Eight questions to ask an HR or People Consultant before hiring them

Article by Katy McMinn, co-founder & director of HRi

two women having a face-to-face interview, contact, talkingHave you thought about appointing an external HR or People Consultant to work with your business?

It is an important step and before diving in, it’s worth taking the time to ask them some key questions.

What experience and qualifications do you have?

It’s important to ask about their relevant experience to date and how they have successfully delivered on similar projects or assignments. Do they have any industry experience and is it a necessity for the work you are looking to appoint them to? Many successful practitioners have multi-sector experience versus specialising in one industry and this can often add significant value to the perspective they bring. It is also beneficial to be aware of any qualifications they may hold. Are they CIPD qualified or hold another qualification such as an MA, MSc, MBA? Or are they qualified by experience (QBE). It’s worth noting that Accredited Platinum members of HRi may hold relevant qualifications however they may also be QBE, having demonstrated evidence of their HR expertise and competence against the HRi Standards through our accreditation process.

How do you keep up to date?

With an ever changing business and legal landscape, the practitioner you appoint needs to up to speed and quick to react and respond. At a basic level, this may be attending regular employment law updates to keep appraised of legislative changes. A strong network also demonstrates the opportunity to hear about, debate and contribute to emerging trends, positioning them as up to date, an expert in their field, and giving them the ability to bring creativity and innovation to their client offering.

What happens if you give me incorrect advice?

Whilst you don’t want to think about things going wrong, its important to cover this off upfront. People decisions can be complex and carry risk if you get it wrong. Any credible HR or People consultant will have PI insurance to protect both themselves and their clients if they do get something wrong. Make sure they have a clear complaints process in case of any issues arising. As with any professional, working to a Code of Conduct ensures your appointed practitioner is abiding by ethical and professional standards. HRi has a Code of Conduct which all Accredited Platinum members are bound by, providing businesses with this level of reassurance.

How is your practice set up?

Whilst there is no one way an HR and People Consultancy is set up, as a business it is worth enquiring as to the set up so you can be confident, they are set up on both a professional and compliant basis. It is always important to check whether they are VAT registered, as you may be able to claim back the VAT they charge if you are VAT registered yourselves, but if not, it may work out more expensive for you.  It’s important to ask for confirmation that the consultancy you decide to appoint is registered with the relevant bodies such as Companies House, HMRC and ICO. This registration demonstrates that the consultancy is operating in a legally compliant manner.

How will you secure my company’s data and that of my employees?

Due to the nature of the work HR and People consultants typically carry out, it is likely they may have access to your company data and that of your employees, requiring robust data management and security policies and procedures. Make sure you ask questions such as what IT systems and platforms they use to run their business, and do they encrypt their emails when sending or sharing personal and sensitive data? How do they ensure they control access to these systems and data and that any passwords are strong and secure? Do they have a SAR policy? And are they registered with the ICO? Asking these kinds of questions can reassure you your data will be secure and well managed. It is also important to agree how long they will retain any data relating to your company or employees.

How will you manage the project/scope of work and keep me updated?

Regardless of the type of work the practitioner will be delivering, it’s key to ensure that this is managed in a coordinated and planned manner, whether it be through more manual processes or automating these through software tools such as Asana or Trello for example. As a business owner, you will be juggling many different plates so ensuring you are kept up to date on a timely basis, provides you with the reassurance things are progressing and any issues can be flagged and resolved early on.

How will I be charged?

Investing in an HR or People consultant is significant, and it is important to be comfortable as to what you are paying for, and how you will be charged. Any proposal should clearly state the deliverables and what is in and out of scope to ensure transparency. Think about whether it makes sense for them to charge you based purely on their time (hourly or daily) or to agree a fixed fee. There are pros and cons of both, and it will depend on the nature of the work they are delivering. Be clear on how and when they will invoice and whether you are happy to agree to their payment terms or whether you will require them to work with yours.

Why are you right for my business?

It is critical that whichever practitioner you appoint understands the culture and values that your business is built on and delivers in a way to complement this where appropriate. Asking the practitioner about their own values and drivers can be a great way of assessing this. Don’t be afraid however to bring someone in with a very different perspective to your own and that of your team. Group think is a risk in any business and appointing an external HR and People consultant is a great opportunity to bring objectivity and constructive challenge to your organisation. Lastly, ask for some testimonials from other clients! They can be very powerful and give you the confidence you’re appointing someone credible and professional who can work with you and deliver.

If you need help sourcing an HR & People Consultant, take a look at the HRi Directory. All HR & People consultants featured in the HRi Directory are Accredited Platinum members of HRi, having been assessed against the HRi Standards, and adhering to the HRi Code of Conduct.


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