More senior executives and management professionals today are pursuing work as independent consultants, opting to pick and choose projects that meet their interests and employers who offer the right mix of challenge and reward. As I mentioned in a previous post, this trend provides several distinct advantages to companies.
The ready availability of qualified talent on-demand offers you the ability to operate more nimbly than you have in the past. By bringing in the right resources to solve specific business problems, you can rapidly test new products, bridge leadership gaps caused by an unforeseen departure or expand operations in less time, for less cost, leveraging the kind of expertise that previously took years to develop.
But talent on-demand is still talent, and finding the right person requires a mix of human insight, strategic vision and business sense, an ability to understand how technical skill meshes with your culture and how industry expertise combines with your strategic plans.
This means it’s important to have a pipeline of talent on-demand in place, a network of qualified executives who understand not only your industry, but the way your company operates – a ready pool of candidates who can quickly fit into your organization, gel with your teams and begin to deliver results.
Developing such a pipeline is an ongoing process. It’s about knowing what talent is out there, understanding each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, and having an idea of how they might contribute to your organization. We approach it this way.
Have a vision for the roles you’ll need filled. To successfully match candidates to roles, leaders must have a clear view of what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s not enough to know that you need someone to develop a business plan or lead a division through a transition. You must also be able to describe how the candidate will operate as part of the wider team and how their work will fit into your company’s operations in both the short and long terms.
Understand the type of people who succeed in your company. Successful leaders offer more than technical skills. They also bring along an approach, an ability to size up a company’s culture and an understanding of how to work effectively within it. For example, some organizations thrive on constructive confrontation while others operate by consensus. Whatever your company’s approach, recognize that some people will fit into it and others won’t. The better idea you have about what allows people to excel in your firm, the easier it will be to recognize people who can bring you a solution.
Follow the industry and pay attention to who’s participating. You expect independent consultants to begin delivering results quickly, without a lot of indoctrination and training. To recognize people who can do that, nurture relationships with experts. You’ll find them among the professionals who are active in your industry, the leaders who attend events, write papers and blog posts and speak at conferences. These are people who are engaged. They think about the business a lot, can recognize new opportunities and solutions and are often on the lookout for new challenges.
Engage your team. Involve your managers and team members in your efforts to define what works at your company and what kind of person can be effective there. Listen to their thoughts on leadership style, get a sense of what motivates them and what they believe makes a good team member. Remember that they follow the industry, too, so get their thoughts on its leaders and encourage them to connect you with valuable people.
Think about new recruiting models. Consider how your recruiting efforts and relationships need to change. Take advantage of recruiters who focus on developing networks of talent on-demand. Part of their mission is to create and maintain relationships with industry experts, then match the right person to your specific needs. Get to know these firms early, so they’ll be familiar with your company’s dynamics and can quickly present you with a “short list” of solutions to consider when you’re ready to move.
Talent on-demand is a strategic tool, not a tactical one. By matching the unique skills and experience of independent consultants to the ever-evolving demands of today’s business, your company can operate with a greater degree of flexibility and economy. The challenge is to recognize how talent succeeds within your organization, even before a specific need arises.