Consultancy - how does it work in practice?
By Kath Wood, Disability Training and Consultancy Specialist, Remploy
Consultancy works best when it is truly a collaborative process. Any organisation wanting to maximise the benefits of a commissioned piece of consultancy work should ensure they are prepared to put time and effort into the process. In this article, I will share my advice on how this collaboration can work most effectively for both parties.
My first task as a consultant is to really get to know the business and most importantly understand why the work has been commissioned. I need to be clear on what the business wants to achieve or what the issues are they want to address. It is really important to speak to the key stakeholders early in the process to guide the methods and content of the work. Holding an initial consultancy meeting helps me to understand the context of the project, where it fits in the wider strategy of the business, therefore enabling me to adapt the approach I will be using to their needs. For example, if I discover an organisation has very little idea of the prevalence of disability in their workforce or a low disclosure rate, I can explore this with individuals through focus groups and a workforce survey and try to discover if, and why, people are not disclosing. For this reason, holding this meeting very early in the process is essential.
Wider consultation/focus groups
If we are speaking to the wider workforce through surveys and focus groups, then it is hugely helpful if the potential groups of individuals are identified promptly by the company, and any face-to-face sessions booked ahead of time. It can be challenging for a business to identify suitable people and gather them together for face-to-face sessions, so we always have other options we can call upon. It is also important participants in the focus groups or surveys are encouraged to be honest, reassured that there are no consequences from the feedback they give.
Usually we will be looking at policy and processes so the sooner we have access to the documents the better. In most cases we will be asking to see documents relating to:
- Recruitment and selection
- Sickness and absence
- Reviews and appraisals
- Learning and development
- Equality, diversity and inclusion
- Bullying and harassment.
The content of feedback usually falls into two categories: ‘Good practice to be shared and replicated’ and ‘Recommendations for improvement’ - both are equally important. This information will be provided in a final report which can be shared with the organisation in a number of ways:
- Firstly, you can receive the final report as a document which you can use in any way you see fit. However, this is less likely to actually instigate change.
- Secondly, the consultant can deliver a presentation of the final results to all key stakeholders which has the advantage of ensuring everyone understands the key messages.
- Finally, there is my preferred option - a facilitated strategy session which goes beyond a presentation. The consultant presents their findings in a structured way to key stakeholders and also facilitates discussion to enable the group to agree their priorities and actions as a result of the consultancy work.
Whilst each project is unique, hopefully this has given you an insight into what you can do to help us make the consultancy process more efficient and effective but most importantly deliver some real sustainable change across your business.
If you are interested in knowing more about how Remploy can help you protect your greatest asset… your people, then please contact us.
I have worked for Remploy for over 10 years in a variety of roles both directly with disabled people, supporting colleagues to develop skills and for the last three years with a range of small, medium and large employers.
I have always worked in the field of disability. Prior to entering Remploy, I worked in supported living and day services for people with learning disabilities, complex physical needs, mental health issues and challenging behaviour.
My role involves providing high quality disability products and services for a wide range of businesses and key to this is understanding both their aspirations and challenges. I have worked on our suite of training products as well as developing bespoke training solutions for The Education and Training Foundation (ETF), North Yorkshire County Council, Versus Arthritis and Nationwide Building Society. I have led on the Disability Confident consultancy projects with CHDA, Triage Central and Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health.