Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Consulting Firm Employee Worst Practices
The key to giving enterprises great experiences is making your people want to give that to them! Let's acknowledge upfront that you can't delight clients if you have unhappy people. Too many consulting firms not only overwork their people by intentionally underestimating the time it takes to get work done but by also inflicting upon them tasks that aren't visible to the client when heroics catches up with the team.
Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out that unhappiness in employees of consulting firms may start with the frequency and duration of travel? There are times where you need to be onsite in order to have positive interactions, but this is taken to extremes in many firms. How many consultants would love to see their children's soccer game after work only if they weren't compelled into having to be onsite even when there is zero client interaction going on?
A mantra of one consulting firm is in advertising successful business outcomes yet they have compromised this goal from the very start! A strategy is comprised of creating win/wins for all parties, not in being blissfully ignorant and hoping that a person will always put the firm ahead of the needs of themselves, their family or other aspirations.
Below are a few principles that I personally espouse in my day job and hope that they become the mantra of others that provide enterprise consulting services as well:
- Hire people who share your philosophy, values, point of view and approach. At interview time, stop asking academic trick technical questions or overly focusing on soft skills, but instead attempt to first share what your philosophy is and then whether they align with it. Too many consultancies aren't transparent about their philosophies upfront only to watch people quit in the middle of an engagement when it finally gets discovered.
- Never compromise hiring standards just to meet a volume need. Set high minimums in entry qualifications. I understand the timeliness of filling a job requisition before it disappears is an enterprise mindset, but you will sleep better at night if you focus on quality over quantity.
- Even if people are going to leave, take the high road in dealing with them. All your other people are watching.
- You must help your people learn that there is more to serving a client than being technically skilled at what you do. Likewise, there is more than serving a client than being a master of soft skills. Clients do not achieve successful business outcomes based on slick PowerPoint presentations delivered by buzzword puppets.
- Give people the freedom to meet the standards without being micromanaged.
- Work at helping people actually experience what it is like to be a client - they will do a better job as a result of it.
- Work at team bonding by finding ways for people to work together and by getting together to discuss common issues.
- Commit to helping your people grow professionally: don't let them cruise.
- Even if you are a manager, keep practicing your profession to some degree. It will help you understand and relate to both your people and your clients.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Enterprise Training Worst Practices
We live in a world of outsourcing where employees do little more than just manage processes and documentation. Training in most shops is no different. When you outsource training, you sometimes ignore the fact that the firm's own practitioners usually are the most effective (distinct from efficient) trainers since they provide context that is otherwise lacking.
Too often, many view training as an expensive use of executives and top talent's time when in reality, this is usually the most important duty of these respective roles. This escape from authentic leadership immediately sends a negative message to many of the attendees who will wonder why the insiders aren't participating.
Another mistake frequently spoken within enterprise roles is the notion of someone just listening in. If training is about knowledge transfer, then they need to attend training as a participant. In fact, this should be mandatory. It brings an action-orientation to the discussion and builds in credible commitment to the program. Exercising your right to remain silent is useful in other contexts but no so much when it comes to training.
I hold the belief that in order to ensure discipline, training programs should have mandatory pre-reading and pre-testing whereby attendees cannot participate if they don't pass. Yes, this stance will be viewed as harsh by many, especially when it comes to senior people, but don't you think this is an opportunity for leadership to set the example for others?
Haven't we all observed enterprises that invested in highly customized training programs, where one-half of the attendees were prepared and the other half not? Didn't it devolve into an annoying waste of everyone's time?