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There are a lot of different types of consultants out there – recruitment consultants, management consultants, change management consultants and business consultants, among many others. Ron Ashkenas, blogging for Harvard Business Review, gives us a few pointers on how to get value for our investment.

He starts by talking about ‘arms and legs’ consultants, and argues they might better be called ‘contractors’. Often times, in recruitment, agencies are hired under this category.  When a company knows what they want, and knows how to get it done, but doesn’t have the manpower to do it themselves.

To manage ‘arms and legs’ consultants, Ron’s advice is simply to set strict time limits and stick to them. This is easy enough to see the value and benefit, and easy enough to implement.

The second type of consultant is the Technical Expert. These are specialists with expert knowhow who are brought in to resolve specific problems. Very frequently, recruitment consultants fall into this category; especially when the client is in a highly specialized sector and runs a very lean back office team.

To control costs with Technical Expert, it’s critical to have a clearly defined start-, and end-point for any project they are working on. When the job is done, so is the consultants’ work. Don’t be in a position where your Technical Expert consultants become permanently engrained into the organization.

Finally, Ron defines Partner Consultants. Partner Consultants act at strategic partners to their clients. They work alongside clients to help build capabilities, achieve outcomes and aren’t afraid to step aside when a project is completed. All recruitment agencies should strive to become Partner Consultants. The key to managing this type of consultant relationships is simply to use the same accountability on them as you do yourself.

You can read the entire blog by Ron Ashkenas at: http://blogs.hbr.org/ashkenas/2011/05/get-your-moneys-worth-from-con.html

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