In any company, human resources teams face multiple challenges, from managing healthcare and benefits needs to staffing and retention to training and compensation. When a group or business finds their human resources team has hit a wall, or needs assistance in building new methods, HR consulting is a great option to reinforce the skills of one’s current human resources team, as well as obtaining and sourcing quality alternative options. HR consultants can focus on finding cost-saving techniques or managing old systems.
In the busy and often-complicated business world, sometimes locating the proper professional HR Consulting firm can be challenging. Businesses need to research their options fully, taking all facets of their current human resources team and recognizing where needs can be filled and located skilled, referenced professionals with a record of success.
Know Their Background
When looking into several human resources consulting options, the most important of all factors is level of experience. Consultants are only as valuable as their level of experience in terms of the clients’ needs. Primarily, those looking into hiring a HR consulting firm must know the history and skillset of the firm with which they choose. Ask to see CVs or resumes—check where the consultants have studied the appropriate information through accredited institutions.
A strong educational background and diverse human resources work experiences are great indicators, but before hiring, make sure that the firm has a well-documented history of success as a human resources employee. Having a strong and positive leadership experience or well-earned record of success in a human resources position (whether it be relevant to one’s industry or not) means that the HR consulting firm hires experienced consultants. Those who have never worked in a business, corporate, or nonprofit environment may not have the level of understanding in relation to the complex and multifaceted range of human resources departmental needs.
Ask for References
Ask for references. Most firms will love to discuss their successes with prospective clients, and will be glad to provide information about previous clients and projects.
Then, follow up! Contact the references in a timely manner. First, ask for an overview of their experience with the firm and come with questions for the reference-givers. If a firm denies this request or only offers options outside of the level of one’s needs, this is a red flag. These references are a guarantee that prospective HR consulting companies have a solid track record in accomplishing the goals the hiring company or business requires.
Think, “Consulting Contractor,” Not “Employee”
When choosing a human resources consulting firm, make sure the primary consultant to your team meets the standards of their positions. A consultant offers a business with a certain level of professionalism and experience, and is not an employee of the company’s human resources department. Focusing on meeting specific needs is important. Without a direct goal and set timeline, some consultants can easily become employees—be wary of a consultant who’s looking to move into a full-time position.
Find an Area Expert
Human resources is an industry with many facets from staffing to training to benefits and leadership. When looking for a consultant to meet a specific need, find an expert in that area. Many HR consulting firms have wide selection of skilled individuals with different and unique backgrounds and levels of skill and experience. Unless one’s organization requires a generalist, look into human resources organizations where every consultant has experience in one or more specialties—unique but focused education based on linked experience.
If a company was building a roof, they wouldn’t call in a plumbing contractor and an electrician to help with flashing and shingles—instead, they call a roofing contractor. Likewise, hiring a benefits and medical leave specialist to develop a training plan may not make the most sense for an organization. Also, check for what options may be available if a problem falls outside the specialists’ level of experience.
Research Industry Credentials
Search in person and online for any information about an HR consulting firm. Just as a firm should have references available, detailed information about individual consultants and their human resources histories should also be available elsewhere in the HR field.
Any business owner or manager wants to hire thoughtful consultants who remain abreast of the working market and its trends. Focusing on research from educational institutions is only part of the subject. Hire a professional firm who researches what top-tier companies are doing internationally.
In any field, there are market trends, as well as highs and lows. Focus on a consultant with a good understanding of the scope of time, one who knows best practices from other businesses or organizations. Does the consultant or HR consulting company publish articles in peer-reviewed journals? Do they write articles? Do they maintain active blogs or social media presences? Just like how out-of-date information can turn a fact into a fallacy, those who work as consultants for a long period of time outside of the industry can lose veracity—which can do damage for a company in the new economy.
Ask for a Plan of Action
Before choosing an HR consulting firm or individual consultant, make sure that the business or company requests a plan of action for the required projects. Not only will a project plan work to concrete the specific needs and goals of an organization, but also project plans act as a contract of sorts—defining the needs of the client, the scope of the project, the time took to meet requirements, as well as communicating the importance of understanding and well-coordinated operations including timelines, touch points, and meeting times.
Like any other contract, having a signed project plan marks the full needs of the job and acts as an agreement between the consultant and group.
Know Their Trustworthiness
Most relationships—be they be personal or business-related—should stand on a foundation of trust and respect. This goes for the consultant/manager relationship as well. One should be able to trust their consultant and his or her’s commitment to the success of the business or organization.
Following project plans, meeting required goals, and being available for the hiring business is important, and there should always be a representative with full decision-making powers available for any key concerns.
Many HR consulting firms have multiple consultant who each serve many individual and some group clients. Make sure the business has faith in their team, and that the HR firm isn’t delegating work in incorrect ways. Use the project plan as a guide to one’s set expectations—but don’t be afraid to let the consulting firm know about the multiple time-sensitive factors or other work commitments to meet the timelines agreed upon in the project plan.
Understanding Changes and Delivering Results
A human resources team or HR consulting firm must be diligent in keeping and maintaining the project so that progress is made to meet the specific goals in the project plan. There are no standard processes in the business world—no cookie cutter policies—and each worker is an individual with specific and unique needs. Look for an HR consulting team who provides accurate information despite changes in plans—consultants who customize their information for the needs to a specific business or organization.
Question, Question, Question
Sometimes small firms specialize in specifics. Larger firms may have more influence and a different level of experienced staff members. However, knowing which of the two companies to choose often comes down to questions.
Both in the beginning and at the end of the HR consulting planning process, asking questions and gaining evidence is still most important part of choosing a consultant. Key concerns can be deciding factors when choosing from a variety of different resource managers—but weigh these differences before making hard decisions.
- What are the firm’s credentials?
- What are the credentials of individual consultants?
- What services does the firm offer?
- When has the HR consultant worked on a similar project? At a similar company? At a different company?
- Can I get a listing of your previous clients for reference?
- Who will work on our project specifically?
- What is the allotted timeframe in which they will achieve xx results?
- What are your pricing/billing options?
Research widely and come with questions before one meets with a consultant or firm to meet some organizations’ needs and requirements—see for oneself what works and what does not work. In a hectic or pressed environment, sometimes the solution may be in adding a member to one’s HR team.
However, when a HR teams face multiple challenges, from managing healthcare and benefits needs to staffing and retention to training and compensation, locating the proper professional HR Consulting firm can be of great benefit. Businesses need to research their options fully, taking all facets of their current human resources team and recognizing where needs can be filled and located skilled, referenced professionals with a record of success. Once an HR consulting team has been picked, they need to create a detailed plan of action to reinforce the services one’s current team provides, saving both time and money and finding areas in which changes and saving can benefit a company.