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5 Tips for Successfully Onboarding a Consultant

By Katherine Gustafson

Setting a consultant up for success in a role in your organization requires more than just throwing some work their way and hoping for the best. You’ll need to do some careful planning on everything from setting expectations to establishing a communication plan.

In considering the tips for successful onboarding below, keep your consultants’ role and requirements in mind to see which of these you may need to emphasize more than others.

1. Provide Clarity of Expectations and Roles

Be transparent about what you expect of the consultant, their role in the team, the work timeline, and expectations about pay. Create a contract for both parties to sign. Also be clear on the roles of the other people on the team and who the consultant should contact related to particular issues. Think about what may not be clear to someone who’s not integrated into the organization. And give the consultant many opportunities to ask questions.

2. Create a Plan for Getting Started

Think ahead about what the consultant will need to get started, which will vary widely depending on your organization, the role of the consultant, and the nature of the job. It may include participating in a kick-off meeting, setting up tech resources, reading company materials and policies, having intro calls with team members, and reviewing work timelines and calendars. Be ready to have the consultant dig into assigned work after all this is done by having all the instructions and other elements of the assignment cued up and actionable.

3. Make Tech as Easy as Possible

Consultants may be working for several clients simultaneously, with each client requiring specific (and different) tech tools. If it's necessary for the consultant to use your own tools, make sure they can easily set up and access them — your tech team should be extremely responsive with any requests.

Give the consultant access to all necessary drives and remember to configure the sharing settings for any documents they’ll need. Test whether they can access any software that has tight security protocols.

4. Integrate Your Consultant With Your People

Your consultant’s role will dictate how much work needs to be done to integrate them with your people. They may be able to have you as their sole contact, or they may need to work with teams or individuals throughout the organization. A kick-off  video call with the team they’ll be working with is a good way to introduce and integrate them quickly. If the consultant will need to reach out beyond your immediate team, share with them an org chart and a list of key contacts. And send an intro email to others they may need to interact with.

5. Establish Good Communication Practices

Considering that a consultant is not as integrated into the workplace or your team as regular employees, abundant communication is essential for good collaboration. Prioritize ongoing communication via email, Slack, or another tool, and also set up more predictable get-togethers such as a standing weekly call, an end-of-week status report, or daily email check-ins. At regular meetings, have a clear agenda and an idea of your desired outcome. At the end of each call, confirm what the consultant will be doing next and when you’re expecting it to happen.

Following these five tips will set you up well to work successfully with your new consultant. Open communication and clear expectations are the most important things of all; with those in place, your consultant will be able to confidently work with you to figure everything else out.

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About Katherine Gustafson

Katie Gustafson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, focusing on content writing for business, tech, finance, and nonprofits.

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