Consultants get the thumbs-down

Sep 21 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Consultants have received a thumbs down for quality compared to permanent staff in a new survey of hiring managers across the United States.

A survey released by Philadelphia-based outsourcing firm, Yoh, asked 499 hiring managers to grade the quality of their permanent and contract staffs on a five letter scale, from "A" for "excellent" to "F" for "failure."

Fewer than one in six (17 per cent) of the employers surveyed gave their contract staff an "A" grade. In contrast, a third said that their permanent employees were worthy of the top ranking.

And while six out of10 hiring managers rated their consultants as above average, grading them with an "A" or a "B," eight out of 10 permanent workers were deemed good enough to earn the same ranking.

In some sectors, this differential was even more marked. Managers in pharmaceutical and biotech firms rated permanent talent higher than respondents in other industries, with more than four out of 10 (43 per cent) of permanent staff rated as excellent compared to one in five consultants.

"Consulting talent is not a commodity, and shouldn't be treated as such by employers or staffing firms," said Yoh's Jim Lanzalotto.

"The absence of best hiring practices for contract talent by both parties has led to this perception that consultants are not of the same quality as their permanent counterparts.

Among the reasons suggested for managers rating full-time staff significantly higher than contract staff is the fact that less effort tends to be put into the hiring, management and integration of contract staff.

Contract workers also tend to be kept on payroll even when their responsibilities change, when often they are not qualified to take on different positions or tasks.

Frontline executives echoed the findings of the survey.

"Hiring the most qualified contract staff is crucial to an early stage life sciences company's growth," said Brenda Gavin, a Partner at Quaker BioVentures, a $280 million life sciences venture capital fund.

"But young and emerging companies often don't have the resources to seek them out, resulting in less than optimal results if you don't understand what the company needs and don't have the right partner to find the right people for the job."

"We're always looking for experienced and skilled consulting talent to complement our full-time staff," said Sue Baker, Vice President of Research and Development at Vertex Inc., a provider of tax technology solutions.

"But it's very challenging, time-consuming and costly to find high-impact, talented people with all the right qualifications in the technology market. Those people are out there - you just need the right process and partner to help you find them."