Management consulting firms are built on a model that requires the maintenance of a bench of their people to staff on their projects. People sitting on their bench cost them money, so any management consulting firm with a bench is naturally going to staff whatever people they have on their bench to whatever projects they have signed with clients, regardless of their experience. No management consulting firms will tell you that they might staff your project with consultants with little or no experience in the specialty of the project, but they will do it if they can get away with it. The highly skilled team they put before a client to win the project often bears little resemblance to the team that is staffed on the project to execute it.
For many reasons, including the increasing challenge in recruiting and retaining star talent, management consulting firms and clients are beginning to question this practice. After the last downturn, consulting firms have become more apprehensive about carrying people on the bench. On the client side, clients are demanding more and more control over who is staffed on their project.
From a talent perspective, smart employees recognize that employers have no loyalty anymore and will lay off people at the drop of a hat. Taken to the extreme, I came across a consulting firm recently that had an unwritten policy of laying people off immediately if they rolled off a project and there wasn’t another project to staff them on.
Because clients are increasingly demanding expert resources (not just warm bodies), and because firms don’t want to maintain a bench of expert resources, the use of professional associates” is growing. Firms sometimes hire me as a professional associate to augment their staff, and I gladly take the assignments to supplement my direct engagements. I go in and pretend like I work for them, and they pay me a negotiated portion of the rate billed to the client.
Independent consultants and experts like myself who sometimes have openings in their schedule are not easy to find. Many companies mine their alumni networks, but sometimes they have to resort to web sites as diverse as Top Contract-Consultant, LinkedIn, and even Craigslist.
In 2005 Global Consulting Group (GCG PLC) launched a new service for management consulting firms and corporations. The service is provided on professionalassociates.com. On their site you will find a BBC interview with Valentine Feerick, the Director of the Global Consulting Group. In a nutshell, Professional Associates provides a marketplace for connecting independent consultants and experts (aka “professional associates”) with management consulting firms or corporations looking for a short-term expert resource. Professional Associates does not just create a marketplace, but also screens the talent to maintain a certain standard of quality for the resources who appear on the marketplace. Currently the site is operated in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Whether you work for a corporation, or a management consulting firm, or are an expert resource yourself, I encourage you to check it out!
Braden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.