From Employee to ConsultantWritten on February 24, 2012
Say you’re a full-time employee in an established position in your IT department or business. You provide specialized and critical services for your company, yet your full-time status is not enabling your productivity. You know that were you to be utilized as a consultant, you could provide the same benefits to your company – at a lower overall investment no less – while opening up a range of new professional options for yourself. How will you and your employer handle this transition?
This was essentially the scenario faced by a TechRepublic member when he emailed Chip Camden for perspective and advice. In his case, his company agreed to an initial short-term retainer for him as a consultant – though he had offered and suggested a long-term one. Moreover, the company had advertised his former position on job boards. This understandably had him questioning the commitment of his company to utilize him as a consultant in the manner he had proposed.
Chip responds to the emailer with a very balanced and reasonable discussion on what the employer’s intensions might have been and should have been. His conclusion was essentially that the company was just covering all the bases to ensure his position didn’t go unfilled and that there was nothing unethical about their actions.
I agree with this, but I think it is also a great example of where a business has an opportunity to be exceptional. I don’t think the emailer’s company did anything wrong – as Chip says they were likely concerned about losing the emailer altogether, and wanted to ensure productivity wouldn’t falter. Nothing wrong with that.
But if you ask me, what makes a company exceptional in this case is the willingness and effort to communicate on an individual level. Bring this guy in to talk with his management and really discuss concerns. If you’re going to bring someone in to bridge the gap between his former position and his new consultant status, let him be a part of that process. Get his input on what sort of person would best fill this role. If you’re planning on utilizing his consulting services only on the short-term, explain to him the business rationale for that.
What you don’t want is to have a skilled and valuable employee make the transition to consultant only to feel like he’s been abandoned for taking that step. He was up front with you about his intentions, and went to length not only to explain he could maintain his productivity for you, but could do it at a lower cost. If he’s worth your investment as a full-time employee, he will be worth it as an invested long-term consultant.