Enthusiastic Versus Experienced: What To Look For In A Remote Work Consultant.

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Enthusiastic Versus Experienced: What To Look For In A Remote Work Consultant

Even though teleworking has been around for almost a half-century, it has recently become a global trend, and even more recently, a global economic contingency plan. Consequently, the market is full of opportunistic innovators that are eager to capitalize on the remote revolution and help companies adopt flexibility models. 

So, where can businesses turn to for help? The remote work world is booming with passionate work-from-home veterans that are eager to share their wisdom, but is a freelancing graphic designer or mid-level corporate telecommuter, someone that you can entrust the future of your company with? On the other hand, consulting giants like Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group, and McKinsey are the champions of change management, but they specialize in brick-and-mortar businesses and aren’t equipped to advise on the nuances of virtual operations. 

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Ultimately, there are going to be thousands of people offering to answer questions and advise your business during this tumultuous global catastrophe, but the concern is this: there’s a big difference between a cheerleader and a consultant. Amidst the current demand for sustainable contingency plans, business leaders need to be confident they’re getting the latter to guide them through credible, sustainable remote work change management. 

When hiring a work from home consultant, your business needs a change management expert, not a ... [+] remote work cheerleader.

Getty

I am the CEO of an internationally-trusted consulting firm specializing in remote work. As both a competitive market analysis and talent acquisition strategy, I have been relentlessly scouring the industry for over three years, and in so doing, I have gradually refined my ability to sniff out the experts from the imposters. To empower the millions of businesses that are seeking assistance as they unexpectedly adopt new work-from-home policies, I’m sharing my secrets on how to find the most credible, dependable talent, because consumer education is critical in this chaotic era of our economy. 

Here is a checklist of five criteria to screen your remote work consultant for to ensure they can help you reap the reward of telework, not the risk: 

1. Remote Work Experience (5+ Years)

This should go without saying, but you would be shocked at the number of “experts” out there that don’t meet this criteria. I’ve even seen companies advertise consulting services and certifications with less than a month of work-from-anywhere experience. (I wish I was kidding.) Learning how to thrive in location independence can be a long personal journey and there are many critical lessons to learn that don’t surface until year 3 or 4. Hiring a consultant that is only a few months or years farther down the path of experience than you means that you both don’t know what you don’t know, and they’re unable to give you any insights about sustainability. 

2. Virtual Leadership Experience (3+ Years)

Many remote work enthusiasts have based their advisory content on personal experiences as a worker, and are coaching leaders based on what they wish their own managers had done differently. Unfortunately, they don’t understand the pressure and obligations of being the primary implementor as a supervisor during change management, and especially don’t understand the challenges of doing so virtually. Consulting with an expert that has been in your shoes as an executive or manager is critical for sharing empathy, as well as critical lessons learned. 

3. Industry or Department Expertise 

All remote work is not created equal. The change management process can be extremely different, depending on whether you’re a CTO for a healthcare company, an Operations Manager for a law firm, or an HR Director for an architecture agency. For effective collaboration, it’s going to be critical to find someone that can speak the language of your industry, and/or relate to the scope of work of your role. Any consultant that says they can do it all is lying. So, ask within your network for recommendations or ask a potential consultant if they can loop in an SME to help with “translation” if they aren’t an industry specialist themselves. 

4. Proof & Portfolio 

Because remote work is an emerging industry, it’s rare that a consultant will have decades of work history or a long list of testimonials. So, in this realm, focus on qualitative instead of qualitative evidence. Has the expert worked with reputable brands (as a consultant or as an employee)? Are they a trusted thought leader in their field? Do they have assets or that you can review to preview the legitimacy of their expertise? Can they give a recommendation from a previous client or colleague? It’s a tough thing to evaluate intellectual property, but the right consultant will know exactly how to prove that they can put their money where their mouth is. 

5. Relevant Industry Certifications

Remote work is still work, so relevant education can still be a critical qualification. Virtual consultant certification doesn’t exist (yet), but you can (and should) still look for accolades like SHRM-approval, change or project management training, human resource certification, etc. However, I’ll also give the tip that great virtual leadership is a “street smart” skill, not “book smart.” In this generation of online leadership, cloud-based productivity management wasn’t even thought of when we were in college (only recently have universities like Cornell started to offer this). So, if your decision comes down to choosing between experience and education, always rule in favor of the former. 

Now that you know what to look for, where do you look? Options for finding this type of consultant aren’t yet centralized, but here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • We’re a rare breed, but start by looking for a credible remote work consultant. (In response to urgent demand from coronavirus, the Remote Work Association is currently crowdsourcing a free directory. Watch for it on their advocacy page.)  
  • If you can’t find one, or they aren’t accepting new clients, hire a traditional consultancy (like a big 5 firm), but request an external remote work SME sit in on the case for specialized insights.
  • If you’re on a budget, look for SHRM-certified courses that can give you general education without the consultancy price tag. 
  • If all else fails, shoutout on your LinkedIn network for recommendations. 
  • Remember, even the greatest advocates aren’t qualified to be advisors. So, if you want to prioritize business continuity during this era of immense economic stress, look for the differences between an enthusiast and an expert.

    If you want to prioritize business continuity during this era of immense economic stress, look for the differences between an enthusiast and an expert.



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