What Does an HR Consultant Do? A Guide to Expert Support for Your Business

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, ensuring you have the right Human Resources (HR) knowledge and strategies in place can make the difference between simply surviving and truly thriving. While some larger organisations maintain a dedicated in-house HR department, many businesses find that an HR consultant provides a more flexible and cost-effective way to address their HR needs. But what exactly does an HR consultant do, and how can they benefit your company?

What is an HR Consultant?

An HR consultant is an independent HR professional who brings their expertise to organisations, either for specific projects or on an ongoing advisory basis. Consultants possess a wealth of experience within the HR field and offer fresh perspectives to tackle both day-to-day HR challenges and larger strategic goals.

Think of an HR consultant as a highly specialised HR generalist. They can step in and manage various people-focused aspects of your business, from streamlining administrative processes to proactively developing policies that promote a positive workplace culture. Unlike a general HR manager, however, their independent status allows for greater objectivity when analysing your company’s HR practices.

Key Responsibilities of an HR Consultant

While the specific projects undertaken by an HR consultant will depend on the individual needs of an organisation, let’s explore some of the core areas where they can provide valuable support:

• HR Audits and Analysis: A core strength of HR consultants is their ability to conduct comprehensive reviews of your existing HR practices and pinpoint exactly where they could be improved. They may analyse your recruitment processes, employee handbooks, compensation structures or performance management systems. A skilled consultant will present actionable recommendations to streamline processes and enhance your overall HR operations.

• Policy Development and Compliance: Navigating the ever-changing world of UK employment legislation and ensuring compliance can be quite the headache, even for experienced HR professionals. An HR consultant can dedicate time and attention to developing tailored HR policies and handbooks that align with current requirements. This helps to protect your business from costly legal issues while fostering a sense of security and fairness for your employees.

• Recruitment and Selection: The search for the best talent to join your team can be time-consuming and complex. HR consultants can streamline this process by assisting with writing job descriptions, sourcing candidates, screening applications, conducting interviews, and even onboarding new hires. Their focus on efficient recruitment helps you get the right people in place quickly.

• Employee Relations and Conflict Resolution: Maintaining positive employee relations is vital for a productive and harmonious work environment. Sometimes, however, complex issues or conflicts arise. An HR consultant can act as a neutral mediator, helping navigate sensitive employee issues and offering strategies for swift and fair resolution.

• Performance Management: Every thriving business understands the importance of goal setting, performance feedback and empowering employees to reach their full potential. Consultants can help you design effective performance appraisal systems that align with your organisation’s values. Additionally, they can provide guidance and coaching mechanisms to help both managers and employees excel in their roles.

• Compensation and Benefits: Remaining competitive in today’s job market isn’t just about salary. HR consultants deeply understand how to analyse market data and assist with developing attractive compensation packages. Additionally, they can offer advice on employee benefits strategies that boost retention and help you stand out as an employer of choice.

• Training and Development: In an environment where skills and knowledge constantly evolve, a strong focus on employee training and development is essential. HR consultants can offer a needs analysis of your workforce, identifying skill gaps and knowledge areas requiring improvement. Armed with this understanding, they can design and deliver tailored training programs or workshops. These efforts not only enhance the skills of your employees but also bolster your business’s overall capability and adaptability.

• HR Technology Implementation: The right technology tools can revolutionise the way HR functions operate. HR consultants can guide you through the plethora of options available, assisting in selecting the best HR software solutions for your business. They can help with the implementation process, ensuring smooth integration with existing systems and providing training to your team for optimal use of the new technology.

• Change Management Support: Whether you’re navigating a merger, acquisition, restructuring, or significant changes to working practices, the impact on employees cannot be overlooked. An HR consultant can act as a crucial advisor during times of change. They’ll guide you through effective change management strategies, supporting clear communication to your workforce, and offering mechanisms to ease the transition and maintain morale throughout the process.

Why Consider Hiring an HR Consultant?

Now that we have a solid understanding of what an HR consultant does, let’s explore some significant advantages of bringing their expertise on board:

• Access to Specialised Expertise: HR is a wide-ranging field encompassing everything from employment law to talent development to workplace wellbeing. An HR consultant often brings years of experience in specific areas that may not be feasible for a small or medium-sized business to maintain in-house. They provide the specialised knowledge you need, when you need it.

• Objective Perspective: When you’re deeply embedded in the day-to-day operations of your business, it can sometimes be difficult to step back and view things with a truly impartial eye. A consultant brings a fresh and unbiased perspective that can cut through blind spots and reveal new strategies for improving your HR processes.

• Cost-Effectiveness: Hiring a full-time in-house HR specialist, particularly one with specific expertise, comes with significant costs. Engaging an HR consultant allows you to access high-level talent and reap the benefits of their experience without the overhead costs associated with a permanent employee.

• Flexibility: Your HR needs will inevitably change over time. You may need extensive support during certain projects or periods of change, while needing less dedicated assistance at other times. A consultant’s flexibility allows you to scale their services up or down as required to best suit your business needs and budget.

Please note: It’s important to find an HR consultant with experience in your specific industry, as they’ll already have a greater understanding of the unique challenges and regulations you face.

Benefits of Hiring an HR Consultant

By now, you have a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted role played by an HR consultant and how they can support your business across numerous areas. Let’s summarise the key benefits of partnering with an HR expert:

• Cost-Effectiveness: In many cases, hiring an HR consultant is a more financially sensible option than maintaining a full-time in-house HR specialist. You gain access to the specialised, high-level expertise you need without the long-term commitments or additional costs associated with a permanent employee.

• Flexibility: Consultants offer the flexibility to engage them for specific projects, address acute HR challenges, or provide ongoing strategic support as needed. You can adjust the level of involvement based on the evolving needs of your business.

• Objective Perspective: An HR consultant brings fresh eyes and an impartial perspective to your organisation. Their external position allows them to offer unbiased insights, pinpoint areas for improvement, and suggest solutions that may have been overlooked internally.

• Access to Specialised Expertise: HR consultants immerse themselves in various facets of HR, allowing them to build deep knowledge in areas like employee relations, training and development, or compensation and benefits. Partnering with them means you have immediate access to this specialised knowledge without having to invest in developing it in-house.

• Change Management Support: Navigating mergers, restructuring, or significant operational changes presents unique HR challenges. A consultant brings valuable experience and strategic guidance to help you proactively manage the impact on your workforce, ensuring smooth transitions and maintaining positive morale.

Finding the Right Fit

Choosing the right HR consultant is crucial for maximising the benefits for your business. Look for a consultant with a track record of success in your industry, as well as proven expertise in the specific HR areas where you need support. Seek out consultants who hold recognised professional qualifications and certifications, such as those from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

By strategically partnering with an HR consultant, you can elevate your HR practices, foster a thriving work environment, and ultimately unlock your company’s true potential. We’re always happy to chat to companies who are wondering how they can solve their HR headaches. We often work with businesses in Cheshire, but we have worked with companies all around the UK, so get in touch and let’s set up a chat and see how Work in Progress can help.