first-day orientation you provide as part of onboarding consultants should include an overview of the company’s mission and values, which are core to your organizational culture. But don’t stop there.

To help consultants really fit in during their assignment, treat them as full-fledged team members throughout their engagement. Have lunch together. Invite them to after-work gatherings, social functions and team-building events with your full-time staff. Include them in relevant team emails, activities and meetings. A warm, welcoming atmosphere paves the way for cordial working relationships and project success.

6. Don’t just ‘set and forget’ your consultants

The onboarding process today for any employee is (or should be) much different from the “Well, here’s your desk. Good luck!” orientation of old. It should be holistic and extend well beyond the first day. So, be sure to meet with consultants at regular intervals — not only to check in on their progress but also to give them the opportunity to alert you to any challenges they may be facing.

If your organization is like many, you may be increasing your use of consultants. You also may find that you want to use the same consultants for more than one engagement. That makes it even more important for your firm to create a formal process for onboarding consultants that mirrors the best practices you use to help ensure your full-time hires succeed.

The in-depth expertise that specialized consultants provide is a valuable investment for your firm. To get the best return on that investment, don’t skip, or skimp on, onboarding consultants.

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