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29-Jan

Focus on…HR consultants

Continuing our regular feature focusing on some of the most popular small businesses, we take a closer look at HR consultants.

What do HR consultants do?
Human resources or “people management” as it’s also known, is the communication process between a company and its workforce.

Whether it’s training, administration, well-being or discipline, the HR department is an essential cog in any corporate machine.

But every great organisation needs a strong foundation of policies, and that’s where an HR consultant can be incredibly useful.

Young smiling black businesswoman at the wall with stickers communicating with her colleagues. Mixed team of entrepreneurs

A consultant can advise on company policy and procedures, ensuring a company is complying with applicable laws and rules that affect their employees.

They can be called in to recommend solutions to current policies and procedures, write reports on established HR projects and make recommendations on workflow and wellbeing best practice.

For larger firms, they can also be vital in restructuring plans; helping companies plan and implement new organisational structures.

Getting started
To get started on a career in HR consultancy, you need to start from an HR officer position, requiring a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) or a university degree.

To take things further, you’re going to need to have evidence that you’re committed to developing your abilities and honing your skills, whether that’s through accredited training or intensive experience.

You can gain professional qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), or through post graduate training such as a PG Diploma or Master’s Degree in HR.

Skills you’ll need to be an HR consultant:

  • Adept in finance and IT
  • Experienced in HR mechanisms
  • A knack for problem solving
  • Thorough understanding of employment law
  • Strong understanding of laws in relation to corporate governance

Industry challenges
According to the website Business2Community.com, attracting and developing new clients is the number one concern for more than eight out of 10 (81%) of HR consultants.

Marketing, lead generating and sales are key to the success of the majority of businesses, and so this figure is far from surprising yet above the average (71%).

A consultant needs in-depth knowledge and experience of HR operations and legislation, and to garner that usually takes some time. But in the digital age and amid uncertain political and economic landscapes, it is very difficult to keep abreast, let alone get ahead of the game.

With Brexit looming and the triggering of Article 50, HR professionals face new challenges amid lots of open-ended questions around labour market, employment law and immigration policy.

The uncertainty among law makers and unpredictability in workforce trends, make the job of a consultant incredibly difficult.

Personal challenges
Dealing with disgruntled members of staff, handling grievances and tackling disciplinary procedures can be challenging and anxiety-inducing among HR professionals.

For consultants, there is a lot more riding on their knowledge and guidance, and this can be nerve-racking and stressful.

Consultants are often involved in high-level decision making and organisational changes, sometimes carrying the weight of the entire workforce on their shoulders. This makes their role performance driven and puts a lot of pressure on those who choose this as a career.

It’s important that HR professionals lead by example, and show that their policies written about well-being and stress management do work, and they’re the proof.

Another challenge for HR consultants is a regular income; consultancy is the epitome of the gig economy and a lack of a regular income makes breaking into consulting very difficult.

A robust business plan that factors in market threats and opportunities to build revenue is an absolute must for anyone planning on being successful in the sector.

Industry facts
The national average salary for a HR consultant is £38,600, rising to £40,302 in London, according to Glassdoor.co.uk

An experienced freelancer can earn between £250 and £1,000 a day, depending on the size of the company and the complexity of the role.

Case study: How to be successful in HR consultancy
As mentioned above, working in the consultancy industry can be difficult, especially when it comes to gaining clients. Within your business plan, you need to have an effective marketing budget and a strategy for growth.

But despite the challenges, many firms are making it work. And one element of consistent success is diversification.

A study published by Startups.co.uk in November 2017, has listed some of the most successful HR consultancy firms in Britain, listing each of their key attributes.

Avensure is in the top five and provides outsourced HR consultancy, as well as administrative supplies, including contracts, policies and handbooks, and all compliant documentation. The firm also provides legal support and representation in employment tribunals.

However, it’s the company’s diversification into new realms that sets it apart from other consultancy firms. Avensure takes advantage of new markets to offer an all-round approach to HR solutions. Among its products, the organisation now offers site evaluations and health and safety action plans, and offering this additional level of service is a great way of maintaining a steady flow of business with ongoing clients.