Leveraging employee engagement of clients during an engagement is one of the most underestimated tools within the consulting industry. After all, for every 1% increase in employee engagement companies experience a 9% increase in operating profit. As mentioned in a previous post, company executives and leaders need to consider employee engagement ideas and strategies.
Header image courtesy of David Lee via Flickr.
From an outside perspective, consultants can use the concept of employee engagement to their advantage as well. In many instances, however, consultants miss this opportunity as they quickly ramp up their projects. Inadequately leveraging employee participation and expertise of clients can leave employees feeling invaded and unimportant in the decision process. This article covers three of the ways consultants make these employee engagement mistakes (and how to fix them!).
1. One-size-fits-all strategies
The Problem: Consultants approach a new client engagement from the perspective of having worked on multiple similar projects. Instead of trying to start with a clean slate and engage the client’s employees, bad consultants will immediately jump to one-size-fits-all strategies and proposals. While instances may be similar, neglecting to interact with the employees can cause more long-term harm than good.
The Solution: Consultants need to look past what the problem is and understand why the problem is occurring at the client company. Instead of just trying to force feed a solution that a client’s employees know won’t work, consultants should actively seek out and listen to the insights of those working for the client. While consultants may have had similar experiences with a different client, that doesn’t mean the same solutions will necessarily apply in this new instance. Understand the company’s culture and set yourself up as a friend, not a conquering hero. In doing so, consultants can more effectively leverage employee engagement to create better long-term solutions.
2. Resistance to Change
The Problem: Consultants propose a solution, but the employees immediately dig in their heels. They aren’t interested, and you won’t be able to change their mind. At the most, change happens at incremental rates which are painful for both the consultants and the client’s employees.
The Solution: Consultants tend to echo the constant cry of “People don’t like change” when facing friction. However, former consultant and writer Karen Phelan notes that’s this is ridiculous. “Nothing could be further from the truth. People love change. Otherwise no one would ever go away to college, get married, have a child, move, or switch jobs,” she says. “What people do not like is having questionable changes thrust upon them.” As already mentioned, intentionally engaging employees on the issues which matter to them helps build rapport for the consultant. This creates not only buy-in from the client but just as importantly, from the employees as well.
3. Change Doesn’t happen
The Problem: Consultants come in, do some research, identify the problem, make their recommendations, and then leave. However, despite efforts to implement the recommendations, nothing changes because the clients don’t know where to begin, nor who should spearhead the change effort. The consultants have failed to engage the primary stakeholders who are closest to the problem.
The Solution: Employees often are the experts when it comes to a problem, they just do not always have the influence or ability to create change. Engaging employees who have a solid understanding and vested interest in the project at hand can cure stagnation during the implementation phase.
Instead of neglecting employee feedback and contributions on your next project, intentionally seek out those who want to help their company strengthen and grow. Employee engagement has immense benefits which can help drive the success of your client engagements, so as a consultant, take be sure to advantage of it!