RTOs may seek to engage a consultant when they need special expertise or more accurate, up-to-date information not available internally. Additionally, your business may be unable to spare the time and resources to develop a project internally and you have decided to outsource these services, particularly when you are responding to an urgent matter like regulatory action by ASQA. You will want the consultant you engage to be an outstanding problem solver. After all, you are hiring a consultant to help you solve problems (or take advantage of opportunities). Sometimes it makes sense to seek the services of specialists, but who is right for your RTO? When selecting a consultant, follow these simple, but important, guidelines:
Consultants need to be managed differently than freelancers, contractors, or employees. It’s important to find the right approach: as expensive resources, consultants need to be guided carefully, but, if you try to micro manage them, you can affect your relationship with them and stifle their productivity. These experts however are focused on your short term goals and outcomes and will get in and get the work done. The right consultant is a valuable asset who will work fast with limited distractions while being completely focused on your tasks. This enables your staff to get on with business as usual without the burden of doing additional project work off the sides of their desks.
In choosing your consultant look at how responsive they are at the beginning of your dealings with them. Do they appear to be extremely busy and overwhelmed by competing priorities. If so you may risk having your project delayed or impacted by their inability to service you and meet your project milestones. If you discover you are not getting the results you need from a consultant it’s best to terminate your contract with them early and seek the services of someone who can deliver and meet your deadlines.
The consultant you choose to work with your RTO should be able to communicate the technical aspects of your project in simple terms so you understand. In turn you should feel comfortable in asking for more clarification if you need them to explain what they mean in plain English even for basic questions. Ideally, a consultant that you can develop a long-term relationship with is advantageous as they will get to know your business and be able to respond to your future needs effectively and efficiently. If you are engaging a RTO consulting business and working with multiple consultants on a project you should ensure that they provide you with a key contact as this is particularly important when a project is composed of various stages or areas, especially when tight time frames are involved. Having a single point of contact is more convenient and less risk for you as the client. Ensure that there is an identified consultant who will be responsible for delivering your project, and that this person is not called on to deal with other issues and replaced with less qualified or experienced alternatives.
A good consultant should have experience with the challenges or opportunities your RTO is facing. What the consultant brings to the table is experience in addressing the types of issues you face. You should determine if the consultant you are considering working with has the following attributes:
- Does the consultant’s technical experience match your needs? Look at the consultant’s educational background, work history, references, and portfolio of similar work. Has the consultant worked on similar RTO projects before?
- What is the consultant’s special area of expertise? Does the consultant’s area of expertise match what you want them to do for you? Ask if the consultant has done similar work for other RTOs. Choosing a consultant with the exact area of expertise you want can increase the quality of the work and may reduce the cost. Problems with consultants often arise when they work in areas in which they are unfamiliar.
- What is the consultant’s knowledge of the vocational education and training industry? Has the consultant worked in VET or relevant positions in the industry? Choosing a consultant who is knowledgeable in VET will improve the quality of the result and decrease the amount of time needed to achieve the result. However, don’t fall into the trap of assuming because someone has worked as a trainer and assessor previously that they have the right skill set to undertake internal audits or quality reviews for example.
- Will the consultant provide an independent perspective? Will the consultant provide a perspective that is based on considered research or verifiable sources? Or, is the consultant apt to providing anecdotal information not able to be confirmed? Are they credible?
- Ask for a sample of the consultant’s work. Request from the consultant reviews and other materials they have created for other clients that relate to your project.