Motivating Consultants

What truly motivates individuals in a professional setting? Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily only money. According to an MIT study, once basic financial needs have been met, monetary incentives lose their effectiveness. In fact, in some circumstances, financial incentives may can even decrease productivity. So, if money is not the most effective form of motivation, what is? While individual preferences vary, let’s explore some commonly used motivational tools that can have a significant positive impact on employee satisfaction and engagement.

Creating Purpose: Unveiling the Power of Meaning

Humans inherently yearn for a sense of purpose. This is especially true for the most recent generation of consultants, who typically prioritize making a tangible impact on their community through their work. For a young consultant still acclimating to their new role, finding purpose in trivial or monotonous tasks can be a challenging prospect. To address this, organizations can help consultants gain a broader perspective by assigning them to workstreams that will be needed through the entire duration of a project or engagement. Instead of being thrown into a deliverable midway through a project, consider inviting young consultants to sit in on and participate in early-stage creative or planning sessions. The goal of this tactic is to create purpose, by shifting the focus of the young consultant from the deliverable they are working on to the impact it will have on the entire project. When they feel or see the purpose behind their assigned work, they will better understand how they are contributing to the larger goal, in turn boosting their sense of purpose. Further, as they stay involved and witness the project’s progression, the young consultant will see and feel the significance of their contributions to their client. Communicating the connection of a workstream or task to the larger vision of a project will make seemingly mundane tasks feel valuable, bolstering the young consultant’s motivation.  Lastly, acknowledging that certain tasks may not be enjoyable while expressing genuine appreciation for them is equally important to cultivating purpose-driven motivation in a professional setting.

Receiving Appreciation: Fostering a Culture of Recognition

Feeling valued and appreciated is a fundamental human need. For some consultants, hearing positive feedback directly from clients holds immense importance and organizations should strive to facilitate direct communication between clients and young consultants to ensure recognition reaches the deserving individuals. This positive reinforcement should also come from managers and mentors that work directly with young consultants. Expressing appreciation, or creating a channel where it can be communicated, are easy ways to increase the amount of leverage you are getting from the junior consultants at your firm. Sure, constructive criticism is equally vital to professional growth, but striking a healthy balance between praise and constructive feedback creates an environment that motivates young consultants to excel. When this balance is effectively established, young consultants will seek both positive reinforcement and guidance from their managers through their work and actions. When they feel appreciated, they are motivated to give and learn more.

Nurturing Autonomy: Empowering Individuals to Thrive

Working independently and having the freedom to creatively address challenges can be highly rewarding. Granting young consultants the autonomy to explore innovative solutions not only motivates them but also brings fresh perspectives to problem-solving within your organization. Further, autonomy provides a sense of ownership over one’s work, empowering young consultants to take responsibility for the outcomes that they are producing. That being said, it is crucial to strike a balance between establishing autonomy and providing little to no support. Keep in mind, few people thrive in complete isolation. To nurture autonomy, consider creating project teams comprised of consultants who have varying levels of experience. This allows young and inexperienced consultants the opportunity to explore fresh solutions without the pressure of a manager looking directly over their shoulder, while maintaining a supportive team environment. This team structure also allows the more experienced consultants to practice and personalize their managerial style in a low-risk setting. A supportive environment where autonomy is nurtured helps individuals feel valued by their peers and fosters collaboration amongst the team.

Cultivating Community: Building a Sense of Belonging

Nurturing a strong sense of community is a powerful motivator for many individuals. In a consulting environment characterized by diverse teams and global collaboration, fostering a sense of belonging can pose challenges. The absence of a supportive community is one of the leading reasons employees may consider leaving a job in consulting or professional services. To address this, organizations should prioritize strategies that strengthen team cohesion and create a shared sense of purpose. As a leader, you must ask yourself how best to support your team and promote accountability within it. When individuals care deeply about their team members, they become more motivated to deliver exceptional work and support their colleagues.

Avoiding Demotivation: Identifying What Makes Individuals Tick

Avoiding demotivation is just as critical as using strategies to enhance motivation. It is essential to identify what makes individuals tick, but you should also consider what might demotivate individuals at your firm. For example, for those driven by autonomy, micromanagement can be a significant deterrent to the leverage that they can provide. Similarly, individuals who thrive on appreciation and feedback will experience decreased motivation if they don’t receive recognition or consistently encounter constructive feedback. To keep consultants engaged, it is crucial to understand their motivators and proactively discuss their passions and aspirations, thereby tailoring strategies to ignite their motivation.

By recognizing and addressing these core motivators—purpose, appreciation, autonomy, and community—organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce. Creating an environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and inspired ultimately leads to increased productivity, satisfaction, and long-term success.

Written by: Dean McMann

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About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

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