Internal employees have context. They have worked inside an organisation for potentially many years and surely know the business better than anyone… so why hire consultants? There are a number of factors that can allow an external consultant to be a bigger agent for change than internal employees, and I’ll go into them here:
Consultants have industry knowledge
Whereas long term employees may think that the way things are done in their company makes sense, they don’t have the wide ranging experience to be able to see the best practices used elsewhere.
Consultants can zoom out
Any internal employee will see their company through the lens of whatever their particular role is within the organisation. Accounts people will have ideas that could help with cash flow, technical people will have technical ideas, etc… but very few of them will be able to look at the big picture and put all of these ideas in context for the maximum possible return on investment.
Consultants can point out the sacred elephant
In any company, you will have things that seem strange to new people, but that everyone else tells them is there for a reason, and so is soon taken for granted as part of the status quo. This might be an antiquated policy or procedure, and may have been the right thing to do when it was 1st conceived of, but may no longer make sense. A new employee will feel pressured to “fit in” and will likely put up with this, but a consultant knows he or she will soon be gone, and only has a limited time-box to make effective change, so is much more likely to challenge this “Sacred Elephant” in the room.
Consultants are new and shiny and their opinions matter
A consultant is only brought in when there is a problem to be solved. They are expensive, and only there for a limited time, and so they are given a lot of power, and anything they recommend is carefully considered, and never discarded lightly. This helps to dispel some of the organisational inertia that often paralyses internal staff from being able to make any meaningful change to an organisation.
Consultants are sometimes brought in to give more weight to an argument that already exists
Change is expensive and energy intensive, and so sometimes a business might already be getting very good advice from internal staff to make a necessary change, but they often are not able to overcome the natural inclination of management to resist changes to the status quo. This is not a dig at managers… if they said yes to every idea their staff had, they’d spend all of their time in churn and pulling the business in countless, often incompatible, directions. However, if a consultant comes in and backs up an idea already proposed, so long as they are able to provide confidence that it makes sense and aligns with the company’s bigger goals, they are often able to push those ideas through.