In today's competitive business environment, companies are under pressure to evolve or risk becoming extinct. But it isn't easy to break the habits of a lifetime. Many companies fear change because it's complicated, risky or potentially expensive, and this can be one of the biggest barriers to growth. An organizational development consultant can help businesses through this gridlock. These external contractors help companies discover more effective and efficient ways of doing things and guide them through periods of transition.
Fundamentally, the three roles of organizational development (OD) are to make a business more healthy, more profitable and better equipped to face current and future challenges. The solutions for achieving these outcomes can take many forms, including changes to policies, hierarchies, reporting structures, leadership, controls, job descriptions and staffing levels. The overriding focus is to make the business more efficient in competitive markets so it can keep up with ever-changing customer, technological and regulatory demands.
The role of an OD consultant is a varied one. Day to day, the organizational consultant could be wearing many hats ranging from big-picture conceptualizing to detailed operational planning and staff training. Here's a list of some key job tasks:
- Collecting data on the company's current performance.
- Running diagnostic tests.
- Measuring performance against industry benchmarks.
- Figuring out organizational needs and bottlenecks.
- Developing improvement plans.
- Ensuring the linkage of programs to company goals.
- Working with leaders and department heads to solve specific problems.
- Building the organization's stock of human capital through staff development programs.
- Providing specialized industry knowledge gained from previous clients and projects.
- Engaging in change management exercises with employees.
- Creating and managing budgets.
- Getting senior leadership to buy into the change initiative.
Organizational development consultants are, of course, consultants, which means they're contracted from the outside. A business will hire them whenever they need an unbiased view of operations and fresh strategies for improving productivity during periods of change.
There's no specific education requirement to become an organizational development consultant, but clients will expect you to have the right credentials for the job. Usually, that means at least a bachelor's degree in business, organizational development or human resources; a master's degree or an MBA could set you apart from the crowd. Since many businesses look for organizational development consultants with technical skills, a background in IT or computer science could also be helpful.
Some businesses prefer to hire certified candidates, and perhaps the best-known certification is the skill-oriented Organization Development Certified Professional (ODCP) offered by the Institute of Organization Development. The certification is aimed at training consultants who regularly deal with change in models, diagnostics and culture transformation. You'll need a degree and a minimum of four years' experience to enroll in the program.
Since the primary function of an organizational development practitioner is to bring years of relevant experience to the table, the more important qualification is your work-related experience. As an external consultant, you're holding yourself out as an expert in your field. Clients want to see blue-chip industry experience, a terrific resume and evidence that you've achieved success for other businesses you've consulted for. This is one area where professional expertise and credibility are the keys to getting hired.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't keep data for organizational development consultants. According to Salary.com, a website that aggregates salary data from across the web, the average organizational development consultant salary was $89,926 per year in April 2019. The typical range falls between $79,187 and $103,570, which means there's scope to earn six figures if you put your mind to it.
Payscale.com, a similar website, puts the rate slightly lower at $82,956 in a range that spans from $56,100 to $123,144. This is a broad range, and where you land on the salary scale is largely a function of how many hours you work, the size and budget of the businesses you work with and what your reputation is in the market.
Organizational development consultants are external consultants, meaning they go into businesses on a per-project basis to improve the health of the company. The business is the organizational development consultant's client. Projects can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, and frequent travel and/or temporary relocation to the client's place of business is a typical part of the job.
Many consultants will work more than 40 hours per week; it really depends on the culture of the business you're working with, what kind of problems the business is facing and how long you have to implement a solution. Businesses generally have a broad choice when it comes to selecting the most appropriate consultant for the project. They can pick the best people for the job, so going the extra mile in terms of your work ethic is one way to earn a solid reputation.
In most jobs, you can expect to earn more as you grow in skills and experience. However, the same isn't necessarily true for self-employed, external consultants. These professionals are, by definition, experts in the field of organizational development. They tend to have at least 10 years of experience under their belts before they launch a career as an independent organizational development consultant so they're already at the top of their game when they enter the profession.
Organizational development consultants are also self-employed or employed by their own organizational development consulting company. This means they're free to set their own rates. Most independent consultants charge by the project, the day or the hour, and these rates are generally based on the value the consultant adds to the business as well as the local market rate for consulting services.
The bottom line here is that organizational development consultants can earn very handsome fees if they're good at their jobs, and their rate may grow as they gather testimonials and earn a solid reputation in the industry. But it's impossible to give any kind of salary projection since that's not how consulting fees work.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide information specific to the field of consulting, so it's hard to say with any certainty what the future may hold for this profession. However, the BLS does keep data for management analysts who also find ways to make a business more profitable through increased revenues and cost reductions. Since the roles are similar, it's reasonable to suggest that they may have similar job outlooks.
According to the BLS, the employment of management consultants is projected to increase by 14 percent through 2026, which represents an additional 115,200 jobs. This is double the average growth rate for all occupations.
Demand is projected to be especially strong for consultants with information technology skills. That's because the technological environment is changing quickly and businesses are seeking out consultants with specialist skills to help them attain a high level of cybersecurity and ensure their systems are up to date.