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Training & Education

Outside eyes

By John Loos

June 2009 - In a time when budget strings are tight and workforces are shrinking, there are a variety of tactics companies are using to keep their gears turning. With layoffs increasingly seeming to be the norm, there are alternative options for employers looking to fill roles in their facility.

Consultants, for example, can be a viable option for companies in tough employment situations. Although for some there’s a certain stigma attached to consultancy, namely that these outside folks can be expensive and uninvested in a company’s project, if implemented smartly, they can save companies time in the short term and money in the long term, as well as the headaches involved with the hiring process. Consultants also provide an outside perspective on production issues that employees deeply ingrained in company may not be able to see.

As Mike Pfeifer, president of Industrial Metallurgists LLC, Northbrook, Ill., sees it, "There are costs on both ends" of the firing and rehiring spectrum. "It's not just the costs of hiring people, it's the cost of shutting projects on the front end. Then, on the back end, there's all the delays that occur when companies decide they have to go back and hire people."

By hiring a consultant, a company can acquire a knowledgeable person ready to work on day one--without a laundry list of extra expenses attached. "[With consultants], employers don't have to worry about 401(k)s or medical benefits for these people," says Pfeifer. "When they’re done, they go away. So, they may be a little more expensive, but the person also brings a huge wealth of knowledge to work on the problem."

Temporary perspectives
Another X-factor a consultant might bring is an enthusiasm that could be missing from current employees who have either grown jaded or complacent in their positions.

"The huge benefit is, [most consultants] truly want to please their temporary employer," says Pfeifer, "because they have to constantly justify they should work for them. They want to get hired again for the next project. They want a good review from that person."

And by bringing a wealth of expertise to the table, an employer has the assurance the task is going to be done thoroughly and thoughtfully.

"They accomplish their task in a way that's going to be thoughtful and in a way that's perhaps even thinking more broadly than someone who's worked for the company for a while," he continues. "[The current employee] isn't always exposed to the best practices and isn't always exposed to a wide variety of problems that forces them to look at different solutions and bring different solutions to bear on whatever the company is looking to do."

So, although the initial cost for a consultant may be more expensive than hiring a new employee, the control the employer has over the time line and content of the project help recoup those costs. And there’s also the potential monetary benefits gained from an engaged and dutiful consultant’s work.

Again, these can be attributed to the fact that consultants aren't weighed down by the habits of the company they work for. Instead, they bring a fresh set of eyes with new and potentially cost-saving ideas.

"Consultants don't get mired down in the inertia of the organization," says Pfeifer. "They don't have to worry about performance reviews and all the meetings. That stuff can be a problem." FFJ

Sources

  • Industrial Metallurgists LLC
    Northbrook, Ill.
    phone: 847/714-9214
    www.imetllc.com

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