We offer ideas for showcasing the value of consultants and calming executive concerns with a little help from “The Big Lebowski.”
Since the inception of the environment, health, and safety (EHS) profession nearly five decades ago, the roles and responsibilities of EHS leaders have changed dramatically. Rather than focusing solely on compliance, folks in your position are now wearing multiple hats within organizations—from risk management and reducing costs to streamlining operations and fostering a culture of safety.
Try as you might, there will likely come a time where you feel “out of your element,” lacking the knowledge, unique expertise, bandwidth, or budget to juggle it all or tackle a surprise issue. And you’re taking comfort in the fact that there’s somebody out there who can help you take it easy—which is of course a duder-riffic EHS consulting firm.
But before you can officially call on your firm of choice, you need to get your department team members—and the executive(s) with the final say—to “abide in.”
To help you make your case and put objections to rest, we’ve drawn on our decades of providing EHS consulting services to put together some helpful talking points—inspired by some of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski’s (and his crew’s) most quotable moments.
Talking to Executives
Your leadership team is confident in your abilities to effectively manage all aspects of EHS. You simply wouldn’t be in your position if they weren’t. So, when it comes time to pitch the idea of hiring an outside partner to help provide support, they’ll undoubtedly have some questions and concerns.
So, to prevent this kind of reaction following your pitch...
And get your executives saying...
You need to address all the ins, all the outs, and all the what-have-yous:
Your rationale: As the old saying goes, honesty is the best policy. If there’s a valuable initiative or a potentially costly challenge that needs to be addressed, thoughtfully outline why you or your team isn’t equipped to handle it alone. While this requires you to be a bit vulnerable, it can also show leadership you’re thoughtful, strategic, and solutions-oriented.
The business value: While executives may be sympathetic to your rationale, ultimately, they’ll need to be convinced that the investment will yield real business value. Unsurprisingly, the unique benefits will vary depending on your consulting needs, but one universal area to focus on is the potential cost savings. While partnering with an EHS consultant will require an upfront investment, there’s a myriad of long-term cost saving benefits such as avoiding compliance fines or penalties, reducing workers compensation or medical expenses, and limiting costs incurred through accident investigations.
The “real” costs: While the financial impacts of noncompliance or safety incidents should be top of mind, you can really drive your point home by highlighting some of the other costs your business can incur if you don’t take action with the support you need. For example, one high-profile incident can not only drive up unexpected costs, but also damage your company’s reputation. (Just ask Mr. Lebowski about the incident with his wife, Bunny.)
Talking to the Team
Your team members care deeply about creating a happy, healthy, and safe working environment for all. And while most will understand the need for bringing in an EHS partner to do that, some may have mixed feelings...
In our experience, there are three top reasons EHS professionals are concerned about hiring an EHS consultant:
1. They don’t want an outside partner to “own” their department or initiatives.
Your team members deeply believe that what they do is vital. They want to have the internal alignment, visibility, and accountability necessary to make an impact—and they don’t want to feel dictated to by an outsider.
Quell their concerns by outlining your vision for how an EHS consultant can come in as a strategic partner, not only helping initiatives get off the ground and to the finish line, but also provide the support and development to help them grow in their roles. Essentially, a consultant isn’t there to create silos—they’re there to really “tie the room together.”
2. They worry consultants don’t have the industry-specific experience to make a real impact.
Your team members have insight and expertise unique to your industry. As a result, they may perceive consultants as generalists, lacking the in-the-trenches experience to successfully add value.
It’s true that many consultants work across industries. But show your team how this broad-based knowledge can be a major advantage. With experience in multiple markets and industries, consultants have the benefit of seeing several successful and not-so-successful models—and this knowledge can enable faster innovation.
Furthermore, larger consulting firms like Antea Group do employ specialists and often have a network of on-the-ground experts with local expertise. So, working with an industry dude or dudette is absolutely possible.
3. They feel they’re not trusted or invested in.
At the end of the day, telling your team that you want to bring in a consultant could just bum them out; make them feel inferior.
As a result, it’s your job to ensure your decision is not a reflection on them. Rather, position your decision as an opportunity to learn, grow, and drive better results—which can ultimately reflect well on them. (Also, there’s no harm in throwing out a few “nice marmot” compliments to further reassure them.)
Get ‘Abide-In’ & Tie Your EHS Room Together
You believe hiring an EHS consulting firm can make a difference, but you need your leaders and team members to believe it, too.
Work with executives to explain your thoughtful rationale, as well as the business value and potential consequences of inaction. In addition, talk with your EHS team members to calm their fears and clear up misconceptions. Taking these steps can not only help you get the buy-in you need to move forward, but also create more alignment between the organization and the consulting firm to drive better results.
Are you feeling out of your element, but can’t put your finger on exactly what you need? Check out our “Office Space”-inspired post outlining five signs that it may be time to “Bring in the Bobs.”
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