Working with a consultant can create a lot of anxiety for new clients. Much like onboarding a new employee, introducing someone new into your organization, even for a short project, requires a clear plan to ensure that their services are being used most effectively. In this post, we are going to make four simple suggestions for how you can get the most out of a consultant.
1. Do Your Homework
The first suggestion for getting the most out of a consultant is to do a fair bit of advance work. Consider the existing risks which you are aware of on site and create an initial plan for the consultant’s work. You don’t have to be an expert, but your initial planning exercise will provide valuable insight for the consultant as they organize their own activities. The consultant will ask you questions about your initial proposed set of priorities, and the discussion that results from those questions will guide better refinement of the scope of the project. Make a wish list of everything you would like to eventually tackle and ask if the consultant has suggestions or can bundle any additional work into their scope, which brings us to the next point.
2. Bundle Services
Next, you should consider bundling services – this is a great way to get better value from your external consultants. In the environmental, health, safety, and sustainability world, this is when a consultant will provide multiple services at the same time as part of a strategic plan, rather than buying services off-the-shelf as is often done for compliance-related services. A consultant may make a single visit but perform different types of work – for example, they could do a regulatory register, a gap assessment of compliance, training on risk assessment, performing of risk assessments, etc., all at the same time. There are several advantages to arranging services in this way which will be discussed below.
The first main benefit of bundling services is the additional value that comes from each site visit from a consultant. A consultant can make one trip to your site and can perform multiple services at the same time. For clients who would normally authorize different types of services throughout the year, this allows cost savings because of reduced travel time and ensures that all required services are being performed. The consultant will be able to recommend strategic ways to optimize resource use for best value. Bundling also aligns incentives by reducing pressure on clients to pick and choose different compliance options.
The other key benefit of bundling is the better communication across stakeholders that comes from a more holistic engagement. When services are bundled under the same master agreement, the different aspects of compliance are not siloed as much and cross functional communication and collaboration are easier. This allows the client’s stakeholders and the consultants to strategize and plan for current and future service requirements.
3. Learn from Your Consultant
Consultants can also be valuable teachers, both for you and for others in your organization. Most consultants are happy to share their own experiences, and you can leverage the knowledge of your consultant to develop your organization's capacity. Consider scheduling a customized training session for your team which incorporates the specific knowledge the consultant learned while working on your site. Such an exercise would provide contextually-appropriate, high-value knowledge to your team, and it would also help your team members work more effectively with that same consultant in the future.
The knowledge learned from your consultant can also be valuable when cross-training employees, especially in fields where every employee has specific responsibilities, like health and safety. In this example, employees could be taught how to recognize common hazards in the work environment and how to report them properly, thus creating a safer environment for everyone. Consider discussing training with your consultant - they'll likely be able to create a proposal that is scoped properly for your organization.
4. Engage Other Stakeholders
Finally, engage other stakeholders in your company in a collaborative scoping exercise with your consultant. Consider involving stakeholders from other offices who can offer insights on their local needs. Include the perspective of both top-level managers and lower-level employees who are on the front lines of the company. Ask the consultant for their ideas and do not hesitate to ask them to bring in subject matter experts to explore specific problems. Involving more stakeholders in a collaborative scoping exercise is a great way to ensure that all relevant viewpoints are included in the project planning process.
In summary, there are several ways to get better value out of your EHS&S consultants. Do advance work and come to your consultant with a clear plan. Think about bundling services, as it allows greater value and more coherent communication across stakeholders, and it properly aligns incentives so that clients are not forced to pick and choose exactly which services they want. Finally, involve all relevant stakeholders in a collaborative scoping exercise to ensure that all relevant viewpoints are represented.
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