What does a consultant do? (With roles and responsibilities)

Updated 6 June 2023

Today's most successful organisations thrive on using superior strategies to surpass their competition. These strategies can incorporate objective recommendations and unbiased opinions from consultants in specific niches. Learning the roles of a consultant in an organisation can help you decide if it's the right career path for you. In this article, we answer the question: 'What does a consultant do?' and discuss the different impacts they can have on a company setting, types of consultants, skills they can possess, requirements and their job descriptions.

What does a consultant do?

To answer 'What does a consultant do?' you can first develop an understanding of successful organisational structure. The search for a consultant begins when the leader of an organisation realises there's a problem requiring the insight of an experienced outside expert.

A consultant's skills, knowledge and experience guide their work in any organisation. They're responsible for solving inherent problems, which requires a specific skill set. These experts also use their academic qualifications and experience to predict potential problems and develop solutions in advance. The most successful organisations are those that solve future problems before they arise. In simpler terms, consultants put an organisation in the future while others are still figuring out how to navigate the present.

Related: How to become a consultant (with roles and responsibilities)

Why are consultants necessary in an organisation?

Since an organisation has several components, including human and material resources, novel issues and situations can often arise. When this happens, expert support can give proper guidance and recommendations. Consultants bring objectivity and skills, which is evident in top organisations worldwide. They employ the services of consultants to stay ahead of competitors and monitor market situations from an objective point of view.

The roles of an organisational consultant

Consultants can hold the following roles:

Guidance and information gathering

The consultant serves as an overall facilitator during planning and execution. They can also set up meetings during the planning process. This responsibility involves understanding the structures within the organisation and meeting every member. In some instances, the consultant works with the leader to assign roles to employees and serve as a counsellor for those facing challenges.

They're also responsible for gathering information necessary to push the organisation forward and recover from any setbacks. Information is a currency in organisational settings. The more information the consultant has concerning a firm, the better their ability to predict the outcome of a business situation. The consultant is responsible for designing and collecting qualitative data through several means. It can be through focus group discussions, personal interviews or self-administered questionnaires. Their neutrality in terms of being unbiased provides reliable and actionable answers during the data-gathering phase.

Training and evaluation

Apart from planning and gathering the necessary information to put the organisation in a good place, the consultant is responsible for organising and presiding over periodic training of the workforce. They assess the existing programmes to see if they fit the current business goals. Consultants are also responsible for creating course materials and teaching aids.

Another critical responsibility of a consultant within an organisation is to conduct periodic evaluations of training, plans and initiatives. The consultant designs specific evaluation tools that are compatible with the intended target. The assessment serves many purposes. For example, it allows the organisation to identify loopholes and areas of potential improvement. Along with revealing strengths and weaknesses, the evaluation also helps the organisation stay abreast of the latest trends. The consultant's role involves managing the evaluation process, presenting the results and making recommendations.

Development and consultation

Typically, the main purpose of recruiting a consultant is to bring about rapid and sustainable development. Achieving this requires the consultant to have a detailed understanding of every aspect of the organisation. It's also the consultant's job to stay abreast of likely challenges and find the way forward. They're responsible for analysing business processes and giving cost-effective recommendations to management. Due to the complexities involved in these tasks, organisations can often employ several consultants to work with different sections of the firm.

As the name implies, the job of a consultant also involves being readily available for consultations of various kinds. These consultations might be work-related or not and the consultant can try to address any problem in detail. Doing this involves having in-depth knowledge and evaluation of the work performance of every member within the organisation. It's also crucial for the consultant to exercise some level of confidentiality and treat every employee with respect. Eventually, a good consultation practice leads to the optimal personal development of all members.

Different types of consultants

There are many different types of consultants. The most common include:

  • Technical consultants: They ensure that the company's computers and other technological tools are working and up to date. Their job also includes providing support for the firm's latest hardware and software.

  • Accounting consultants: Experts in this niche are responsible for managing profit and loss within the organisation. They also handle tax issues.

  • Management consultants: Management consultants are the most common types found in organisations. They oversee the creation of value and increase productivity in all facets of the organisation.

  • Marketing consultants: Marketing consultants play a crucial role in identifying the right customers, products, prices and timescales for making a sustainable profit. They're also responsible for in-depth market analysis and evaluation of future purposes.

  • Environmental consultants: These experts work with other staff members to create a safe and comfortable working environment to ensure sustainable productivity. They identify external and internal hazards that could affect the organisation's growth and development.

  • Strategy consultants: These professionals bring about consistency within an organisation by ensuring that it conforms with different economic, governmental and social policies. They're usually the most sought-after professionals in the consulting niche.

  • Human resource consultants: These experts work with the organisation's leadership to create employment terms, provide talent management and ensure optimal staff performance.

Related: 10 types of consulting for a fulfilling career

Skills a consultant may possess

The following are skills necessary for a consultant to possess:

  • Creative thinking: This involves developing a solution that can produce effective results even when the circumstances are difficult. A consultant is innovative and constantly thinks of ideas or solutions to problems.

  • Conceptual thinking: A consultant quickly understands complex concepts or problems and explains them to leaders or employees so they can develop or address them.

  • Problem-solving: A consultant possesses the knowledge, experience and expertise to solve business problems. They find out the root of the problem before developing solutions.

  • Time management: Consultants work quickly to solve problems before they get worse. They also ensure short but productive meetings by setting a clear plan and focusing on the central issues.

Related: Consulting skills: definition and examples

Common consultant requirements

The requirements to work as a consultant within an organisation vary from place to place. A consultant may possess at least a bachelor's degree in a related field. For instance, a technical consultant may have a bachelor's degree in computer science, electrical engineering or other related disciplines. A postgraduate degree like a master's or PhD in a related field is an added advantage and might be mandatory in some organisations, depending on the consultant's role.

Apart from academic qualifications, a minimum of two years of experience working as a consultant and a professional certification to relevant industries are standard requirements in most organisations. Some large firms recruit new graduates for their training schemes. In addition to experience, the consultant may demonstrate proficiency in specific skills. These include time management, computer literacy, communication, leadership and analytical skills. A consultant also demonstrates professionalism and serves as a role model.

Related: Understanding consulting graduate schemes (with salary)

Job description of a consultant

The primary reason for the presence of consultants within an organisation is to achieve sustainable results. They can perform business analysis and allocate resources in the most cost-effective way. They might also create more objective tools for assessing members' performance and evaluating progress.

Consultants aim to possess a high level of knowledge, qualifications, skills and experience to navigate the intricacies of their niche. They're also required to help an organisation effectively manage available resources, increase productivity and assist the employees in staying motivated. Other responsibilities include designing action plans, staff recruitment and identifying partnership opportunities. In addition, the consultant can be ready to advise every employee, provide solutions to imminent challenges and reallocate staff for optimal productivity. A good sense for data presentation and communication are also optimal assets.

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