Entrepreneurs might be required to know a wide variety of skills, but they aren’t expected to do everything independently. That could prove to be a limiting factor. Instead, they hire business consultants to identify opportunities for improvement.
It’s similar in principle to how you’d work with a personal injury attorney when filing a worker’s compensation claim. Why settle for a minimal amount when you might actually be entitled to more?
Consultants typically leverage their expertise to provide in-depth analysis and key insights that a business owner might miss, despite having a top-down view of all operations. But that changes when the issue you’re consulting for is remote work.
Few consultants can claim to have years of experience before the pandemic. How do you know you’re getting your money’s worth from this investment?
Looking for specifics
Any effort to address a problem or capitalize on an opportunity is more likely to achieve the desired result if you’re able to drill down to specifics. It’s the consultant’s job to find a solution, but narrowing down the task at hand will help them deliver.
Organizations encounter difficulty with remote work for various reasons. Broadly speaking, what are the drivers behind the consulting engagement?
In some ways, the disruption caused by remote work might be external. It could be beyond an organization’s control. For instance, not all tasks could be efficiently carried out remotely, but local restrictions mandate that workers stay at home nonetheless.
On the other hand, the issue might be an internal driver. The team might be capable of doing better, given the right tools. It’s just that no one can identify what those are. The need might also be strategic. Remote work could be seen as a stopgap measure for the company and possibly an integral part of plans.
Knowing these specific drivers will help you look past the experience on any consultant’s resume or the enthusiasm they present on a video call. You’ll not only be able to find a consulting expert who can help you deal with remote work but one whose strengths align with your organization’s needs.
Watch for the red flags
Of course, the pandemic hasn’t just shifted businesses’ attitudes towards remote work. It has also taken the entire job search online. That means you can expect to filter through a lot of prospective candidates for a consulting engagement.
The normal heuristic of work experience might not be a great one in this case. People with years of remote work could merely be freelancers who have never collaborated extensively with a team. Or they might have the right domain of expertise but lack an impressive client list.
A different sort of heuristic you can use is based on communication. No matter what operations are involved, remote work will push an organization to its limits in good communication. The more teams rely on email, chats, and even video conferences, the more their employees struggle to collaborate because some information is lost in non-verbal cues.
Thus, you can form a suitable impression of how good a candidate might be based on how well they communicate. Watch out for the red flags in this regard.
Someone who doesn’t set definite expectations early on, isn’t clear and concise in their emails, or isn’t easily available, can be eliminated from consideration off the bat. If they aren’t prioritizing effective and detailed communications, they are no better than your team at handling the biggest remote work challenge.
Evidence-based evaluation of results
Often, owners who hire a business consultant struggle to evaluate the worth of their services properly. There’s an incentive on both sides to judge subjectively or to pinpoint a single metric to determine success. The consultant wants to advocate their own services, while management wants to prove that they’ve created value.
For greater, measurable, and sustained improvements, consulting on remote work must be measured with an objective system. An evidence-based approach offers long-term benefits to both consultants and owners by informing them on what went well and what could be done better.
When hiring a consultant you’ve never worked with, do so on a contractual or project basis. Draw up an evaluation plan, and make that part of the engagement framework.
This gathering of evidence should take higher-order effects into account instead of simply measuring a metric such as productivity or retention. Owners and consultants must work together to map out the concepts and logic involved for all stakeholders. As the engagement proceeds, data from agreed-upon milestones will provide the basis for a more objective assessment of outcomes.
Remote work is uncharted territory for almost everybody. The right business consultant can help you do better in this area, but you’d better prepare a system to evaluate them well.