Consultancy - What does it really mean?
By Kath Wood, Disability Training and Consultancy Specialist, Remploy
For me it is very simple - it is working alongside a business to identify their priorities, needs and aspirations. Then providing independent, dispassionate and expert analysis of the business - to include areas for improvement and recommendations but also to recognise and build upon existing good practice.
The first step in any project and also the one that is often missed is establishing the ‘Why?’.... what is the catalyst for change? Without this it is virtually impossible to establish measures of success, and also enable the senior level ‘buy in’ and support required to ultimately make any impact. Like pretty much everything in life you get out what you put in! Time spent considering the businesses aims and priorities will allow the consultancy to focus on what will really make a difference to the business. It is so much easier as a consultant if those leading the project have thought about what they want to get out of it. But if they haven’t that is the next task on my list.
Disability consultancy can look at a wide range of themes including:
- Attraction and recruitment of disabled talent
- Onboarding and induction
- Support services and workplace adjustments
- Development and progression for disabled employees
- Inclusivity and culture
- Communication internally and externally
- Disability awareness resources and training.
Once we have established the 'what' I can then consider the 'how' - because the methodology you use does depend on the outcomes you want to achieve. For me, good consultancy is a balance between theory and practice - on paper and in reality if you like.
For example, if a business wants to ensure its policies and processes are fit for purpose we could carry out a policy review - identifying any omissions or adjustments needed, and even supplying the content if required. But will that tell us if a policy or process works? No. So, in combination with this review, we can talk with HR advisors and managers to ask for examples and case studies - this will tell us if the policies and processes are being used and if they seem to be effective from a company perspective. Again, does this give us the full picture - perhaps not. So we could survey employees or hold focus groups to see if employees feel the benefits of the policy and process. That way we will know if they are achieving what is intended.
It is this breadth and depth of information that can be gathered through consultancy that really adds value to a business. So many times I will read a comprehensive policy or hear about a great service provided for employees. But either managers are struggling to understand how to implement the policy fully or employees are not really aware of and benefiting from these services. All the hard work put in by an organisation may not being having the desired impact.
There is real benefit felt even just in talking through topics with me or finding examples to share - as this helps the company to self-reflect and identify its own issues and solutions. I can then take a step back and analyse the information, I will use my knowledge and expertise but also add in what I have learnt from other organisations. If you can get the mix right, focus on the simple stages you can ensure that you really understand the challenges that exist, and more importantly the opportunities to change these for the better.
Throughout the process I am listening and learning, providing suggestions and guidance so the benefits begin straight away. And the final report allows the business to consider suggestions and recommendations to make improvements but also to recognise and celebrate what it is doing well. But most importantly because of the time spent getting to know the business the report is truly reflective of your business. The suggestions and recommendations are bespoke to your business so they can be easily implemented and have maximum impact.
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 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.
You may also be interested in reading our previous blog on driving positive change through consultancy.