Consulting – Unnecessary Cost or Crisis Management?

With a recession, natural calamities and a deadly virus hitting at the same time, humankind is facing a crisis like never before. While rising stock indexes may create a delusion of normalcy, it must not be considered a representation of the present state. It is just a quantification of future expectations. While the thumb rule suggests that the supply of manpower in any economic slowdown usually surpasses the demand, Covid-19 is a little more complicated than that. Probably for the first time, self-preservation has taken priority over job security. Reverse migration of skilled and unskilled labour to their hometowns is on a rise. The decrease in demand is accompanied by a decrease in supply. Thus the economic contraction. Profit seeking organizations are put in qualm by their contradicting needs to both avoid over-crowded offices and retain talent. Fundamental policies have been put under scrutiny. The skills required for staying relevant in the market are changing rapidly. While youngsters will largely be able to adapt to the change, the older workforce is at a huge risk. Not only are they at higher risk of catching the virus, but they come at a higher cost (owing to their experience). How then does one employee both dynamism and experience?

Managers often end up cutting discretionary expenses like consulting, when urgent cost cutting is needed. However, this often proves to be counterproductive. History testifies that consultants have always come to rescue failing businesses and economies. Maybe it’s time for us to look at consulting not as an effect of falling recession but a cause of it. Hiring full time talent requires the investment of time and resources. Plus, it takes efforts appealing to the employees’ psyche, which in turn reduces turnover rates. More often than not, employees end up incurring a lot of unforeseen costs. However, with consulting comes flexibility, dynamism, plus a definitive cost that you can put your finger on right from the start. While in-house human resources stay indispensable for the seamless functioning of any organization, it is always difficult to divert them towards spontaneous projects. With a major portion of the staff working from home in this crisis, overloading them with new projects is not just difficult but unfair. While companies sure are trying it, expecting quick and efficient results is unrealistic. As one-off procedures like restructuring become urgent, consultants can play a vital role. Not only do they bring a fresh perspective to the organization, but in turn are better equipped to follow them through.

It is time for us to start looking at consulting as an investment for long term returns. Consultants are not, and will never be a substitute of in-house talent. They are both essential complements and work best when put together. With the demographics, mentality and basic needs of the internal stakeholders changing, it often gets tough keeping up with the needs of external stakeholders. The face of all commercial activities is bound to change in order to adapt. Who else will enable this change if not professional crisis managers?