Non-billable hours during introduction phase ?!? You must be kidding!

19/05/2017 | Eclectic |

There we go again. Another “trend” has been set into the market. While the economy is going strong, unemployment rates drop and companies are busy with all kinds of innovation and technology projects, we are amazed by the newest developments conducted mainly by big corporate companies.

For some time already it is difficult again to find the right professionals for innovative projects. This is due to scarce knowledge of innovative technology but also because of the high workload throughout all industries. Companies struggle with the recruitment of permanent and interim professionals which even leads to the delay of project starts regularly. The best independent professionals are fully booked months, sometimes more than a year in advance and high-quality permanent employees don’t know where to put their attention first looking through all the job offers they receive during a normal week. Companies do their best to retain the talent they have and others think of the most crazy strategies to attract new talent.

“The labor market seems to be a paradise
for professionals again…

So while going full blast in order to fight the war for talent, a few corporate companies enter the market with a totally different proposal. They offer interim professionals assignments with a non-billable introduction phase of two weeks or even longer… Wait a minute – what…? In a market where talent is scarce and not really available they try to ‘attract’ professionals by letting them work for free…?!?

This seems to be another round of the rate fight that is going on for quite some time now. While professionals think that rates need to rise as a consequence of the recovery of the economy and the scarceness of their knowledge and experience in the market, many companies still try to keep hourly rates for interim professionals as low as possible. In order to keep their cost under control they try to capture independent consultants with the offer of ‘long-term’ assignments and the big name of the hiring company. These ‘long-term assignments’ by the way typically have a notice period of one month – as any other assignment…

The funny thing is, that this approach is totally against the principles of flexible staffing. The reason for hiring independent professionals typically is, that support/ advice is only needed for a certain period of time, otherwise companies would want to hire permanently. Secondly, real long-term assignments are not of any help for independent consultants, as they are legally required to prove that they are true entrepreneurs with a lot more than only one client. And last but not least independent consultants are hired because they are able to do a trick that the rest of the company doesn’t know – so why would this person need a kind of non-paid probation period? We wouldn’t even do that to newly hired rookies!!!

Companies offering this kind of questionable assignments typically want independent consultants to show dedication to the company and/or the project. If someone agrees to these conditions we could assume that the person is really interested in the core of the project, not only in the money that can be earned. So the likelihood of losing the consultant to another assignment is less, they think. Realistically speaking this is nothing more than a fairy tale!

“There are reasons why independent consultants became independent…”

Sure, independent professionals are dedicated to their work and try to find the best solution for their clients. But they want to be part of the most interesting and challenging projects and work in a group of peers that they can spar with. They are interested in clients with big names and in mid-term projects that they can finish successfully before they take off for the following assignment. And last but not least, they also do it for the money! The true entrepreneur gladly takes the risk of uncertainty for the freedom of choosing the most interesting projects and determining the price! They are their own boss and the market situation allows them to simply refuse assignments if the offered rate is not right.

So, what does this mean for companies that are asking independent consultants to conduct a non-billable introductory phase?

  1. They will never be able to hire the best independent professionals (there is no need for them to make compromises…)
  2. Only consultants that are desperately looking for a new assignment would accept this offer (there is always a reason why they are desperate…)
  3. They would need to take the risk of hiring ‘independent consultants’ that are actually having the mindset of a permanent employee looking for a secure long-term solution (which will lead to legal implications after a while…)

To avoid the legal implications these companies mainly ask third parties to act as a broker and to force consultants to work under these conditions. In the end the third party builds up a bad reputation in the market and needs to take all the risk in terms of future legal implications in addition…

An unfair approach towards all parties involved!