Contract consulting has recently enjoyed greater appeal as more employers seek flexibility in their workforces. It has also gained greater appeal among employees who are seeking a greater work/life balance.
“Driving this trend are U.S. employers looking to reduce the number of people working full time. They’re supplementing their core team with consultants who come in and out as business needs change,” says Michael Hoffman, managing director at Alliance Resource Solutions.
“For employees, it’s serving as a way to achieve more of a work/life balance for those who have the right skills, personality and personal situation.”
Smart Business spoke with Hoffman about the appeal of contract consulting and how it’s helping employers control their head count.
Why should businesses consider hiring contract consultants?
Contract consultants represent highly specialized talent that can be accessed to address the needs of a specific engagement. Typically, a consultant is only paid while working on a specific assignment, which benefits employers by giving them more control over their costs.
Many businesses like that consultants don’t have the administrative responsibilities of an employee. They’re extricated from the politics typical of most corporate positions and more often aren’t required to supervise people. That narrow focus tends to make them more productive relative to that project than a full-time employee who is likely working on multiple projects and has many daily duties.
Further, consultants don’t add to a company’s full-time head count. They’re released when the business’s need ends. Consulting has the added benefit of offering someone a greater work/life balance, which leads to happier, more engaged employees.
How are employers connecting with contract consultants?
Employers often can find contract consultants through a consulting firm or temporary staffing agency. Some connect to consultants by reaching out to former employees who might be looking for part-time or project-based work.
It may be a good idea for employers to offer an experienced employee a contract consulting opportunity if he or she needs to leave work to tend to responsibilities at home. It can be better than losing a valuable employee all together.
What type of people make the best contract consultants?
Good consultants tend to be very flexible, like meeting new people, have a more outgoing personality, take a hands-on approach to projects, and are self-directed and self-motivated.
Consultants can work in a variety of industries — most commonly, accounting, finance, technology, human resources and management. In many cases, consultants have 20 or more years of experience in their fields. They may choose to switch to consulting work later in life for the flexibility and competitive pay, especially with a decrease in the number of companies offering traditional, defined benefit pension and retirement plans. Individuals may also begin looking for consulting work after a change in circumstances, such as needing to care for a child or elderly parent.
What will consulting look like in the future?
Reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that by 2020, more than 40 percent of Americans will be employed as contractors, freelancers or temporary workers, which means huge growth in the consulting industry.
Part of this is powered by the fact that the new generation of workers defines the workplace very differently than prior generations. Millennials are much more interested in developing work/life balance through contract work, and employers must find ways to appeal to this large population of workers to continue attracting top talent.