June 26, 2023

What Does an HR Consultant Do?

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Tags: HR

Key takeaways:

  • HR consultants are contracted human resource experts who help companies with special projects.
  • HR consultants can assist with a variety of situations, from compiling an employee handbook to advising on a merger.

Some HR software vendors offer consulting services to give their customers more hands-on support. Learn more in our HR Software Guide.

Jun. 26, 2023: We broadened the scope of the article to discuss the scenarios that call for different types of HR consulting services. We also expanded our discussion of HR consulting to include consulting firms and HR consultant job qualifications.

What is HR consulting?

An HR consultant is an HR expert that a company hires as an independent contractor to accomplish a specific project or objective. HR consultants provide various services, including professional consulting, education, training, and advising on human resource solutions.

HR consultants may specialize in certain industries (healthcare, manufacturing, etc.) or offer particular services like training or workforce planning. Thus, it’s important to consider the kind of services your company needs before hiring an HR consultant. A consultant specializing in HR analytics won’t necessarily be able to help your organization create a new benefits package.

If your company’s HR consulting needs are broad, it may be more practical to work with a firm instead of an independent consultant. There are multiple HR consulting firms that are dedicated purely to human resources management, such as Korn Ferry and Mercer. Most general consulting firms also have HR consultancy practices, including:

When hiring an HR consultant, keep in mind that they don’t exist to replace your current HR staff. Rather, they augment your HR team’s capabilities and supplement their work with specialized expertise for a limited time. If you need assistance with an ongoing project, you might want to hire an in-house employee instead.

HR consultant job description

Before hiring a consultant, determine what type of consulting help you are looking for and what experience or qualities the consultant should have.

Experience

For instance, if your business is looking to hire HR professionals to help implement a new human resources information system (HRIS), then you’ll want someone who has performed software migrations with the specific platform you’re adopting.

Beyond their specializations, HR consultants should also understand and have experience with common HR concepts, best practices, and compliance laws. If you need help with a specific challenge, don’t hesitate to put it in the job description or ask about it in the interview.

Education

As for educational qualifications, most HR consultants have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as communications, business administration, or organizational management. Some may also have an advanced master’s degree, such as an MBA in human resource management or a Master of Science in human resource management. Many consultants also pursue continuing certifications to keep their skills sharp and further specialize in niche areas.

Skills

No matter their specialization or degree, there are also some general skills that every HR consultant should have. For one, they need to have a problem-solving mindset, not only identifying what could be improved but also suggesting possible solutions. They also need to have analytical skills and engage in strategic thinking instead of only focusing on their part of the HR process.

Skilled HR consultants must be efficient at task management and prioritizing things in order of importance. They must also be skilled at managing projects, planning bigger initiatives over time, and delegating to other team members when necessary.

Outsourced HR consultants need to be team players who collaborate with their clients as well as the rest of their consulting team. HR consultants must be flexible, quickly adapting to each new client and workplace as they move from assignment to assignment. They must also be skilled at both written and verbal communication.

When to hire an HR consultant

HR consultants can advise you on how much HR software costs and help you identify what features you need the most. You might also want to hire an HR consultant if you’re happy with your existing HR software but need help implementing it more efficiently.

HR consultants can lend their expertise when developing strategic HR initiatives like hiring, workforce planning, and employee engagement.

They can also help create a talent management or performance management strategy to set and track goals for individual team members, departments, and the company as a whole. HR consultants who specialize in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) topics are especially important to include in goal-setting discussions surrounding recruitment and employee development initiatives.

Human resources consultants can conduct HR audits and employee engagement surveys to pinpoint underlying issues and provide tailored recommendations based on those results. Engaging an external facilitator to conduct surveys and report on results also helps build employees’ trust that they won’t face retaliation for their responses.

Your company might want to hire a consultant if you need HR support during a merger or acquisition with another organization. HR professionals can advise on labor laws, identify redundancies, and create retention packages.

It might be more cost effective to hire an HR consultant when your in-house HR department doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on a time-limited project, such as creating an HR policy manual or employee handbook. You should hire an HR consultant when your company needs help with an HR project and it wouldn’t make sense to hire someone full-time.


Kara Sherrer Avatar

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