We all know what consultants are. They come into organisations to provide advice and information on a wide range of issues affecting the growth and development of the organisation. Sometimes they are then engaged to also act on that information and affect the change that the consultation has recommended.
But what are “internal consultants” you may well be asking?
These are the people who work in your organisation who have either accumulated or are currently developing experience and/or expertise in areas that impact the growth and development of the organisation.
Often this experience and expertise is not recognised at the top and its value to the organisation is not obvious. It often becomes obvious when particular people resign or retire, taking that invisible expertise with them. What was taken for granted is then sorely missed.
There may not be a forum in the organisation for the expertise of your “internal consultants” to be shared or be made known. CEOs are far more ready to put out large sums of money to bring in “external consultants” to advise on issues and make recommendations when there is often a wealth of expertise within the organisation that has not been drawn upon.
One of the best ways of engaging people in the organisation is to use them as “internal consultants”. It’s a way to value their opinions and ideas and to let them know that you want to meet their needs and aspirations, and to let them know they can make a difference to the organisation. When the Board, CEOs or senior managers want to move in a certain direction or introduce a new development, they can call for “tenders” from their employees first, making it a very professional process and the proposals that their employees submit will be assessed on their merits, one accepted and a “contract”, with terms of reference and deadlines, signed.
Introducing “internal consultancy” to an organisation by providing a forum and communication process is also a way to develop constructive contributions rather than having people whingeing, criticising and complaining in the background. It encourages people to work on alternative solutions to issues that impact the growth and development of the organisation and its people.
The other advantage in using “internal consultants” is that it can draw on the experience of young people in the organisation who often feel they have no voice. They, for example, are technically very savvy, far more so than many of the older employees. They can provide consultancy in this area, rather than engaging a highly paid consultant to do it. It can serve the purpose of a stretch assignment for them as well.
Another example would be for new employees to develop and/or enhance the induction/orientation program for the organisation.
If an organisation hasn’t engaged its employees before in this way, the “internal consultancy” model will need to be presented with some training and mentoring provided in the initial stages.
You may be saying at this stage: “But we do all that. We just don’t call it consultancy.” What do you call it? How do your employees perceive it? Do they see it as an action in which they are engaged that has considerable potential to impact on their organisation, to make them feel they are making a difference and therefore generates a high energy response in them? Or do they see it as being asked to do more work that is not part of their job description which makes them feel they are being used?