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Hiring a Consultant vs. Hiring a Temp

Posted on October 28, 2014
Amy GulatiWritten by Amy Gulati | Email author

Hiring a Consultant Vs. a TempLet’s say that your HR Director resigns unexpectedly.  Or he or she goes on an unplanned leave of absence.  What do you do?  These situations can be vexing, particularly when there’s no time to plan and all of a sudden, someone must step into the role.  One strategy that many companies pursue is hiring a temporary employee through a staffing agency.  Especially when there is an obvious and urgent need for someone to handle the day-to-day activities, this can seem like a smart thing to do.  But hiring a consultant instead has some significant advantages.

To begin with, it’s important to be realistic about the candidate pool available to you in a contingent labor (staffing) arrangement.  If your VP of HR resigns and this person provided high level strategic oversight, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’d be able to find similar capabilities amongst a temporary labor pool.  To put it quite simply, candidate with skills like that tend to prefer long term, direct hire opportunities and will be unwilling to work an open ended temporary contract.  And that’s if they’re even on the market.  Even if you do succeed in finding good talent, you run a huge risk that the person will find full-time, long-term employment and leave you in the lurch again.

Benefit of Hiring a Consulting Firm Vs. a Temp for an Interim Engagement

By contrast, consulting firms employ skilled subject matter experts and have the resource management capabilities to provide you with as much or as little support as you need during the period of transition.  Let’s say that you start out having a consultant work with you for two days a week, but a hiring spree creates an unmanageable work load.  A consulting firm will be able to give you another partner to help with the work, while a staffing company might struggle to augment your operations, or worse, bill you for overtime if their contractor works over 40 hours.  Staffing agencies often position themselves as a ready source of labor – sometimes able to provide you with a candidate same-day or next-day.  In certain cases, this can be an advantage.  But you have to think closely about the difference between finding just any replacement and finding the right replacement.  Consulting firms also have a wide range of available talent and will think carefully about placing the right resource with your organization, weighing everything from industry background to areas of expertise.  And when necessary, consulting firms can also move quickly…at Helios for example, we have executed engagements in 48 hours or less.

Another tremendous advantage of working with a consulting company is that you actually have access to more than just your dedicated consultant.  Let’s say that a complicated employee relations issue comes up – for example, a Title VII retaliation claim.  Your temp may or may not know how to respond.  And if the temp doesn’t know what to do, you’ll be footing the bill for an employment attorney in addition to your contractor.  A consulting firm, on the other hand, has the depth of talent to provide you with support in any functional area of HR depending on the situation.

I recently worked with a client whose HR Leader was on a leave of absence.  During this four month long period of time, the Executive Director tendered his resignation, we investigated a claim of hostile work environment, helped the organization conduct a reduction in force, and terminated the employment of a long-serving Director.  And those are only the unexpected things that happened.  The client found tremendous value in the depth of experience, perspective, and team approach that Helios was able to bring to bear in supporting them through a period of immense and unanticipated transition.  It’s hard to image a temporary employee who could have grappled with these issues effectively.

When you have a skill gap or experience turnover in your HR department, sometimes temporary employees can help your organization bridge the difference but more often than not, companies benefit from investing in a consulting firm whose expertise and capabilities truly add value, rather than keep things afloat.

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