Jake works for an insurance conglomerate as an internal learning and development consultant who specializes in designing and delivering programs for managers and supervisors to improve their leadership skills. He works on a team consisting of five other internal consultants who have other specialties.
Jake is a charismatic communicator who creates a welcoming environment when training and has a consistent track record of high scores in his session evaluations. He’s recognized as a top performer in his department and also works to develop and nurture relationships across the conglomerate. He has earned the trust of many of the company’s senior leaders.
Now the company is preparing to launch a management trainee program to accelerate the development of recent hires for managerial roles across divisions. Jake was looking forward to this new program and expected to be selected to design and implement it, but he has just learned that the company hired Camille, an external consultant, to design and facilitate the new program.
Why bring in an external consultant?
Companies such as Jake’s have the infrastructure to design and deliver a wide range of learning and development programs, particularly those that are offered regularly. Still, these companies may need to expand their bench strength for specific areas. In contrast, other (often smaller) companies lack the resources to satisfy the development needs of their employees and thus rely on external consultants to provide those services on a recurring basis.
Consider the following 12 criteria when deciding if an external consultant is your best option.
Jake is a high performer in his department. However, the new management trainee program calls for different skills. Unknown to Jake, the company required a quick turnaround for the program’s implementation to strengthen its talent pipeline for business continuity. The company needed someone with a track record of designing and implementing these programs, preferably with measurable impact on the business’s bottom line.
Camille had the profile that Jake’s company needed. She is accustomed to working with executives and senior leaders and speaks the language of business. She has a reputation for prompting others to think differently by asking the right questions. Further, Camille just finished deploying a similar program in an international financial services corporation, which was beginning to see the return on investment of her fees.
What would you do?
As Jake’s manager, you have the responsibility to position your decision to bring Camille on board in such a way that Jake and the other internal consultants see her as an asset instead of as a threat. You need to answer their questions and pave the way for an effective partnership between your team and Camille. Any unanswered questions about her role could easily become obstacles for the success of your new program.
We recommend the following steps to make the relationship with an external consultant work right from the start.
Have you hired external consultants? What were your deciding factors? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.
**originally published in www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links
Whether you are revising your company’s current onboarding program or starting a new one, you need to communicate what you intend to do to get approval to move forward. The business case will be your written proposition; it should provide information to decision makers that will influence them to take action, demonstrating how the onboarding program is a business priority.
Case in Point
Let’s meet Teddy, the training manager at Bubbles. He has just returned from his first regional professional conference and is convinced that an onboarding program is the solution to retaining employees beyond their first year and creating a more stable workforce.
He believes it is the perfect time to suggest an onboarding program because the founding members of the family-owned company are passing the torch to the next generation. But before he can proceed, Teddy must develop a business case to convince the owners that the company needs an onboarding program.
The business case should emphasize how program benefits outweigh any short- or long-term investments of time and resources, and should position the program as an opportunity for management to build a solid foundation for business growth. At the same time, Teddy needs to acknowledge what the company has done well in the past to develop its workforce capacity and build on those successes, regardless of any current retention issues. The importance of company politics cannot be underestimated, and he should avoid presenting a list of problems without potential solutions.
How to Develop the Business Case
First, Teddy should secure the support of his manager. Preparing for this meeting will force Teddy to conduct preliminary research on the benefits, risks, and costs of the proposed onboarding program, as well articulate his general thinking.
After obtaining approval, Teddy will need to take a deeper look at how new employees become immersed in the company’s culture and prepare to perform their roles. To do this, he will need to collect information from the human resources function and meet with frontline managers who can share how they introduce their employees to the company and specific job requirements.
Talking with some employees who have stayed with the company beyond that critical first year about their experiences also will be useful. In addition, Teddy could reach out to similar businesses or to a specialized consulting firm to access benchmark data that offers insights about pitfalls to avoid.
Based on this research as well as data about employee retention, Teddy will be able to determine the current state of the company’s onboarding practices. With this information and his own understanding of the business, he will be able to portray the desired onboarding program as well as any measures for success, such as faster time to proficiency, increased retention, improved employee engagement, and reduction in production errors.
What the Business Case Should Include
The business case Teddy presents to leaders needs to include a general overview of where the company is and where it should be regarding onboarding. A description of what the company needs to do to reach the desired state is critical to the program’s approval. This description stems from measurable goals and objectives the program aims to achieve. It should sketch the program’s scope and design, starting with the audience (for instance, business areas; new and new-to-role employees; hourly or exempt employees; managers and executives).
Once the description is prepared, Teddy will introduce whether or not the program will cover all three phases of onboarding—pre-onboarding, general onboarding, and role-specific onboarding. Based on the program’s scope, he will introduce general content the program will include, who will deliver it, and how and where it will be delivered. This information, in turn, will affect the program’s duration and expected investment.
Ultimately, the typical business case presents:
The ROI of onboarding programs has been documented extensively. Make sure that your prework for the business case is based on the unique needs of your business—and on what is expected from its employees. In the end, it’s all about the business.
**originally published in www.td.org/insights