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