As a consulting and marketing agency established in 1997, we have placed more than one hundred
consultants into projects at over two dozen companies, including HPE, Dell, Western Digital, and Red Hat. Over time, we have seen many changes in the way companies utilize consultants, and what they are being asked to do.
In the early days of consulting (before 2005), we saw the hiring of consultants for the purpose of
primarily meeting extremely specific needs. Consultants took on projects that were out of the ordinary or required specific kinds of knowledge. Consultants worked on things like SAP implementations, authoring specialized whitepapers on complex technology or business subjects, managing large product launches, or performing partner-related activities that required a third party to work on.
Fast forward to today’s work environment. The post-pandemic professional workplace has many
employees operating in the same way as consultants do – remotely or in a hybrid work environment. When employees do come into the office, they operate in a ‘hotel’ office situation where they use temporary desks. And the attitude of high-tech veteran employees has changed. They understand their jobs may become superfluous as newer technologies emerge or business models change. The business needs of companies alter even over a few weeks or months. As an example, look at how companies are scrambling to incorporate artificial intelligence into their business models today. Was that on anyone’s radar six months ago? Where employees used to think ‘my job is to show up at 9am and work eight hours’, it has now become ‘how can I add some real value to my company this week?’
And for consultants, they are now thinking like this: ‘how can I do such a good job at this engagement that I become invaluable to them?” Their objective is not to think about the current engagement, but to figure out how to excel at their current job that you get hired again for a follow-on project. Consultants thinking long-term. Who would have thought that could occur?
Employment has become more temporary and fleeting in nature. According to Apollo Technical one-third of new employees quit after about six (6) months. One expert who checked with high tech workers at 15 large companies found that on average they stayed at the company between 10.7 and 26 months. What was interesting in the research was why the employee left the company. It might be that another better opportunity came up, or they were laid off, or something else. So, in this kind of environment, it is better for high tech companies to embrace the trend and hire consultants to start with. Let me explain.
Hiring a consultant versus an employee makes sense at several levels.
1. Right up front the engagement is shorter term in nature. Both sides understand that. No need
to worry about the consultant leaving soon – it is built into the contract agreement.
2. A consultant is hired for a specific work project. No guesswork there. Onboarding is quick as
they already have expertise in the project area they were hired to fill.
3. There is a solid opportunity with the consultant for management to ‘get to know them’ and
understand their work ethic. Hiring the consultant as an employee after that then becomes
4. At the end of the project, there are several options, all of which are to the company’s
advantage. The company can keep on working with the consultant – offering them a different
short-duration project, or you can ask them to interview for a permanent position, or you can do another short-term extension on the same project. Or the consultant can just move onto the next gig.
Notice I am not talking about the cost of a consultant versus that of an employee. In today’s work
environment the overall cost is just not that much different, especially if you work with the right agency. Also, if an employee is onboarded, then leaves after 6-months, that represents a sunk expense anyway. Any company that has hired and managed both consultants and employees understands this.
So why not consider hiring a consultant first, instead of an employee?