If you’ve recently hired your first consultant, you’ve probably realized fairly quickly, that managing them is different than managing a full time employee. There are several reasons for this:
- Generally, you hire a consultant for a specified period of time. Perhaps it’s because you need extra hands during a project or because you can’t get headcount for a regular employee at the moment. The “temporary” nature of a consultant means they should be an expert in their field and can hit the ground running.
- You have to be careful not to treat the consultant like an employee because they don’t receive the benefits that employees get.
- If you DO treat them too much like an employee, it can be implied and if you go to litigation over it, you may have some issues. In 1999, a landmark case against Microsoft changed the landscape for independent contractors, AKA “consultants”. (https://www.reuters.com/article/businesspropicks-us-findlaw-dont-treat-c/dont-treat-contractors-like-employees-idUSTRE53063S20090401)
So, how DO you manage a consultant?
First, it’s good to have an agreement in place, stating exactly what the consultant will deliver, including due dates. Some managers ask for a “statement of work” (SOW) from the consultant when drawing up the agreement or purchase order. It should be very clear to both parties what is expected and how long it should take.
Second, it is not a good idea to include consultants in activities designed for “team building” purposes, as it sends the message that you consider them the way you consider an employee.
Third, the consultant must be able to work independently with little management from you. Direction, yes, but management, no. For example, if you have weekly one-on-one meetings with your employees, you may structure your meetings with the consultant differently. Perhaps you meet monthly instead.
While your natural tendency is to have the consultant fit in with the team so everyone works well together, you should be aware of the fine line that separates your consultant as a non-employee.
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