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Consultancy is about building trust swiftly

I took my first consultancy job in 1989. Day one and I was off to Bradford where I spent the next 12 months living in a hotel. I do look back fondly on that time for all sorts of reasons – the challenge, the earning potential, but mostly because of the people I worked with. Twenty of us could be on the project at one time, people came and people went – often without explanation – but a small core remained, including the project manager. This meant that we were a team – despite being away from home, we weren’t completely isolated or too dispersed and we had trust in each other.

In the current climate, I see many more consultants working remotely as self-employed individuals, subcontracted to others. This makes the management challenge immense. Building trust is fundamental to high performance. In the consultancy world there are lots of trust trysts that need to be developed; client to contractor, contractor to consultancy firm, consultancy firm to subcontracted consultant. Just how can trust be built in this scenario? The trust is essential for the assurance that the right work is being done at the right pace and at the right quality. This is difficult enough when known parties are performing but when the subcontractor is not well known to the consultancy firm then what management style will need to be adopted?

It is very common in this field that the subcontractors are not retained by the contractor; it is well known that faces disappear to be replaced by new ones at the drop of a hat. A major contributor to this is the lack of shared goals and the lack of communication, particularly at the outset of the project. This is a high pressured industry and when a construction or engineering firm are at the point when they need to call in the skills that an external consultant can offer, they need them there and then. This leads to poor recruitment and even poorer induction. No organisation would take anyone into such an important role in an employed capacity without some sort of ‘on-boarding’.

Consultants are taken on all of the time and are expected to be ‘experts’ – just because their CV says they are. They are expected to fit in and become part of the team as quickly as possible and they are certainly expected to perform pronto. The consultant is fully aware that they can be out of the door as quickly as they came through it leaving confidence and job security low. How can a consultant learn new skills, if they are not really able to say that they have gaps in their knowledge? Common sense tells us that they can’t be up to speed on everything but I am not sure honesty is the best policy if they want to keep the job.

The Kenzie Group is currently researching these issues and looking at the best ways that it can change the current model to provide a better experience and better outcomes for all parties.

Penny Whitelock

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